People often associate the term PR with celebrities, big businesses, and athletes — because of this many small businesses overlook the power of having a strong public relations firm on your side. When determining if hiring a PR firm is right for your company it’s important to know exactly what a PR firm does, and how your business fits into the public eye.
PR Firms Vs Marketing Firms
Business promotion is the ultimate goal of both marketing agencies and public relations firms. However, they both take a very different approach from one another. Marketing agencies will help you with brand design, copywriting, advertising, paid campaigns, etc. On the other hand, a good PR firm will inject your company into the news cycle and the public eye.
Instead of predominantly using paid advertisements to raise brand awareness, they will seek out third party coverage in the form of editorials. This makes public relations the more cost effective solution (i.e. If Channel 6 News wants to do a story on your new hair studio, the coverage won’t cost you anything, and having your company on TV for free is marketing gold). So how do PR firms achieve this?
How PR Firms Work
- Media relations – Pitching editors on your business and positioning it within their editorial calendars is key. They make on going efforts to maintain a solid line of communication with journalists, and ensure that your company stays in the news cycle.
- Anticipate and interpret public opinions and how it relates to your business – They analyze and research the impacted markets and will advise your company on decision-making, short/long-term strategies, community relations, resource management, etc.
- Public events – Events designed to generate public awareness and interest.
- Manage your story – They think big picture. They create a rich timeline backed by your company story. Promotion is through TV, radio, print, online, and it’s always carefully designed with public perception in mind. They guide your brand to be received by the right people, on the right day, in the right mindset.
- Writing – News releases, white papers, fact sheets, presentations, ad copy, blogs, speeches, web copy, positioning statements, etc.
- Advocates– Cultivating industry relationships and ambassadors for your brand. A large scale example is music executive and part owner of Beats Headphones, Jimmy Iovine, getting his well-known industry friends to wear the headphones in public. It came at no cost to him because it was an agreement sheerly based on brand advocates.
- Crisis prevention/recovery – No one is perfect. PR firms are masters at mitigating the damage caused by company mistakes, mishaps or misunderstandings.
Effective and cost efficient, there must be a catch. The only thing is that some companies aren’t built to reap the benefits of good PR. It’s important to assess your company’s specific promotional needs before hiring a PR firm.
Who Needs Public Relations?
- Multiple clients/customers – Your company sales should be built on multiple customers as opposed to one or two big clients. Otherwise your investment won’t make sense — remember, PR firms are trying to reach the public in large quantities.
- Supplemental marketing – We mentioned the differences between marketing and PR above, so it’s important not to rely solely on one or the other. While your sales will certainly increase with good PR, it’s not possible for PR without marketing to carry the entire promotional load. For instance, a restaurant wouldn’t be wise to invest solely into PR. They won’t garner as much on going inclusion in the news cycle. Therefore, paid ad marketing would do a much better job at increasing sales.
- Increase ROI – You may need to increase your ROI across the board. This doesn’t refer to just sales, it also means online engagement, website visits, social media growth, and referrals.
- Keep up with competition – If you can’t figure out why your competitors are always one step ahead, analyzing them thoroughly to make sure that you are not behind on industry trends is an important part of any PR strategy. Plus, it will help you maintain a strong competitive edge.
- Long-term strategy – Looking for a long-term solution to brand awareness? PR firms know that brand awareness is a marathon, not a sprint, making them a good solution for companies who believe in the longevity and adaptability of their product or service.
- Attract investors – You may be at a point where your company is ready to grow, and growth usually involves the green stuff. PR campaigns will effectively position you in front of VC’s and other businesses. Carefully worded messaging and timing will give you the credibility required to grow your business.
Most companies need to manage public relations in some form or another. If positioned on the right platforms, good PR provides the most cost efficient marketing available. It’s not always the right choice though, it ultimately depends on the nature of your company and its specific needs.
Consulting a marketing firm and a PR firm separately may help you determine exactly which one you need. If it turns out you need both, the good news is your company has some exciting dynamics in place.