The lines between marketing, advertising and public relations are becoming more blurred by the minute. It’s common for there to be confusion over the roles that each plays, and there is often a large amount of crossover.
Over the past 20 years running my own international public relations and advertising agency, I’ve come up with six of the most common questions I’ve been asked about publicity. Answering these questions will hopefully help you clearly define how PR can fit into your marketing mix.
1. What is public relations?
Public relations is essentially getting a brand, service or product placement in the press for free. Whether it is a mention on a podcast, a feature in the nightly news or a mention in a news story, this is publicity. Public relations is something money can’t buy; it is organic.
PR is about the positioning of a brand, which can be done through many different channels. Rather than through paid media—such as newspaper or magazine print advertising, advertising on leading online news sites or even outdoor billboards—PR uses nonpaid platforms. This can include social media, blog posts or unpaid press in news outlets (e.g., a newspaper article or a TV feature).
2. What are the tools of public relations?
There are many public relations tools and activities that can be used. A strong press release is one of the most important tools when it comes to PR. A press release is used when your company has something you would like media coverage on. It is a written, concise statement that objectively reports what you want to be covered and is then pitched to relevant media contacts. Within the first paragraph, your release should outline who, what, where, when and why. Often, the press doesn’t have a chance to read beyond the headline and the first paragraph, so it is essential to summarize everything upfront and still be engaging.
Once you have your release, you can use it to promote other PR tools, such as an event. Partnerships are another big area and something that you’d want to have in your PR toolbox. Companies can partner with celebrities, bloggers or influencers to promote their products or services. Another more subtle platform is product placement. This is where you negotiate deals to have your company’s products placed in hit TV shows, movies, interviews, etc.
3. How does public relations differ from marketing?
Public relations is fundamentally different from marketing. While public relations involves communication with the general population to maintain a positive image, which can include people who may not be a part of your target audience, marketing focuses more on promoting or selling a company’s products or services to a target market.
The long-term goals of the two are also different. Marketing aims to identify what a customer wants and give it to them, while the goal of public relations is to position a brand in a positive light while boosting its overall awareness.
The overall message that comes across through each also differs. In marketing, it is very clear that you are trying to sell something, whether it be a product, service or company. Public relations is a much softer sell, and it is not as obvious that you are trying to sell something since you are looking to promote your company or product positively.
4. How do PR and marketing work together?
If you want your company or brand to succeed, it is important to leverage both PR and traditional marketing. PR cannot replace traditional marketing, and it would be ignorant to not take advantage of PR. Each is different and has its own advantages, so neither can replace the other.
Additionally, it’s not a good idea to use the same content for each. For example, you shouldn’t take a social media post and submit the same content to a news outlet. Content should be tailored to every platform. Since PR and marketing have such different messages and goals, the content should reflect that.
5. How can PR be defined in a way that is quantifiable?
An important aspect of business is being able to quantify the success of something. So, how do you quantify the success of public relations? The success of PR is not as distinct as one number, like a return on investment (ROI), because the effectiveness of PR can be felt in many different areas. Website traffic, social media analytics, social media engagement, leads and sales can all be used to measure the success of a PR strategy.
6. Why is public relations important?
Public relations is important because it is effective. It helps increase brand awareness, creates credibility, promotes the values of a brand, strengthens its relationship with the community and increases online presence. All of these factors are important to customers when deciding not only what products or companies to use but their long-term brand loyalty. So, ultimately, PR is effective in helping to generate leads, sales and profits.
Though there is much confusion between marketing, advertising and public relations, there are many differences. Now that you have a better understanding of public relations and why it is important, you can better leverage publicity for your brand, enabling you to continue to scale your business.