Erm… What is it That I Do Again? What is PR and Why Do Businesses Need It?

Fi tries to answer what exactly is PR and why do businesses need it? 

Ah, poor old PR. I sometimes think it stands for ‘Poor Relation’ of the marketing mix! Why? Because it’s hard to put your finger on what the heck it is exactly! Website? Seen one. Advert? Know it. Video? Played ‘em. Brochure? Read it. PR? Erm…something to do with press releases or something?

Here’s how the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) defines PR.


“Public Relations is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you. Public Relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.”


Yeah. Righto. That helps, thanks.

So let’s try and nutshell it shall we? Well that’s half the problem. We can’t really. Whereas an ad, a brochure, a website are all clearly definable, arguably tangible things, PR is more of an all-encompassing term.

PR ventures into many other areas of marketing, but is essentially a set of activities that help ensure businesses (or charities, or people, but for the purposes of this, let’s talk businesses) are known and talked about in a positive way. If a business is known or talked about positively, it usually follows that it is also ‘successful’ or if we’re being really blunt about it, ‘making money.’


“Hey, I’ve heard that business is great! I’ll definitely buy from them!”

In reality, PR covers everything that has an impact on your positive reputation – from the way you answer the phone, the uniforms of your staff, to how you deal with customer complaints, or the pretty colours and effectiveness of your website.

But most businesses we talk to still think of PR purely as  “getting featured in a magazine / newspaper / radio / TV…(and this is the important bit) FOR FREE!”

It’s this particular side of PR that I enjoy the most and find the most satisfying. And it’s in this area that we can really demonstrate to our clients our skills and support. But first let’s talk about what we mean by ‘owned’ and ‘earned’ media.


‘Owned media’ / ‘Earned media’ – both important

Love it or hate, we’re certainly living in a blog-loving, YouTube vlogger superstar, social media-obsessed digital age.

The plus side is that it’s made it possible for smaller businesses to get their positive messages and stories out there through their own channels – blogs, videos, Tweets, status updates etc. This is called ‘owned media’ because businesses create and own the content. An interesting, regularly-updated blog, status update or Tweet can humanise a faceless product, service or business – adding to its brand values, inviting its audience directly to participate, chat, share, welcoming them into its world.

Fantastic news for us PR practitioners – build reputation directly with the business’s target audience. PR is now much more than trying to convince a handful of journalists at magazines, newspapers and TV stations to cover our stories. It’s about targeting the bloggers / vloggers, followers, likers. Social media has given us that direct access we’ve craved for years – and we’re helping our clients make the most of it.  


No more journalist schmoozing?

Don’t be fooled. ‘Earned media’ – ie when someone else writes positively about your business – is still a critical part of a PR programme.

Getting a publication or broadcaster to talk about you in a positive way is hugely important. For one, it brings your brand to audiences that may not already have been aware of you. Secondly, as a written editorial article (as opposed to an advert) it automatically brings with it a credibility and endorsement of that particular media / journalist.

Viewers / readers taking in those positive messages about your business will think that those facts have been found out by an independent ace news reporter, furiously scribbling shorthand on their spiral notepads as the truth unfolds. Little do they realise that the story has  actually been sent to the journalist by a hard-working PR practitioner, who has ensured that all her client’s key messages have been included in the beautifully-drafted article (purposefully written in the style of the publication so said busy journalist will gratefully ‘cut and paste’). Client pleased. Journalist pleased. Audience reached. Job done.


This reputation-building stuff takes time and effort!

It’s also important to recognise that this PR thing takes time. If you think of PR and social media as a virtual ‘cocktail party’ – a place where people can share ideas, content, thoughts and relationships online, it’s  no good turning up to one party, shouting about how great you are, sinking one too many Cosmopolitans before stumbling into a taxi, never to be heard from for the next six months. It’s important to be the delightful guest at several key gatherings, having great conversations and providing helpful, valuable information. The results? You’ll build a great reputation with those other party guests.  

But who has time to party these days?

You know your business is doing great work, but how often do you blow your own trumpet? Though most companies recognise the importance of building and maintaining a great reputation and the impact it has on future business, most don’t have the time to focus on PR or social media when they’re busy doing the day-to-day. This is where we come in. We can….ahem…blow your trumpet for you…

Strategic thinking, activity-planning, social media content creating, blog-writing, press release researching and drafting, vlogger-targeting, opportunity-searching, journalist-schmoozing and so much more. Leave it all to us.


Heard of a couple of fellas called Bill Gates and Richard Branson?

So PR is the long game. It’s doing lots of different things continually in order to build a positive reputation, which ultimately (for businesses) will generate sales. Sometimes, results are quick! I recently achieved half a page of free coverage in a national newspaper’s Sunday magazine for one of our clients, and they saw a direct spike in sales after the article appeared. But most of the time PR is more of a marathon than a sprint…

Need any more convincing on the value of PR? Here’s what Bill Gates and Richard Branson had to say about it.


“If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on public relations” – Bill Gates

“Publicity is absolutely critical. A good PR story is infinitely more effective than a front page ad.” – Richard Branson.


Rich, Bill…I couldn’t agree more.

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