Does my business or organization need public relations?
TL; DR answer: yes.
Skillful creation and execution of a strategic communication strategy puts you ahead of your competitors. A public relations professional can develop an effective communications plan supporting your business or organization goals and objectives.
Most businesses, organizations, associations, nonprofits, professional service providers and individuals understand how effective targeted communication develops the relationships crucial to their success.
What services can a public relations consultant provide?
A partial list:
- Support your strategic goals including sales, philanthropy, education, or advocacy
- Create communication strategies to reach your target audiences
- Revamp your organization website or establish an online newsroom or channel
- Provide advice and counsel during a crisis situation
- Provide media relations training, coaching and prep for interviews
- Communicate with internal audiences including employees
- Establish and strengthen community relations
- Interact effectively with regulatory agencies
- Review existing organization policies as they affect public perception
- Assist your in-house public relations department when it needs extra help
- Fill in for senior public relations representatives during extended leave
- Offer specific skills to support a product, service, or entire marketing effort
- Bring new skills to support existing PR initiatives
How should I choose a public relations consultant?
Finding the right match in a public relations partner will pay off in time, money and performance. It goes beyond technical expertise. You need someone who shares enthusiasm for your mission and vision, asks the right questions and then listens to you, communicates clearly, sets realistic goals, gets up to speed quickly, and fits your company culture … all while remaining independent and honest, even when the advice can be hard to take.
For additional advice, the Counselors Academy of the Public Relations Society of America offers this helpful guide:
Isn’t public relations only for large companies?
Almost every business, organization, or individual can benefit from public relations as an alternative or supplement to traditional advertising and marketing. Even the smallest company should carve out a minimum budget for public relations support. Outsourcing this service gives you the maximum benefits for your budget. For larger companies, hiring a senior public relations strategist to advise, support, and even mentor your in-house team can be an effective investment for the cost of hiring a junior employee who still needs years of training and experience.
Aren’t public relations services expensive?
A well-designed, expertly constructed plan customized to meet your specific goals and objectives should not be any more expensive than any other professional service critical to your success. You should expect a significant return on investment.
Why should I pay for public relations instead of marketing or advertising?
Let some of the brightest minds in business provide the answers.
“Publicity is absolutely critical. A good PR story is infinitely more effective than a front page ad.” – Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group
“If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on public relations. I’m a big fan of PR, but I also know what it’s not, and why many people today don’t have a clear picture of why it’s worth the money or time, what to do or how to measure the value.” – Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation, and five minutes to ruin it.” – Warren Buffett, the “Oracle of Omaha,” Berkshire Hathaway
“Next to doing the right thing, the most important thing is to let people know you are doing the right thing.” – John D. Rockefeller
“People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories, and magic.” Seth Godin, author and entrepreneur
How do we know if Falcon Valley Group is a good fit for our company?
We take time to learn about your company and what you stand for, what goals are most important to you, and what story you have to tell. We must believe in you, your product or service, and your approach to doing your work. For best results we need to work with you in an open, transparent, and honest way – and you need to do the same with us. The linchpin trio: chemistry, respect, and good humor. If all of these elements align for both parties, the public relations partnership starts from a foundation of mutual alignment.
This is a big decision and the wrong choice can be painful and frustrating for everyone. It isn’t a failure if either party decides the fit isn’t just right. Frequently we can help you find a better fit with a referral to one of our trusted public relations colleagues.
Why does Falcon Valley Group want to work with us?
We work with clients who are the best at what they do and passionate about it; who have a story to tell and helpful information to offer; who shoulder their community responsibility and embrace servant leadership. They don’t ask us to lie or hide their faults. Instead, they seek honest feedback, recognize and own problems, and improve from correcting them. They value diverse input and stay humble. They take their work seriously, but never themselves.
What credentials, training, and experience matters most in public relations?
There is no specific licensing or credential required to work in public relations. Unlike attorneys, accountants, engineers or architects, anyone can call themselves a public relations professional.
Look first for the designation “Accredited in Public Relations” or APR. It is administered by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and is the equivalent of passing a bar exam in the field. A limited number of senior public relations professionals are also admitted as members to the PRSA College of Fellows, limited to the top 350 public relations experts who go through a rigorous vetting process and who must have a minimum of 20 years of experience.
Also useful: advanced education with a master’s degree in mass communication, strategic communication, or integrated marketing communication. These professionals have been trained in public relations planning, strategic thinking, and measurement/metrics in assessing results.
Some public relations professionals have previous experience as members of the news media. This can be useful, but beware the pitfalls. Some reporters look good on camera but have no training in the strategic thinking or planning processes, and have little experience working with business or organization leadership. Producers and editors generally make a far better transition to the skills needed for successful public relations initiatives.
What is Accreditation in Public Relations (APR)?
Accreditation in Public Relations, or APR, is a voluntary certification program for public relations professionals, administered by the Universal Accreditation Board. An APR designation is a symbol of professional decision to knowledge and ethics at the highest level. It identifies a public relations practitioner who has demonstrated exceptional skills, experience and professional judgment in the field by participating in a rigorous program of skills assessment, review, and study, and by passing an examination. It assets professional competence, communicates dedication and ethical values, and reflects progressive PR industry practices and high standards.
The designation Accredited in Public Relations (APR) signifies a high level of experience and competence and represents the top 2% of all public relations professionals in the United States.
What is the PRSA College of Fellows?
The PRSA College of Fellows is the gold standard of public relations professionals. College of Fellows is an active, honorary organization comprised of more than 350 senior practitioners and educators, each of whom has left a significant footprint on the public relations profession. A rigorous peer review process has singled out these professionals to be among the ‘best of the best.’ Election to the College is considered the pinnacle of one’s professional career.
What is a news release?
A news release (often incorrectly called a press release) is an article written in an informational journalistic format. It is not an advertisement and it is not a marketing message. The purpose of the news release is to highlight what is new, unusual, remarkable, and newsworthy about your company, organization, services or products.
How often should we send out news releases to the media?
Only when you have something newsworthy to communicate – the key being “newsworthy.” It is important to generate fresh and updated information – but its primary home should be on your website. New information drives new traffic to you, validates you as a leader in your field and can help you maintain visibility so that you might be called upon as an expert when a story about your subject is in the planning stages.
How do you write a news release that doesn't sound like an advertisement?
A good news release needs to be informative and include items of genuine interest to your target audience. Writing a release that sounds like an advertisement is a sure fire way to be ignored by news media, and will hurt you in the long run. Writing effective news releases reporters follow up on demands skill and experience.
Do I need to be blogging, tweeting, and uploading video?
Yes. Or maybe. Social media and web tools are exciting and can be useful. But they aren’t one-size fits all and they can quickly overwhelm you and your capacity to keep up. A strategic public relations advisor determines exactly where you should be investing your time and energy. It might include effective old-school tools instead of the latest bright shiny toy.
What’s the difference between public relations and marketing?
Many people confuse these two concepts. Public relations establishes and maintains the different relationships between your organization and the people you need to communicate with to be successful. This can include your customers, your employees, the news media, community organizations, or elected officials. Public relations focuses on building your reputation as a trustworthy, knowledgeable, unimpeachable source of information and an honest broker of products and services.
Marketing identifies human needs and wants, offers products and services to satisfy those demands, and prompts transactions to deliver products and services in exchange for monetary compensation. This is also true for nonprofits, where the equivalent for sales is volunteer time and monetary donations.
Public relations builds and maintains your positive reputation in the communication environment. Marketing builds its outreach on the reputation and trust established with your target audience through your public relations effort.
Marketing can seem easier, quicker, and more straightforward. But without a solid reputation built upon honest relationships with your target audiences, marketing will land with a thud – and could even hurt your business when audiences react negatively to insincere messages.
What’s the difference between public relations and advertising?
Advertising is information placed in the media by an identified sponsor that pays for the time or space. It is a controlled method of placing messages. Sometimes public relations uses advertising to reach audiences when they are not entirely satisfied or successfully reached by what is being said in the media, when a point of view is not being reported fairly, or when adding voices to a cause.
Does marketing drive public relations, or does public relations drive marketing?
PR identifies key relationships and the stories and content which support your long-term reputation building strategy. Your reputation will drive marketing efforts to support business through promotional elements, social media sharing, email marketing, and more which will appeal to those specific audiences.
Marketing can suggest PR initiatives when there are scheduled promotions and content public relations tactics can support through earned media coverage, influencer partnerships and other storytelling methods of sharing information.
Is public relations integrated into other areas of marketing or does it stand alone?
Public relations and marketing are intertwined disciplines. They should not work independently, but can achieve much more if everyone works together on long term strategy and shares in designing integrated messages and tactics. The organization must agree on how it will support organization goals and objectives, and should speak with one voice.
How closely should PR work with other areas of the company (i.e., sales, product development, legal, etc.)?
The more closely communication strategists can work with other professionals within an organization, the more useful their advice will be in guiding business decisions which may result in positive or negative consequences by employees, customers, officials, investors, and other stakeholders. Helping corporate counsel, human resources, finance, logistics, investor relations, and senior management weigh the outcome of decisions from a public perception aspect can help prevent negative (and often expensive) fallout.
How quickly will I see results from my public relations plan?
Public relations is not a silver bullet. It takes time and attention, and can seem tedious and repetitive. There are no shortcuts when it comes to building substantial relationships. Once they are established and your reputation secured, your target audiences will seek out and believe in your messages and put their faith (and their spending) behind your products and services. Even more important, when there are problems, your audiences will give you the benefit of the doubt thanks to your strong reputation.
How do I measure public relations results?
Public relations results should be tied to the metrics that define your business or organization’s specific goals and objectives. PR activities must help drive those metrics: sales, donations, votes, or behavior changes. Counting media hits or clips, likes, shares, or views are not results. They may provide a snapshot of whether your public relations initiatives are reaching your target audience – but without execution of a specific call to action, they are useless. Any PR firm boasting about its clips or likes does not understand meaningful metrics.
Can public relations help me build my brand?
PR provides your organization an ideal platform to strategically and thoughtfully build your brand. We can help you creatively express your brand value suited to your business persona. However, your brand must be based in solid organizational performance, quality products and services, and engaged, caring employees who take pride in their best efforts. A brand is not meant as cover-up for serious flaws.
What should a public relations plan include?
A formal four-step public relations planning process as endorsed by the Public Relations Society of America and taught by major university degree programs includes research, planning, implementation, and evaluation (referred to as RPIE). It should be thoughtfully produced and executed based on a thorough exploration of your organization’s goals and objectives, tied to your target audience and its needs, with information distributed through carefully selected channels to reach the right people with the right message at the right time – for the right results.
How do I get my business or organization on the news?
The easy answer is to do something newsworthy. The reality is a bit more complex. Your story needs to compete with hundreds, perhaps thousands of other story ideas on a daily basis. But you can improve your odds of scoring some air time or screen time with a well-crafted pitch, visual elements, accessible sources, and responsive representation. Public relations professionals who are former journalists can help. A public relations professional with her own current credentials as an award-winning, working sportswriter can offer insight hard to come by anywhere else.
How can I get the news media to cover my story? / How do I get media coverage?
Is your news new? There is a reason three letters in the word news spell new. Is your story out of the ordinary? Of local interest? Happening now? Groundbreaking in some way? Involve adorable puppies? Speak to the personal interest of an individual journalist? Easy to cover and understanding? Make the journalist’s job simpler? All of these elements can come into play. A public relations consultant skilled in media relations can work with you to figure out how to leverage these aspects and others to your advantage against your competitors
Are media relations and public relations the same thing?
Although these terms are often used interchangeably, they are NOT the same. Media relations is just one tool in the greater public relations toolkit including content creation, owned media including websites and newsletters, live events and video, shared media, reviews and testimonials, community relations, corporate social responsibility, and much more.
What is reputation management?
Reputation management is the internal management effort to build a business or organization’s positive reputation among its target audiences, and to support maintenance of its ongoing reputation through a proactive communication strategy through its relationships to the target audience(s). This includes oversight of customer service, quality assurance, fiscal responsibility, management best practices, regulatory issues, community relations, media relations, and political relationships. Reputation management is a vital, ongoing process. It cannot be overlooked.
What role does PR play in reputation management?
The practice of public relations at the highest level is deeply intertwined and concerned with reputation management. Establishing trust with an organization’s target audiences is the highest and best use of communication strategy in support of an organization’s goals and objectives.
What is crisis communication?
Crisis communication is specialized expertise in public relations supporting any business, organization, or individual suffering through an emergency. These can be externally imposed (natural disasters, criminal victimization, economic cycles) or internally imposed (fiscal mismanagement, safety breakdowns, employee mistreatment, deception, product recalls).
How can public relations help in crisis management?
Crisis communication strategists help organizational leaders to address their target audiences and the public to inform, assure, and advise them through the process of identifying the problem, its causes, solutions, and taking responsibility for any harm done when warranted. It can help organizations avoid missteps, misstatements, or statements which will create more damage with their constituents.
How is public relations changing?
For many years, public relations and media relations were considered virtually the same thing. Businesses and organizations hired publicity reps to get past the news gatekeepers who would put them in their newspaper or magazines, or on their radio and television news programs. Unless you were willing to spend a lot of money buying billboards or newspaper ads, or printing your own publications, companies were at the media’s mercy.
The news media no longer control the message or your access to your audiences. Anyone with a smartphone can start their own online video news channel, interactive with people around the world live, demonstrate their produces or services, or answer questions.
What is influencer marketing?
Influencers continue to dominate the editorial space, and consumers are listening to their feedback more than ever. Why? Because they’re everyday people like you and me – social media and digital access has changed the game, and now people are able to start a blog or YouTube channel at the drop of a hat. 71% of people say they’re more likely to make a purchase if they see it recommended on social media first, which is why influencer marketing is so important as part of a PR strategy. When you find the right influencers, they not only produce great shareable content for your brand, but they get people engaged with the brand on social media and ultimately in the store.
Is influencer marketing part of public relations?
Yes. Choosing someone to speak for your organization is a tricky decision and can have a significant effect on your reputation if the choice isn’t carefully researched and considered. A communication strategist who can weigh all the pros and cons along with various options, and set up influencer marketing agreements can prevent some of the more common problems with influencer marketing. A PR professional can also ensure you make the best choice to get the strongest return on investment by insisting on specific expectations from the working relationship.
Is search optimization (SEO) part of public relations?
Yes. Public relations strategists know how to craft messages designed to result in action among your target audiences in support of your organization. This can include sales, philanthropic support, democratic change, or behavior change. Before SEO can be successful, your organization must determine what messaging will drive audience behavior and create your success – then turn these messages into successful SEO tactics. You need strategic thinking first to drive the back-end website changes.
If you’re only reporting on impressions, then it’s going to be hard to value PR and its ability to drive sales.
If I could give one piece of advice for anyone who is unsure about how PR adds value to their brand’s marketing efforts it would be this: we know that the top driver of brand purchases is referral from a friend/trusted source, and each brand’s number primary goal is to drive awareness about their products in order to increase sales. So, why aren’t we investing more in the marketing tool that does exactly that?
- Identify the metrics you plan to report
- Gather the data you want to present
- Visualize data using charts, infographics, graphs and maps
- Dedicate one topic to one page or one slide
- Use icons to highlight key points
- Use more visuals than text
Maintain consistent branding throughout the document
How is public relations different than 10 years ago?
When the Falcon Valley Group was established in 2004, 80 percent of our client business focused on media relations. In 2020, it is 15 percent of our client business. Our clients are no longer at the mercy of media gatekeepers. Unlike many of our colleagues, we see this as a positive development for skilled communicators, and not a setback.
Where do we see public relations going in the next 10 years?
The fragmenting of traditional news media and social media will continue and accelerate. For all but the largest businesses and organizations, communication will focus on narrowly targeted niche audiences. Owned media must remain central to your communication strategy by offering the information target audiences need, augmented and supported by earned media, social media, and paid media.
How does the Falcon Valley Group charge for its services?
Public relations firms charge for their time in much the same way as do most professional services providers such as attorneys, accountants, or information technology retained to help clients meet their strategic goals. The Falcon Valley Group offers its clients options in billing for services, based on its initial review of your needs and your budget.
Falcon Valley Group will fully detail its fees to insure a mutually beneficial arrangement prior to signing any agreement with you.
What do you need from us to get a PR plan started?
Public relations isn’t a “set it and forget it” operation. As the subject matter expert in your field and the one able to quickly identify and understand industry trends, we work with our clients as partners to inform us about your ongoing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. What’s happening? What’s going on in your organization? What are your near term initiatives? Where do the threats loom? Can your foresight help improve your success, or ward off potential problems? The more you trust your PR professionals with your insights, they more they can help you realize your goals and objectives.
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Contact Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, Fellow PRSA
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, Fellow PRSA
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, Fellow PRSA is President of the Falcon Valley Group, a San Diego based public relations consulting company.