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What is Public Relations and why is it important?

According to Investopedia, public relations is defined as “the art of managing the spread of information about an individual or company is disseminated to the public, and attempting to frame that information in a positive light.” But what exactly does that mean? Essentially, public relations (PR) refers to the way that businesses, organizations and individual entities communicate with both the media and the public.

Why is Public Relations Important?

What is Public Relations? © Jakub-Jirsák / What is Public Relations? © Jakub-Jirsák / The goal of public relations is to build and maintain a positive reputation or image, fostering a strong relationship with the audience that is being targeted. PR is vital for businesses and public figures of all shapes and sizes.

It’s a powerful tool because it helps to facilitate more exposure and puts you in front of your targeted audience. In other words, public relations makes you more visible, helps you stand apart from the crowd, and attracts more attention.

Public relations is extremely important for your brand, and for a multitude of reasons. Some of the key benefits that PR offers include:

  • Raises awareness. The public trusts brands that are established. An effective way to set your business or yourself apart from the crowd is by sending your message out through a third party; a high-traffic website, a social media giant, or a highly regarded magazine in your industry, for example.
  • Builds credibility. A mention of your business in a magazine or a review of a product you offer on a blog isn’t a direct sell, so it comes across as a recommendation from someone who is considered an authority in your niche. This helps to build your credibility, making you highly credible.
  • Customizes information. All businesses and individual entities have a one-of-a-kind brand message. The public loves brands that they can relate to, or that are highly compelling.
  • Reputation management. Establishing trustworthy connections in the media isn’t just about free marketing; it’s also about reputation management. In the event that something negative happens (someone blasts a product that you are selling, or spreads ugly rumors about you,) the connections you make with the media via public relations will be extremely useful, as they can help to rebuild your reputation.
  • It’s economical. A spread in a magazine or a commercial is a great way to reach your audience, but these forms of advertising come with a big price tag. Public relations can help you get a full feature article or a mention on a popular website without the need to pay boatloads of cash.

How is PR Done?

Professionals who specialize in public relations strive to obtain free publicity for their clients. PR professionals develop a customized strategy for their clients. A variety of techniques are used to reach the public. While PR strategies will differ from business to business and person to person, some of the techniques that are often used include the following:

  • Press releases. Essentially, a press release is a form of writing that communicates very specific, yet brief information regarding something notable about a business or an individual. For example, a press release may be about a new store opening, or a charity event that was hosted by a public figure. Once a press release is written, it is sent out to the media through various means. The main goal of a press release is to promote something of specific significance. It alerts the media of an event in hopes that the information will be passed along to the public, thus promoting your business or yourself, whatever the case may be.
  • PR © sebra  / PR © sebra / Social networking. Social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, have become a vital tool in public relations. Important information about your business could be shared via your Facebook page, or your Twitter handle, for example. If done right, your posts or tweets could be shared and seen by millions of people, thereby building your credibility and getting your name out in front of a huge audience.
  • Whether their printed or emailed, newsletters are a valuable way to promote a business, communicate with your target audience, and keep them abreast of anything new that is going on with your business. They can also help to strength connections with clients, as they reflect the brand of your business, as well as your personality.

There are dozens of other techniques that are used by PR professionals. How do they determine what will work best for your specific brand? There’s no exact formula, but research and trial and error play a big role in finding out what strategies will be the most effective for your needs – and your goals.

Getting Started with Public Relations

Public relations can launch your brand and skyrocket your success. The bottom line is this: if you want your business to success, you have to be noticed; if you aren’t, you’ll easily get lost in the sea of names and business in your niche, and you might have some degree of success, but you probably won’t attain the success that you truly desire – and deserve.

In order to take your business to the next level, you’re going to want to take advantage of public relations. But how do you do that if you don’t know the first thing about PR? Simple: find reputable PR firm.

There are literally countless PR agencies out there. How do you know who you can trust and who will deliver the success that you are looking for? Here are three tips that will help get you started.

  1. A Proven Track Record. Most PR firms talk a good game, but can they actually play it? To find out, inquire about a PR agency’s track record. Ask what companies or people they have worked for. Find out if they are willing to share sample work and case studies. Ask to listen to or see clips, press releases, social media handles and anything else that could tell you about the company’s track record of success. Don’t forget to ask for references, too. A reputable PR firm won’t have a problem sharing any of this information with you.
  2. Experience in Your Industry. In order for public relations to be as effective as possible, you want to find a firm that specializes in your particular industry. If you are a chef and you are aspiring to be the next famous name in cooking, hiring a PR firm that is focused on technology probably won’t work for you. You’ll want to find a firm that has experience in your industry, knows the ins and outs of it, and has the right connections. Finding a firm that specializes in your niche allow them to understand what you offer and will make it possible to get your name out to platforms that you want to be featured on. This will make a huge difference for the overall success of your business, and you will likely see that success rapidly unfold.
  3. Find Out What They Offer. The PR industry often gets a bad rap because many firms aren’t transparent. They don’t let their clients know what they are going to be getting for their money; rather, they make generalizations. Just like any other transaction you are going to make, you want to make sure that you know exactly what you are going to get; you don’t want generalities. Find out the specifics of what the PR firm you are considering working with will do for you, and how they are going to do it. If they beat around the bush, chances are they aren’t going to be reputable. A competent PR agency should be willing to share details with you before you sign on the dotted line; they should be transparent.

Business Team © ASDF / Business Team © ASDF / An investment in a reputable PR agency is worth its weight in gold. If you choose the right company, you are likely to launch your business to the next level, and possibly to levels that you never dreamed were possible. However, if you find yourself working with a firm that has a less than stellar reputation, that hides information from you, or that doesn’t specialize in your field, chances are pretty high that you are going to end up wasting your money.

Take the time to do due diligence. Like any purchase you make for your business, public relations is an investment, and you want to ensure that your investment will pay off. Ask trusted colleagues or other people that you know who are using a PR firm if they can make recommendations. Put in the time and effort to fully research different agencies. It may take some time to find the right public relations professional for your specific needs, but when you do, it will definitely pay off in the end. Public relations is to business what butter is to bread; while yes, you can have bread on its own, it’s certainly much more enjoyable when it’s buttered. The same is true for business; you can have success without public relations, but your success will be even sweeter when you take advantage of this incredible service.