A PR firm is an organization specializing in public relations and maintaining a good reputation for clients. This involves a number of different processes, many of which are different today in light of the web’s role.
A PR Firm is a company that will handle the public relations of a company, organization or even individual. This allows a company to manage its reputation, brand awareness and public image with the hope of increasing sales, investment opportunities and more.
What Does a PR Firm Do?
Brand visibility and awareness is partly the role of a marketing department or firm. Marketing involves ensuring that the right people are aware of a brand and what it does. You know about Coca-Cola because the marketing company has ensured that you have seen advertising campaigns, that you have seen the brand plastered on the side of busses and sports stadiums and that you have been given free cans at events.
A PR company ensures that you and others view the company positively and are aware of its various services and products. It does this in the following ways:
- Press releases – Press releases are statements released to news outlets, websites and press release sites that detail news about a company which might be considered news for the general public. The hope is that journalists will cover this as news in their publications, giving the company free exposure in the manner designed by the PR firm.
- Conferences – A PR firm might organize a conference and invite members of the press so that the company can make announcements etc.
- Releasing statements – Similarly, a statement is an official ‘line’ from a company representative that can help to deal with a PR disaster or answer a question. If a company has done something that is getting bad coverage in the press, then a statement can help to undo some of this damage.
- Arranging Interviews – Interviews are a key way in which a website or company can present its side of a story and pique interest in a brand. A PR firm can arrange these interviews for brand representatives.
- Customer Satisfaction – Grass roots opinions can quickly form into bigger movements for or against a company. It’s important for a company therefore to monitor public opinion with polls and surveys and then to manage those opinions. This might mean ensuring that an unhappy customer is appeased, or it might mean introducing a better returns policy.
- Online Reputation Management – Online reputation management is closely linked with SEO. This means the process of ensuring that the top search results for a company make that company look good. It also means looking at a website etc. and seeing how this can impact on the reputation of the company.
A PR firm will often work closely with a marketing firm to consider how certain marketing strategies will also impact on the public relations. This is particularly crucial in the case of ‘PCS’ (proper company stuff) and marketing strategies that aim to draw particular attention to the company through PR stunts and the like.
An ideal campaign will boost both the brand recognition and its reputation and status.
Dealing With Internet Trolls
These days, a PR firm doesn’t just need to deal with conventional public relations strategies. The internet creates many unique challenges that simply didn’t exist previously. A perfect example of this is the ‘internet troll’ – someone who intentionally spreads ill will about an individual or a company, even if that has no basis in reality.
A 'troll' is someone who posts on an article, forum, social media page or YouTube video in an aim to cause trouble. Generally, they aren't interested in making any kind of point but rather are simply looking for a reaction – most often from the author of said video or article.
This is something that can be quite annoying for any online community but thankfully most of us are now wise to these tactics and so much less likely to rise to the bait. That said though, if you are a business and you're using content marketing techniques to try and raise your profile and develop some authority, it can actually a serious problem.
Why Trolls Are a Problem
For instance, if you were selling supplements for bodybuilders on your blog and you posted an article on bodybuilding, you might then find that you get a troll commenting on your post and making aggressive and unfounded claims. They might question your science, call you incompetent and tell you to 'get off the internet'. In the case of a true troll, that criticism will almost always be foundationless and their argument won't make any sense.
Nevertheless though, it can still damage your credibility for someone just visiting who perhaps doesn't know the subject well. And if you are trying to sell supplements from that article, it could actually hurt your sales.
Worst of all, many blogs will actively promote the posts with the most comments as 'popular entries' meaning that these are the articles that will be seen by the most people.
What to Do
Unfortunately though, trolls aren't easy to deal with. Not only are they actively looking for arguments but they're also quite happy to make illogical claims.
So, if you try to argue each of their points then you'll only get back long (nonsensical replies) ad infinitum until you're wasting a lot of your time.
On the other hand, if you tell them to go away, it will actually only undermine you further. Ignore them and it may look as though you don't have an answer.
So what do you do?
Delete the comment.
While this might seem like the 'cowards way out' the point to recognize is that these people are only looking to stir trouble and they don't have valid arguments. You can't argue with them and they are maliciously hurting your business. You can delete them, and no one will know they were there, so don't give them the attention they so desperately crave.
The danger here though is that you delete a comment that is not from a troll but which is rather a legitimate complaint or concern. In this case, you can be seen to be attempting to censor your customers and the public and this can result in a PR backlash.
When the comment is not from a troll, the better response is to answer and to take the higher ground – to show that you are apologetic that the customer isn’t happy and to offer a solution. This shows you are listening without looking defensive.
Dealing With a PR Crisis
Sometimes a company will need to deal with a PR crisis. For example, if you are a logistics company that moves gallons of oil in tankers overseas and you have a leak, then this can cause serious damage to the environment.
This would severely damage your company’s reputation and is what we call a PR crisis. Solutions would include paying for remedial services (quickly), donating to charity and being seen to deal with the issue via safety tests etc. We saw something similar recently with the exploding Samsung Galaxy Note 7 batteries.
Celebrities likewise may need to deal with PR crises if they should be caught evading taxes, or perhaps if they have a high-profile break-up. In all these cases, the individual or organization should consult with a PR firm to take the best possible course of action!