These days the lines between public relations and marketing are more blurred than ever before. Though this still doesn’t take away from the fact that effective public relations rely on critical concepts that become increasingly less effective if they are used for marketing purposes.
To help you better understand public relations practices and how to use them for maximum effect we decided to take a closer look. This involves asking and answering a few key questions.
So, Just What Is Involved In Public Relations?
Most PR professionals will tell you that public relations are the careful art of crafting and delivering messages to inform and potentially persuade the public in a way that encourages people to change opinions. It can also be used to promote people toward taking specific actions.
Most of the time public relations is used to generate publicity and/or promote a business. The average public relations campaign typically focuses on getting a business covered on television. radio show or other news media that is frequented by that business’ primary target market.
A lot of public relations campaigns employ a multi-strategy, or multi-tactical approach to reach their audience, which is sometimes called ‘publics’ by PR practitioners. The underlying goal is to enable your company to deliver messages that inform, educate, and create or change opinions. This generally leads to changes in attitudes and actions.
In some cases, effective public relations can also be used for “Damage Control.” This might be something like a fire, that temporarily closes your business. Public relations can let loyal and prospective new customers know that the closure is only temporary and give them a relative window for when you expect normal services to resume. This is a proactive way to retain loyal customers without them gravitating toward your closest competitors.
What Is The Difference Between Public Relations & Marketing?
The persuasive “Spin” that is sometimes associated with public relations often has people thinking of it as just being a different marketing technique. While they do similar things at times, public relations and marketing have several differences.
The American Marketing Association defines marketing as “The activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”
This gives marketing a much broader scope than public relations, as marketing actively engages in communicating with potential users and loyal customers while also being more comprehensive.
Marketing & The 5 Ps
Effective marketing strategies typically use the “Five Ps” to communicate with their audience. They are:
In this sense, a public relations strategy falls under the category of “Promotion” as effective PR strategies essentially promote awareness, changes in attitude, or action. In this light, most marketing strategies use public relations as just one small part of a much larger effort.
Difference Between Public Relations Advertising?
By definition, Advertising is a paid form of media. Through effective public relations are essentially an earned form of media. When you put a public relations message out into the media landscape the outlets can choose whether or not to display it. When they do display it for your intended target audience it is considered to be “Earned.” If you happen to gear your PR message as if it was a form of advertising, the media outlet you release it to might choose not to run it, under the pretext of it trying to be “Free Advertising.”
When you pay for a place in the media with advertising, you are sending financial incentives to the media outlet. In turn, they give you placement based on the rate or the available terms of negotiation.
Benefits Of Public Relations Over Paid Forms Of Marketing?
There are some advantages to releasing information via a public relations message that goes beyond the free or low-cost nature of submitting a message to a media outlet. Effective public relations messages are:
Less Persuasive & More Neutral
An effective public relations message is only mildly persuasive to the point of sounding neutral in tone. This goes a long way toward encouraging a third-party media outlet such as a newspaper or online news site to share your message. Not only does this help generate awareness, but having your PR message distributed via a reputable third party also helps the audience perceive it as trustworthy.
The vast majority of public relations messages are cost-free when it comes to terms of the media outlet publishing it or hosting it on their various channels. Though they have the choice to run it or not, which is the inherent risk of seeking “Earned” media.
The awareness-generating nature of effective public relations messages means that media outlets are likely to host the message for longer than you would typically see for paid advertising. It also increases the chances of your brand living on for a long time via popular search engines that tend to keep longer indexes.
The Disadvantages Of Public Relations
Since it is a form of “Earned” marketing, there are a few potential drawbacks to using public relations as part of your overarching marketing strategy. This includes things like
The media outlet you submit your public relations message to can choose whether or not to host or share your release. Even if they do decide to run your public relations message you won’t have control over what any intermediaries say or how they might interpret your message once it has been released. This is different from advertising where you pay a negotiated rate to have complete control over your message. This includes things like the underlying design and written copy, as well as the opportunity to respond to possible reviews on online sites.
Not As Targeted
When you pay for advertising, you get to choose things like the run of the station, the time or placement of the ad to best fit the demographics of your targeted audience. With a public relations message, you might be able to choose how it ranks or shows up on a search engine via keyword research and search engine optimization strategies. Though most other forms of physical media the placement and how targeted it is will depend on how that specific media outlet chooses to place or run the message.
Since the media outlet has control over targeting and placement it generally reduces the feedback and tracking that you receive when you submit your public relations message. This makes it hard to measure overall effectiveness and makes it hard to determine what types of messaging and what outlets are the most effective vehicles for future messages or follow-up advertising.
Public relations might have some weaknesses compared to other forms of paid advertising. Though the fact remains that most effective marketing strategies use some degree of public relations as part of their promotional strategy. Making the most out of online and digital media helps you cast a broad net. This is especially handy for awareness messages or public relations messages needed for damage control. Making sure to include public relations in your marketing campaigns helps fortify your presence in your market niche at a very low overall cost.