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  • Writer's pictureSam Scougall-Knight

What is PR?

Updated: Jul 7, 2023

PR, or public relations, can be defined as reputation management through professional storytelling. PR helps businesses portray their products, services and values in a favourable light via ‘earned’ editorial content in magazines, newspapers and digital publications. However, PR can be a tricky topic to unpack so we’ve broken it down to help you understand what public relations is and what public relations is not, how public relations is different from advertising and how it can benefit your business and ultimately drive revenue.

Paid, owned & earned media: PR is earned media

When promoting your business, there are three different types of media you can leverage: paid, owned and earned. Paid media refers to paid advertising in magazines, paid social media advertising and paid influencer campaigns as well as programmatic, display, search engine and affiliate marketing, over which you have a degree of control. Owned media refers to platforms that you have total control over such as your website, social media channels, blog and email marketing content.

PR falls within the earned category. This is business or brand awareness secured on third-party platforms that is ‘earned’ by pitching stories to and building relationships with journalists and people of influence. Because you don’t pay for this coverage and you don’t own the platforms on which it is published, you have very little, if any, control over the environment in which your business is promoted. However, you can influence the type of content created by journalists and people of influence by sharing compelling press releases, topical angles, excellent high-resolution imagery, offering interviews with key spokespeople and investing in paid media with target titles.

The other benefit to earned media is that because it is an opinion-led piece written without payment, readers are more likely to believe it than an ad.

‘Press relations’ and ‘public relations’

At FF&M, distinguish between ‘press relations’ and ‘public relations’. We consider ‘press relations’ to mean pitching your story to journalists with the hope of securing ‘column inches’ in print and digital magazines and newspapers.

However, we believe there are multiple ‘public relations’ tools at your disposal aside from traditional ‘press relations’. For instance, we advise clients on securing editorial coverage on podcasts, hosting private events for their most loyal clients, collaborating with relevant brands in adjacent sectors, gifting products and experiences to people of influence and establishing WhatsApp communities to share knowledge and be seen as a sector leader. Combining traditional ‘press relations’ with these more tactical ‘public relations’ tools will help you engage meaningfully with your audiences.

The benefits of PR

Given that founders, CEOs and CFOs are often, rightly, very focused on achieving ROI for each pound spent, PR isn’t an obvious strategy to invest in because it’s difficult to measure tangible ROI, unlike performance marketing strategies. However, we’ve outlined below why public relations is important and beneficial for your business despite the challenges in quantifying its ROI.

Reputation management

PR is often considered a form of reputation management. This is because pitching your story to journalists, gifting products to people of influence in the hope of unpaid coverage and collaborating with brands in adjacent sectors helps generate brand awareness for your business. In turn, this helps your audience trust your business and positions it favourably in the minds of potential clients when they consider making a purchase.

Reputation management is important when things go wrong too. As such, PR can also involve crisis communications at times of difficulty for your business. Determining a crisis communications plan of action in advance can help your business navigate challenging times and rebuild trust with your audience by showing how you’re rectifying the situation.

Defining your narrative and values

PR also gives your business an opportunity to define its brand narrative and values. Before you begin communicating your messages, it’s important to determine who you’ll be speaking to, what you’ll be saying and how you’ll be saying it. It’s also necessary to define your values so that you can test whether your business decisions align with what your business believes in.

By defining a consistent and compelling brand narrative and showing how your actions, and indeed restraints, demonstrate your brand values in action, your audience can determine whether they are persuaded by your brand narrative and whether their own values align with yours. Together, these PR tools can help generate trust in and goodwill towards your business, ultimately helping drive revenue.

Supporting your SEO work

PR doesn’t just involve achieving editorial. It also has a direct bearing on your measurable performance marketing strategy. For instance, PR forms an important part of your SEO strategy, helping your business rank higher in search engine results for relevant keywords.

When sending tailored pitch emails to journalists, you can include relevant keywords for your products or services. If the journalist incorporates these keywords into digital articles which feature your business, your business will appear in search results for these keywords. If the journalist’s digital article is published on a trusted magazine or newspaper website and contains a link to your website, search engines will begin to consider your own website as more trustworthy by association and will position it higher in the search rankings. This helps drive organic search traffic to your website, leading to higher conversion rates and increased revenue.

Contact us to find out more about how FF&M can enable you to own your PR in-house. Our monthly newsletter also contains more PR tips and advice so be sure to sign up on our homepage.

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