By Derek Lowe

Public relations is about communicating positive messages to audiences that matter to your organisation. These can be about your products and services, your successes, your innovations, the values and style of your business, and so on. The Chartered Institute of Public Relations says: “Public relations is about reputation — the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you.”

You often hear or read about a poor service or product, but rarely comments about a fantastic company. Word of mouth, whether spoken or in print, is a powerful tool and one which successful companies use to their advantage. Many ignore the management of their reputation and this can lead to negative perceptions, as well as a detrimental impact on a business’ profitability, recruitment and relationship with the local community.

Public relations (PR) helps to build awareness of the company name, in addition to its operations, the products and services it sells, its opinions on industry issues and its values. By openly communicating with key audiences, such as customers, employees, potential employees, the local community and industry leaders, the business starts to establish crucial relationships for the ultimate success of the company.

PR can help improve the bottom line, but do it for more than simply the short-term winning of customers or increasing sales. It is also about the longer-term reputation and perceived status that creates the balance of information that forms people’s opinions about your business. Whether internal or external, the reputation of your business should be carefully and continuously managed.

With the correct positioning and careful identification of topics, public relations can help mould your business to be considered THE industry expert, even if it does not have the biggest market share. By vocalising comments on ‘hot’ topics, your opinions will be deemed as specialist. This creates an advantage for business dealings as the company develops a reputation for understanding the pressures faced by the industry.

In its most effective form, when handled by experts, PR can create a real competitive advantage for companies, whether that is through expansion in to new markets, reducing barriers to competition, attracting employees, business partners or investors, establishing a premium value for products or services, or protecting the business during a crisis situation.

A company can focus on different types of public relations depending on the business type or what is required. Consumer, corporate, trade, business-to-business, internal or crisis, all follow the same principles but are aimed at different audiences, all of which should be considered for a comprehensive programme.

Every type of business, across an extensive range of industries, can benefit from public relations. A company should consider its reputation management as an important business operation and as such, have a public relations programme in place. Remember, a bad opinion is always remembered longer than a good one!