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Public relations is the process whereby a company or brand communicates their products and services to the public. PR is the key to effective communication between organisations and its consumers. It is common for organisations to hire PR staff to help maintain a strong relationship with stakeholders and their target audience, or organisations can hire PR staff internally. An organisation's PR staff must ensure the communication processes are in line with the organisation's capabilities and needs and the needs of the target audience. uses the idea of the Buyer's Journey to describe the process a consumer goes through before buying a particular product or service. PR can be used to target potential consumers at the beginning of their journey and influence them into feeling that the particular firm can solve their consumer problems.

Why is PR important?

Sean McPheat, in his article The Importance of Public Relations states that PR is vital to a company's success particularly in today's volatile market. It educates consumers with valuable information so that they can make informed decisions about the firm's product. Successful PR can be much more worthwhile to a firm than advertisements, as consumers will respond quicker and with more confidence to press releases or news stories.

PR allows the firm to build their brand and develop a following amongst the public by creating efficient channels of communication between the firm and its customers. PR is popular among politicians to help them attract votes and raise money, and is particularly vital when a firm is in crisis to help save the image of the firm.

What does PR involve?

Public relations evaluates public attitudes to enable the firm to implement a plan of action and earn public acceptance towards their products or services. PR can also be used to influence the public into a specific feeling towards the firm. By identifying consumer's needs and substitutes within the market, the firm can tailor their product to better suit their consumer segment. There are many tools a firm's public relations staff can use to boost a company's image and attract customers. Here are a few examples of PR tools:

  • Press releases
  • Trade shows
  • Opinion polls
  • Social media such as Facebook or Twitter
  • Blogs

How to manage PR

April Joyner in her article How to Manage Your Own PR provides tips for firm's running their own public relation's campaign:

  1. Start small: For a small to medium sized business, it is a good idea to aim to feature in a local newspaper or magazine, which can then propel the business into larger media outlets.
  2. Create a press list: Research the right type of media best suited to your product or service, and ensure that the idea or pitch is newsworthy.
  3. Follow reporters: Pitch your ideas to reporters who have similar interests to the firm. Familiarise yourself with the reporter and their interests.
  4. Be current: Link your pitch or ideas to current events and news in order to stay relevant with the public and maintain interest.
  5. Look for ways to stand out: Reporters receive many ideas constantly so you need to find ways to attract their attention, for example sending product samples to the reporter.
  6. Follow up: Keep the reported updated with any changes and ensure they have sufficient information.
  7. Don't forget bloggers: Blogs are becoming increasingly popular, thus a mention on a highly viewed blog can be as beneficial as a press release or news report, and help the firm stay current.
  8. Get on YouTube: Videos can be an easy and popular method to educate consumers on your product.

Developing a PR plan

Effective public relations should identify a relevant cause that the company can relate to and show the public that they care about the community. It is a good idea to start locally, for example hosting an event for the community and build up a following.

  • Firstly determine who the target audience is.
  • Set out a plan that clearly outlines how to address the particular consumer segment, and set out the image you want to portray of your business. This should also involve setting out strategies for how the message will be conveyed to the public.
  • Get in contact with members of the media, even local media.

Making sure your business stays in the eye of the public which will ensure the products and services gain awareness and remain relevant.