Image: Richard Masoner/FlickrImage: Richard Masoner/Flickr

Public Relations or PR is a term that many small businesses recognise yet do not necessarily know what it means and what it entails.

The CIPR (Chartered Institute of Public Relations) definition of PR is “Public Relations is about reputation - the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you.

Public Relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.”

In summary, PR is about managing your brand’s reputation through both external and internal messages. Communicating clear and consistent messages to your publics i.e. your target audience, customers, employees and investors.

Traditional PR

Traditional PR consists of press outreach and crisis management. The most prominent being engaging and sharing your stories with the media through press release distribution.

Whether contacting national or local newspapers, magazines, TV or Radio, the key to a successful PR campaign is making your story newsworthy. By removing yourself from the business and having an outsiders point of view, pick out the most engaging and relatable stories.

Launching a new product or service can be a great way to receive media coverage, but only if you create an interesting story around it. Was this possible because of a big investment? Are you solving a common problem? Is the product or service quirky and completely out of the ordinary?

Before distributing your press release think whether you would be interested in it if it wasn’t about your business. Or show it to a friend who will be honest about their views.

PR in the digital age

Since the introduction of social media, bloggers and vloggers, businesses do not have to rely on traditional media as much to share their stories and brand messages.

Whether sharing newsworthy stories or commenting on current news and industry updates, businesses can use their own social media profiles and online blogs to share their views.

Additionally, businesses can work with bloggers and vloggers to create engaging online written and video content, mainly focused around product or service reviews, rather than sharing writing features from press releases.

Furthermore, businesses no longer have to hire expensive PR agencies to distribute press releases to their media contacts. There are many services that share journalist contact details for the business owner to email themselves. Or they can use online PR platforms, such as JournoLink, to send releases to targeted media lists.

Benefits of PR

The main benefit of PR is creating a positive brand reputation in order to reach new and retain existing customers. This can derive from your brand gaining more credibility and increasing your website traffic.

When you receive a piece of coverage it is seen as more genuine compared to other ways of promoting your business such as advertising. It is often said that a piece of coverage is worth three times that of an advert. This is due to the fact that the content or recommendation is coming from a trusted person who is removed from the business i.e. the journalist or blogger.

Moreover, when you receive a piece of online coverage the writer will often put a backlink to your website. Meaning if readers want to find out more or take a look at your product they will be able to click straight through to your site, ultimately increasing your sales and business growth.

PR is essential to any small business and can be done simply and affordable. Find out how to create a PR strategy for your small business here.