Press Relations Explained

A simple definition of press relations

In order to fully understand the objectives and usefulness of press releases, it pays to consider them in the broader context of press relations. Press relations are also sometimes referred to as media relationships and in short, this means working with the media for the purpose of informing the public about an organization’s mission, policies, practices, products, services and more in a positive and ‘consistent’ manner.

In other words, it means crafting your image as you wish for it to be portrayed by both encouraging the press to say the things you want them to say about you and avoiding negative press at the same time.

The term can be used interchangeably with the phrase public relations, however it is slightly  different. If anything, you can think of press relations as being a kind of conduit to public relations. The public perception is, to a large extent, shaped and crafted by the media after all.

copyright: wladimir1804 @ fotolia.com
copyright: wladimir1804 @ fotolia.com
This positive is accomplished through a number of different means. It might include press releases, it might include events, it might include conferences or it might mean conducting interviews.

To these ends, many organizations will create what is known as a media list. As the name might imply, this is essentially a list of potential media outlets that might be interested in covering the company’s information and which are likely to do so in a positive light while also reaching the right audience.

Having a media list is a very useful way to quickly reach out to all the most relevant and influential online and print publications, along with any other media outlets. This is the first tip for marketers reading this right now then: set about creating your own media list and then refer to this each time you have news to share.
That might mean finding rival sites, it might mean looking at news sites, it might mean looking for small magazines, or it might mean looking for small influencers even in this day and age!

Possible objectives of PR

The objectives of press relations will vary depending on the nature of the company and also that company’s current objectives and circumstances. This will in turn alter the way that said companies approach their press relations and the specific tools they use in order to reach out to the media. Let’s take a look at some of the key and most important objectives for PR.

Increasing publicity

One of the simplest and most common/simple objectives for PR is to allow the company to increase its exposure.
Many of you reading this will be small business owners, individual marketers or otherwise smaller organizations. That makes brand visibility one of your very most important priorities – because right now there’s a good chance that the majority of your potential market have never heard of you!

Let’s say that you have a price comparison website and you currently get most of your business by advertising on Facebook using a small advertising budget. Or let’s say that you have a website that publishes fitness tips. Right now, your press ‘relations’ are copyright: sebra @ fotolia.com
copyright: sebra @ fotolia.com
probably non-existent. Crafting an image is not so important to you as simply gaining one in the first place!

Using press relations gives you the potential to accomplish this overnight. Imagine if you were to publish a press release with an interesting story and that story were to be picked up by the major news sites, or the biggest sites in your niche.

That would mean overnight that your brand was exposed to hundreds of thousands or potentially even millions of viewers for the first time and in a way that would really give your business more credibility. Regardless of the subject matter, the simple fact that your brand is being covered in the news makes it seem ‘newsworthy’. And that makes people wake up and take notice!

This could transform your brand’s fortunes overnight. And this is one of the primary objectives of PR for countless businesses.

Improving and maintaining company’s image

For a company like CocaCola, PR can be used to increase publicity in much the same way that constant advertising is. Although the company is already a ‘household name’, it still wants to remain at the front of people’s minds. It still wants to be something that people are thinking about. And every now and then, making it into the news is a good way to do this!

But that’s not the only objective of PR either!

Building trust and credibility

Let’s take a big company like Google for instance. This is a global brand that is known around the world and that wants to be seen as a benevolent force that is helping to build a better future. In fact, the company claims to have a credo, which is ‘don’t be evil’! The company wants us to know about its initiatives revolving around AI, self-driving cars and indexing all of the world’s content to be shared online. It wants us to associate it with Android phones, with augmented reality glasses and virtual reality headsets. And it wants us to keep in mind its forward-thinking policies regarding the way it treats its staff with free creative time and with an incredible headquarters.

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copyright: SFIO-CRACHO @ fotolia.com
Often, this is indeed how Google is portrayed in the media. However, the company has also dealt with some less than flattering events.

Recently for instance, Google was on the receiving end of a huge antitrust fine due to seemingly anti-competitive practice. The company’s privacy policies are often called into question, as are its policies regarding illegal content being indexed and brought up in search results.

Google Plus, Google Glass, Google Keep and many more can all be considered examples of Google products that have ‘failed’. While there is a somewhat muddled vision and goal when you consider all of the different messaging apps and the two different operating systems… in short, Google has its fair share of bad press.

And so, for a company like Google, PR means not only getting word out, but also crafting that ‘word’. It means ensuring that people are talking about it for the right reasons. It means distracting people from the bad news with other, more positive information. And it means responding to criticism in a well-designed manner.

Addressing new target groups

One of the most powerfully important strategies in business is what is known as go to market. That simply means that the company has carefully defined who its target audience is and is now targeting it!

In short, to maximize your success, it is highly important that you know what it is you do but also who that is for. You then need a way to reach this market and you do that through what is referred to often as a route to market. This is any direct access to the population that you have defined.

And so, if your business sells fishing rods, your market is made up of anglers. A good route to that market is fishing magazines and so that is who you would want to contact to cover your stories. And then if you ever choose to branch out of this market into other niches, you will likely want to contact different members of the media.

 

Direct or indirect influence on public opinion

Notice that some of this work is going to have a direct impact on public opinion, while other elements are more indirect. For instance, if you respond to a criticism in an interview, then this can directly craft the impression that the public has of your business or the impact that this specific event has had on your reputation. But conversely, if you simply promote positive news, then this can indirectly influence the way that the general public sees you. For instance, news that you donate lots of money to charity as an organization might help the public to overlook other, less positive aspects of your business.

 

Possible media outlets and points of contact

Once you have identified an objective for your press relations and you know precisely what the purpose of your relationship with the media is, you can then start thinking about who you will target. This can mean both the outlet itself and the individual. And as we will see, the precise outlet or point of contact that you get in touch with can end up having a big impact on the effect that your communications have…

In a later chapter, we’ll discuss precisely what some of the best options are for your points of contact and your media outlets. But suffice to say that you will likely speak with:

  • Magazines
  • Websites
  • Newspapers
  • Industry magazines
  • Influencers
  • Researchers
  • Freelance journalists
  • Radio stations
  • TV reporters
  • And more!

Tools of press relations

With all of that in mind, there are a number of different ways that companies and brands can get the word out to all of these target audiences and all of these outlets. These include:

Press release

The press release is perhaps the best-known tool for managing press relations. This is what we’re going to be looking at in a lot of depth over the course of this book, so we won’t dive into it here just yet.

Suffice to say that a press release is an info blast of sorts that you can release in order to update the press and the media regarding a specific event, product, service or other piece of news. There is a specific format and ‘art’ to this, which we will dive into in a lot more detail later on.

Press conference

In a press conference, a company assembles the press in order to release news. This will usually involve inviting specific members of the press or the media and then announcing something major – which might be a new product or service, or which might be news about profits, about a merger, about plans going forward, about a rebranding…

Either way, this works in a similar manner to a press release, in that it allows a company to reveal news to a hand-picked selection of the press. The difference is that now they are able to respond to any questions immediately. Often a press conference will be used in conjunction with a press release.

Newscenter / newsroom

A newscenter or newsroom is essentially a tool that businesses use in order to inform the media and/or press of any news or new events. This might take the form of a website or even an entire internal department with publication etc.

In short, a company will task a small team with covering any and all news and this will then provide a place where press and media can follow the latest news and reveals from your company. The best part of a newscenter or newsroom style solution is that it is well-suited to covering smaller news that might otherwise not have been covered. Something that doesn’t warrant a whole press conference or press release might still get picked up by a proactive news outlet on a slow news day!

Customer magazine

A magazine can be a great tool for keeping customers, clients and even staff up-to-date with the latest news from the company. This can be part of the newsroom, or it can be its own thing.

 

Is press relations worthwhile?

So, with all that in mind, is press relations worthwhile? Should you be investing time, effort and money into this aspect of your marketing? The short answer is absolutely.

The long answer is that of course there are caveats though. That is to say that not all companies are going to benefit equally from press relations. And different companies should approach press relations in different ways.

For instance, it’s not terribly useful for a company to invest a huge amount of time and effort into managing its reputation if it is so small that no one has heard of it anyway! In this case, the objective should certainly be just to get word out to begin with. Likewise, a very small company might struggle to find newsworthy stories. In this case, press relations might well not require a whole department or even much investment – just a few emails can potentially do the trick.

But even in these cases, it is certainly work investing at least some time and money into PR. In fact, for a small company, getting a story picked up by a big news company can be the single event that launches it into the stratosphere. In this book we’ll be looking at some examples of how that can work and how you can increase your chances of that happening with the minimal time, money and effort.

And for larger companies this is simply a must. This is an aspect of modern business, much like health and safety, that you just can’t ignore. Keep up with the times by having a complete PR plan, or risk being overtaken and left behind like a dinosaur.