Let’s say you own a small business that’s starting to take off, and you want to keep the momentum going. Others in the company suggest buying TV commercial time for some local coverage. You worry because you’re trying to grow your online sales nationwide and think local TV coverage seems, well — local. True, this coverage is just hitting a pinpoint of your target audience. So you consider buying ad space on social media, but then you have to sit and hope someone “clicks” on it. Now, you are confused because what you thought your business needed was advertising. A common misconception is that advertising and public relations are the same. Sure, there are common elements, but it’s the big differences that people need to know when trying to promote a business or grow a brand. So, how does advertising differ from public relations? And how do you go about choosing the right public relations team? Let’s shed some light in that direction.
Breaking it downAs an industry, public relations possesses a much broader scope than advertising. Public relations specialists integrate communication services and drive results by wearing many hats: digital marketer, media strategist, social media strategist, and branding expert, to name a few. Wearing many hats also opens many outlets. PR specialists create a network of publications and digital outlets that provide various forms of coverage for the client. PR firms place articles in publications, send press releases, procure media coverage, evaluate the best digital platforms for growing the client’s brand, and so much more. The support a PR firm provides is a comprehensive approach to brand exposure, much different than advertising. It is a relationship, and that’s the big difference. Advertising involves paying for space — an ad — to promote a service or product. Public relations is more of a process that builds connections between a business and the public. These connections are not reliant on paid advertising but rather on disseminating information. People are generally more likely to trust a company that uses PR because most people prefer to gather information about a service or product before purchasing it. Providing information without high-pressure sales tactics allows your company or brand to bridge a trustworthy bond with the community. Another difference between advertising and PR involves the content of the message. PR is journalistic, newsworthy, and generally unbiased. The information delivered from an outside source is more believable and has the power to shape public opinion. PR is more of a ‘package’ of tactics, specializations, and outlets explicitly configured to grow your brand. A simplistic ‘click’ — although powerful — cannot accomplish nearly as much as a solid PR campaign from a trusted, results-driven PR firm. So, you’re sold on PR — the pitch worked. What’s the next step? How do you choose a PR firm right for your company’s needs? Let’s begin by laying out some of the essential functions of any stand-out PR firm.
Develop a personalized strategy
- A PR firm that gets results will always develop a personalized strategy centered around your needs. A starting point might be helping you define your brand, which includes identifying a purpose and mission if you don’t have one. Your PR team will also help you create clearly defined goals not only for your brand but also for what you expect from your PR service. Your PR specialists should help you create a plan that will accomplish your most necessary goals. The firm will also help you trim away some of the superfluous aspects that might deter you from hitting your mark. Your PR firm can lay out your best strategies by identifying your strengths, weaknesses, and unique identifying factors. A top-of-the-line PR firm will also match you with the best publicist for your needs.
Create a trusting relationship
- Your relationship with your PR team should be personal and built on transparency. An ethical firm will divulge any misgivings about providing what you need. If they can’t deliver top-notch services, they should not take-on your business. PR is about relationships, exposure, awareness, and growth. If this approach doesn’t sound familiar, you should regroup and look for a firm that recognizes these qualities as part of their mission.
- A PR firm also understands that timing is everything. The right PR firm will pay particular attention to the timing of your PR pushes and advise you accordingly. One common mistake some companies make is not having their products or services ready to support an influx in business. Your PR firm will assess all of these factors and push-out the right amount of exposure, at the most opportune times, and in the most effective venues. If your company is not quite ready for a full-on PR campaign, your firm should again be honest and not set you up for failure because they are looking at their bottom line. Tailoring PR to the stages of the business is necessary to ensure success.
Build a relationship between the client’s business and the world
- As mentioned earlier, PR is about building relationships. But it’s not just the relationship between you and the firm that’s important. Your PR team should be your source for building relationships between your company and the world. The best PR firms do this by helping you create an image. Your firm should work tirelessly on developing, maintaining, and promoting a well-known, trusted image suitable for your brand.
Help the client’s business stay relevant
- One main goal you should have for your brand is to stay relevant. If your PR firm has helped you achieve your goal and you decide you don’t need their services anymore, you might be jeopardizing all of the progress made. Meeting your goal is fantastic but certainly not the end of the line. Keeping your business or brand relevant and in the public eye is crucial. A good PR firm should have a multi-tiered campaign that doesn’t slow down when the success hits. They should possibly re-evaluate, pivot, and make new goals if necessary. Maximizing on the successes to create more of them will keep your brand relevant and visible.