PR 101 – What is PR?

Is the cry I often hear from friends and family.

Or more accurately – what exactly do you do?? Well I don’t blame them. PR is notoriously difficult to pin down and explain to those who don’t work in the industry. Even those I work with, can sometimes blur the boundaries and get in a bit of a muddle when assigning roles or thinking about what PR can and can’t do.

Which got me thinking.

Why don’t I use my blog to help fellow crafters and bloggers to understand PR and create as series of posts which explain the art of PR and shed a little more light on this little understood profession. It will probably be helpful too, if you are thinking of doing some PR for your own business or are looking to hire a PR professional.

So first things first – WTF is PR?

Wikipeadia says: Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing the flow of information between an organisation and its publics. Public relations provides an organisation or individual exposure to their audiences using topics of public interest and news items that do not require direct payment. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_relations

In my humble opinion: PR generates debate and drives conversation. It is the delivery of a targeted message to a target audience. For me, it’s all about the big C. No not Christmas (sorry one track mind). CONTENT.

The job of a PR professional is to create conversational content, inspire that conversation, influence behaviour and ultimately, build reputation.

In the ‘good old days’ when I first began my career in PR (at a little agency in North London, with a dragon-like boss who would have given Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada a run for her money) my days were taken up with calling press, sending out clothes, faxing (yes faxing!) press releases and product information.  Oh and fetching a special salad and yoghurt for her lunch, babysitting her unruly children after school and picking up the dry cleaning.

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PR is not just sending out press releases or having an Ab Fab style lunch/dinner/messy night out. A typical PR programme will have an element of press release writing and sending out involved but is more likely to include some strategic counsel, brand marketing, social media content management, influencer engagement and planning. Oh yes. Lots of planning.

If you are engaging the services of a PR or giving it a go yourself, the real art of the profession is the ‘name and frame’. How are you going to package your story to make it as appealing as possible to your audience? Is it funny, sad, have some human interest, is it unique or record breaking? What’s the angle?

This is the tricky bit. And why PR is quite hard. And can be costly. It’s really not as straightforward as telling someone about your new product or service. There are some challenges;

  • Space in magazines, newspapers and blogs is highly competitive. Sometimes as many as 30 stories pitched to an editor to fill one space on one page
  • With the rise of digital, there are much less media to pitch to
  • Journalists and bloggers are, generally, time poor with very specific needs and wants based on those of their readers and viewers
  • PR coverage is not guaranteed
  • It totally depends on the news agenda
  • Everything can be rewritten and interpreted – PR’s can guide and inspire

If you’re thinking of engaging a PR to help build your business, do your research. Find someone who has experience in your industry and can prove their worth. And be prepared to pay a fair wage for a fair day’s work. Some PR’s now charge on a results only basis – perfect if you’re looking for reams of coverage, but perhaps not right if you’re looking for some brand support, influencer engagement or social media content.

If there’s anything you’d like to know about PR, writing or social media copy and content, drop me a line via the comments and I’ll write a post on it.

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