The Ultimate Guide to Public Relations in Marketing
Marketing & Advertising

The Ultimate Guide to Public Relations in Marketing

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More often than not, we run into companies that claim they don’t need to spend dollars on public relations efforts in marketing. They claim that they are fully covered with social media. Big mistake!

Your marketing efforts should not be limited to Facebook, Instagram or TikTok. If you want to be successful, reach a wider audience and increase your revenue, you need to go the extra mile.

Public relations is there to help you craft a story and pitch it to journalists. They are responsible for managing your company’s public image and the flow of information between your organisation and the public.

In this guide, we will not only explain why public relations is important in marketing but also how to build and track your first PR campaign.

Mastering PR Strategies: A Definitive Guide for Modern Marketers

Before we dive into the process of creating and implementing a PR strategy, we need to explore the concept behind it. What is PR? What exactly is a PR strategy?

Understanding Public Relations

Public relations refers to the techniques and strategies used to manage the dissemination of information about an individual or organisation. It focuses mainly on shaping the way people think and feel about a company, product, service or brand.

It’s important to note that public relations is not the same as advertising. The former is about building relationships between the organisation and various stakeholders. The second focuses on selling a product or service.

What Does “Public Relations Strategy” Mean?

However, it’s important to note that a public relations strategy refers to the precise plan designed to manage and maintain the public perception of a specific company, brand or individual. It focuses on aligning goals, actions and audiences in a structured manner.

Basically, it is your game plan to increase awareness, attract potential business, generate qualified leads, increase revenue, boost brand engagement and awareness, etc.

Does your company have a public relations strategy in place?

Importance of Public Relations for Marketing Strategies

According to a study published by Nielsen and commissioned by inPower, PR is 90% more effective than advertising. The reason is simple. People trust someone else’s opinion about your company more than if they heard it from your own voice.

“Advertising is what you pay for, publicity is what you pray for.”

This comes with other great benefits. For example, public relations in marketing is a great way to increase your brand’s credibility. Your PR content is perceived as more authentic and informative than promotional.

It also helps build your brand image. A series of PR activities (events, newsletters, press releases, etc.) is the perfect way to add value and help fulfill your customers’ needs.

Public relations opens the doors to expose your brand to a wider audience. You can expand your network, meet companies and people willing to work with your organisation, and reach more people interested in buying your products.

As if that were not enough, PR is the perfect way to manage your company’s reputation, especially when a crisis hits.

So, why wait? Now is the perfect time to set a budget and get started in the world of PR.

Evolution of Public Relations

PR has been around for centuries. It began as a way to promote events and products through the media. But at first it did not care much about the process and importance of building relationships or managing the organisation’s reputation.

History and evolution of public relations
Source: Prnews.io

One of the best examples of early PR efforts was P.T. Barnum. He used media coverage to promote and create buzz around his events. He focused on getting as much attention as possible, even if it meant announcing shocking acts (like a real-life mermaid) to the public.

Public relations, how it started
Source: Hatch

Over the years, PR took a more strategic approach and began to care about reputation and stakeholder relations. So much so that in the 1940s, the U.S. government launched a famous campaign to encourage women to enter the workforce while men fought in World War II.

Public relations in the 40s
Source: Hatch

Later, in the ’60s and ’70s, PR professionals began to embrace the importance of corporate social responsibility and accountability. They began to focus on various environmental issues, sustainability, diversity and inclusion.

And the 21st century has forced the PR field to evolve. Technological advancements, as well as the needs of organisations and individuals, have forced PR to utilise different digital tools and tactics to engage and build relationships with stakeholders.

This evolution is only expected to continue as new technologies continue to emerge. AI, ML and automation will have and are having a direct impact on the process of identifying potential influencers and distributing press releases. More changes are expected in the future.

Key Strategies in PR

As we have said before, public relations is the art of managing relationships between organisations or individuals and their publics or stakeholders. To achieve this end, there are certain tactics or strategies that you can implement. While there are many options out there, we have focused on the most important ones.

Media Relations

One of the most important aspects of public relations in marketing revolves around the media. You need to make sure that your strategy includes efforts to reach out to journalists and bloggers to secure positive coverage in their outlets.

Remember, these efforts will pay off whenever there are negative stories that mention your brand. These journalists and bloggers will help you protect your brand and you can use them as a channel to explain your version of the story.

Building a solid media presence takes time. We know that for a fact. But it’s worth the time and resources to cultivate relationships with journalists. Remember, this is something you have to do on your own. You can’t rely on technology or automation to make human connections.

Influencer Partnerships

Very much in line with the previous point. Today, it’s critical that brands and organisations build strong relationships with influencers. They will help you spread your organisation’s great news and events, and serve as defenders and protectors when times get tough.

It’s important to work with influencers who share the same values as your brand. Someone whose followers are potential buyers of your products and services. You want to work with people who represent your story and avoid anyone who could damage your reputation.

Crisis Management

Refers to the set of actions designed to manage and mitigate events that threaten your organisation’s reputation, stakeholder relationships, and brand image.

How to manage a pr crisis
Source: Keyhole

This plan anticipates all possible events (natural disasters, technological crisis, confrontations, organisational misdeeds, financial crisis, etc.) that could happen to your organisation and industry. And it is designed to try to keep operations as normal as possible. It also provides the resources to train your staff in the crisis management process.

In the world we live in, it’s no longer an option to have a crisis management plan. It’s a necessity that makes the difference and allows you to survive and thrive.

Stakeholder Communication

There are a number of different stakeholders in any organisation, including yours. These are groups of people who are affected by, interested in, or influenced by your business.

Key stakeholders of your organization
Source: LinkedIn

Part of your marketing team’s job is to understand each of them and create plans to communicate with them. Some of them may require regular meetings, while others may just need periodic updates via email or phone. Others may be fine with social media updates, newsletters, or even press releases.

Each group will need different information and communication channels. This will help you make decisions, build trust, and minimise risk. It even helps with accountability and cost efficiency.

Just think for a moment… Who are your stakeholders? What role do they play in your project? What information do they need to know? How often?

These questions will help you begin the process of defining a stakeholder communication strategy.

Content Creation

A key part of your marketing outreach is the art of content creation. Your marketing team needs to develop the skills necessary to create compelling press releases, articles, blog posts, social media posts, and even multimedia content.

All of these pieces should work toward your PR and overall marketing goals. They should influence the sentiment and behavior of your prospects. They should position your brand. But most importantly, they should communicate your company’s message.

If your marketing team doesn’t have the skills to do this, there’s always the option of hiring a specialised PR agency. They are there to help you with this task and go above and beyond with your PR strategy.

Competitor Analysis

The final strategy or action item you should consider is working with a competitor analysis on your side. Understanding what other companies are doing is key to improving your PR efforts and going the extra mile. In other words, having a clear idea of what’s working for them will serve as a starting point for your new efforts.

At Sortlist, we encourage you to invest time and resources in this area. It is the basis for decision making, resource allocation and success.

How to Build a Public Relations Strategy from Scratch

With that in mind, it’s time to take a look at the different steps you should be taking to create and implement public relations as part of your marketing efforts.

Define your Objectives

The first thing you need to do is determine what you want to accomplish with your public relations efforts. You have many options. You can choose to:

  • Attract media attention.
  • Generate brand awareness.
  • Inform the public about your company’s latest news.
  • Work on your brand reputation.
  • Or even build relationships with various stakeholders.
  • Deciding what you want to achieve is the key to moving forward, planning and executing a successful campaign.

When you sit down to work on your PR goals, make sure you use the SMART methodology. This means that your goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based.

Smart goals in the pr industry

For example, a good PR goal would be “To be perceived as a regional leader by 85% of customers within 18 months. So take the time to think about what you really want to accomplish with these efforts, and write them in a way that includes all the necessary details to get your marketing and media relations team on board.

Identify and Understand your Target Audience Segments

Once you have a clear understanding of what your goal is, you need to focus on defining who your target audience is. If not, your chances of success will be drastically reduced.

Your target audience will most likely be some of your key stakeholders: legislators, sponsors, employees, community, business partners, media, etc.

Be specific about who you are targeting. Their demographics, psychographics, challenges, preferred communication channels, content types, etc.

Conduct a Situation Analysis

Once that’s done, it’s time to take some time to do a deep analysis of your current business situation. This will lay the groundwork for you to choose your PR tactics and actions wisely.

A great starting point for this research is a SWOT analysis. A method that will help you identify and analyse your internal strengths, weaknesses, and the external opportunities and threats your business faces.

  • Strengths: Here you need to be specific about what sets you apart from the competition. It could be a strong brand, a loyal customer base, or even a unique technology.
  • Weaknesses: Include detailed information about the things or areas that prevent you from performing at your best. It’s the details that you need to improve in order to remain competitive. When you take a deep dive into your operations, you may find weaknesses such as debt levels, an inadequate supply chain, or high labor costs.
  • Opportunities: These are the external factors that give your company a chance to gain a competitive advantage. A good example would be the announcement of a tariff reduction or tax cut.
  • Threats: In this case, you need to pay close attention and identify those external factors that pose a risk to your business. For example, a drought may put your crops at risk.

This analysis of both internal and external factors will help in the decision-making process and in planning your PR strategy. It will help you understand where and why you are competitive in the industry and use that to your advantage.

Analyse Past PR Efforts and Media Coverage

At the same time, you need to take a look back at the various public relations efforts your company has undertaken.

What have you done in the past? What were the results? Did you create an event? Did you use press releases? If so, what kind of coverage did you get? Which media outlets have published positive news about your brand?

Understanding what has worked in the past and what has not will give you a better understanding of which tactics to repeat and which to avoid. And it’s always good to continue to cultivate your previous relationships with journalists and bloggers. You want to keep them happy and associated with your brand.

Remember, the tactics you choose should be in line with your goals.

Develop your Key Messages

Your PR messages are there to tell your story in a way that every stakeholder can understand. But what makes it challenging is that you need to be able to craft digestible messages for those who really want or need to hear them.

They can come in many forms: press releases, events, social media posts, blog posts, newsletters, etc. But they must be consistent with your brand story, values, mission and vision.

To create your public relations messages, you must first understand your goals and target audience. This was covered in the first two steps of this process. But keep them in mind, as they will be the basis for understanding how that audience likes to receive and digest information. And where will your messages be published: blog? social media? online event? in-person event? press release?

Once you’ve decided which media you’re going to work with, it’s time to create a catchy headline. It should be written in a way that makes the reader want to read more. Remember, this is the first thing they will see, so it needs to be perfect. Share key information, but leave room for curiosity.

Then focus on the heart of the message. Try this:

  • Keep it simple.
  • Share enough details to make it enticing.
  • Explain why it matters.
  • Take time to include some quotes. It could be from your own leadership team or someone outside.
  • Always answer any questions your audience may have.
  • And of course, be sure to include a clear and concise call to action.

Your PR and marketing department has a lot of work to do! Not only that, but they need to make sure they check and correct any grammar or spelling mistakes.

Define your Key Tactics and Channels

Now that your message is ready, your public relations team needs to do some brainstorming about the different tactics they think will help you better achieve your PR goals.

What will get more attention? What will resonate better with your target audience? There are plenty of options for you to choose from:

  • Press Release
  • A conference
  • Product launch
  • Event management
  • Industry events
  • Influencer marketing
  • Advertising
  • Sponsorship
  • Product Placement
  • Social media marketing
  • Digital marketing
  • Content creation
  • Internal communications
  • etc.

Remember to look at what others in your industry are doing. You can do this by going to their websites, social media channels, setting up alerts on Google, and even doing some SEO competitor analysis.

Create a Calendar of Activities

At this point, you have a better understanding of everything that needs to happen during your PR campaign. Since there are many details involved, you will want to work with a project calendar. This will help you avoid missing anything and the risk of your entire strategy falling through the cracks.

Make sure your calendar has detailed information on when each action item should begin and end. Who is responsible and what needs to happen first.

A great idea is to work with a Gantt chart. You can try one of the templates in Word or just download one from the Internet. Ultimately, you will want to customise it to fit the needs of your outreach team.

Manage your Resources

Any public relations strategy requires budget, staff and tools. So make sure you all agree on how much the company is willing to spend on these efforts.

Your PR and marketing departments need to make sure you stay on track and have the resources you need to successfully execute each defined action.

If that wasn’t enough, they need to:

  • Watch the budget and make sure they don’t overspend or underspend.
  • Make sure you hire the right people for the job. Those who have the skills, studies, experience and interest to do it.
  • Buy the right tools to implement, track, monitor and analyse the performance of each action.
  • Train your teams to use those tools.

Every dollar well spent is one step closer to success.

Implement and Monitor

At this point, your PR and marketing departments should be ready to launch the campaign.

It’s imperative that they stick to the calendar they’ve created. And that they monitor the performance of every action they take.

Later in this blog post, we will explore the different KPIs you need to work with. Each is designed to help you understand if your efforts are paying off or if you need to make adjustments.

Remember, the fact that you are not reaching your ultimate goal should not stop you from trying. It is just a small bump in the road. You need to make adjustments and keep going.

PR integrated with marketing

PR and marketing

Building media relations and outreach

A key aspect of public relations in marketing is the art of building media relationships. On the one hand, it helps to increase credibility, organic traffic and brand awareness. On the other hand, building relationships with media outlets and journalists or bloggers opens the doors to greater share of voice and media coverage.

Our experience has shown that there are some specific things you need to do to start building these relationships.

For starters, you always need to personalise your pitch. Highlight the benefits to that particular media outlet’s audience. Explain why it’s newsworthy. But keep it concise, relevant and compelling.

At the same time, you should serve as a reliable source of information for journalists, bloggers and anyone else interested in sharing information about your company. Remember, relationships are a two-way street.

Be timely. You don’t want to contact a journalist while they’re having lunch or covering a live event. Get to know their work schedule. Stay organised and focused. Give them access to exclusive content. After all, we all love to be the first to know!

But most importantly, always, always, always remember that you are working with people. Treat them as you would like to be treated.

If you need help with this, it’s probably best to start your PR efforts with the help of a PR agency. They have years of experience in managing media relations and helping companies create a positive public image.

How to select the most appropriate media channels for reaching target audiences?

Another important detail to keep in mind is that you don’t have to contact every media outlet. You need to choose those that your audience likes and consumes, so one of the first steps in your PR strategy is to identify your target audience.

But you need to narrow your research even further. Stick to those media platforms that align with your communication goals and allow for the messaging format you want to work with.

How do you craft pitch-perfect press releases?

Writing press releases is no easy task. Your team must master the art of writing concise, detailed stories that answer frequently asked questions and encourage users to take action.

Fortunately, this type of PR has been around for a long time. So much so that today we have some basic rules to follow.

The title of your release is crucial. You need to make sure it is catchy, clever and under a dozen words.

Your first paragraph must answer the 5 Ws: who, what, when, where and why.

Then you need to delve into the information surrounding your release. The perfect addition would be a quote from one of your spokespeople.

Your final paragraph should wrap things up with a description of your company.

If your release is intended for digital media, make sure it’s optimised for SEO and includes hyperlinks. Remember, it’s your job to make it easy for journalists or bloggers to publish your information.

Digital PR and Online Reputation Management

As technology has become more important in our daily lives, public relations has had to adapt. Today, reputation management means managing your relationship with the press. And it involves a whole new process of monitoring and improving your online reputation.

Let’s take a closer look at this particular aspect of the PR world, as it is becoming more and more important every day.

How to harness the power of online channels to amplify your brand’s message and manage its reputation online?

For starters, you should always leverage the power and reach of social media marketing to amplify your brand’s message.

You can do this by implementing a strategy around your social networks. The first step is to determine which social platforms you want or need to work with. For example, if you want to leverage your CEO’s presence as a thought leader, you should consider working with LinkedIn.

Then it’s important to consistently share valuable, relevant, informative, and entertaining content. Remember, this is not about promoting your brand. It’s about showing your true personality, skills, and values. It’s about providing value to the end reader.

But you can’t stop at posting content. You need to take it a step further and engage in enriching conversations with your followers. Take the lead and ask them questions, share a comment or reply. Acknowledge their feedback and address any concerns they may have. This is a two-way street.

It’s important for your marketing team to constantly monitor social media networks for any mentions or comments related to your brand, products or services. Tracking what people are saying and taking action is the best way to prevent a crisis and manage your online reputation.

Leveraging content marketing and online reviews to build trust and credibility

The online world is huge, we all know that. Your PR professionals need to take things a step beyond social media. They need to embrace the power of content marketing and online reviews.

Content marketing is the perfect way to share helpful, educational and informative content. Not only does it help convince your visitors to make a purchase, but it also helps answer their questions, share insights, and build a relationship with each person who lands on your website.

The goal of content marketing as part of your public relations efforts is to become a resource for your audience. Some great examples are personal stories, how-to guides, or even ebooks.

Testimonials alone are just what you need if you want to build trust and credibility. Stories and comments from happy customers increase the likelihood that a potential customer will make a purchase. Why is that? Simply because it’s a third party sharing how your product or service helped them solve a problem. It makes it easy to feel connected.

So dare to go back to your happy customers and ask them for a review. It can be a few lines or even a video. But ask them to address a pain point that your brand helped them solve.

Measurement and Analytics of a Public Relations Campaign

Every effort made by your PR and marketing departments should be monitored, tracked and analysed. This doesn’t mean you don’t trust their actions. It’s just a way to ensure that your actions and investments are well spent. That they are working to achieve your business goals. They are there to alert you when something is not working so you can quickly take action and make changes.

Common key performance indicators (KPIs) for evaluating PR success

The metrics and KPIs of every PR campaign are different. They will depend on your strategy and goals. But there are some data key points that will be consistent across almost every campaign:

  1. Media coverage, or the number of times your brand appears in the media. You need to look at both traditional and digital channels.
  2. Media impressions, or the number of times your audience is exposed to your PR messages.
  3. Social media engagement, including likes, retweets, reposts, comments, etc.
  4. Website traffic, to understand if your blog posts, press releases or other PR efforts are driving traffic to your website.
  5. Share of voice, or your share of the overall conversation in your industry.

More than likely, your team will need to work with additional metrics. But these are a good place to start.

Monitoring and Measuring Digital and Traditional PR

Your PR professionals are responsible for the monitoring, tracking and analysis of your efforts in both traditional and digital media.

For the former, the measurement process has always been a bit ambiguous. The focus has been on earned media or media mentions, and benchmarking against top competitors.

Fortunately, technology has not only changed the way we approach the world of public relations, it has given us tools and KPIs that we can track, monitor and use to our advantage.

To track your digital efforts, we suggest you rely on a number of tools designed to collect data and present it in a digestible format. Here are some of the best tools we think you can find on the market today:

  1. Google Analytics: One of the best options because it gives you insight into almost any KPI. You will have up-to-date information on your website traffic, user behaviour and more.
  2. Sprout Social or Hootsuite: Either of these tools will help you gather information about your social media engagement. You can track likes, shares, engagement, social mentions, and even sentiment.
  3. eMediaMonitor: This is currently the leading media monitoring software. It is designed to monitor in real time over 3,400 broadcast channels in more than 70 countries. Comes with real-time alerts so you can efficiently manage your company’s reputation or crisis.
  4. Zoho CRM: An outstanding tool that helps you streamline your operations and improve customer interactions. It is designed to show you a direct link between your PR activities and results.

In addition, you want your PR professionals to work with an SEO tool and continuously benchmark against your top competitors.

Conclusion

Throughout this guide, we have covered many important details of the world of public relations. We started by taking you through the concept of this important marketing tool, and we delved deep into the process of creating your first campaign.

Keep in mind that all of these efforts should be in line with all of your company’s marketing efforts. They all work together to create a positive image, increase your brand awareness, build relationships with the media and bloggers, and generate more business.

Now it’s time to get to work and start developing your first public relations campaign, remember, start by defining your goals and audience and work from there.

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