The Importance of Good PR

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Public Relations (or 'media relations') can be a central part of the marketing mix, but it is a different aspect to marketing itself, which usually focuses on market share and consumer relations. PR can include building consumer awareness and guiding consumer opinion, but primarily it involves building good relations with the press and sourcing free positive editorials to disseminate the brand message.

There are two main types of PR; product and corporate. Product focuses on raising awareness of a particular product or service, whereas corporate tries to positively portray a whole company or brand. With the growing need for social responsibility, corporate PR is more important than ever. For maximum effect, both types of PR should be integrated with other advertising and marketing schemes; this way ideas are disseminated and opportunities can be shared to enhance the impact of all three.

A basic rule of PR is that you should develop credibility before raising the visibility of a product or company. Although visibility is all-important in winning custom, if people don't think your brand is particularly good or you have a bad reputation, you won't get any custom either way. Credibility is fundamental in winning trust, referrals and repeat sales. Advertising, although it may build awareness of your brand, does not do much for credibility. Consumers know that advertising is paid-for (and therefore untrustworthy). PR on the other hand is free, winning column inches because of its worth, and a positive editorial is far more believable than the same amount of advertising.

Editorial coverage in the press is one of PR's strongest weapons. The main benefit, as already mentioned, is the credibility that comes from having a story covered by an industry expert. Someone perceived as 'in the know' or with a loyal readership can sway public opinion with what they say. Another benefit is the cost involved; whereas advertisements have to be paid for, editorials are completely free. The only cost involved is that of researching, writing and distributing the press releases themselves.

The downside of editorials is that the PR company has absolutely no control over what's said or the opinion given. No matter how well-written or well-targeted your press release, you might find that it gets negative attention from some places. Planning for both positive and negative outcomes is essential to a well-managed PR campaign.

Once a PR campaign has been set in motion, it's incredibly important to maintain good relations with the press. Follow-up reports, handling enquiries and prompt responses can all ensure that reporters have a good opinion of a company. Most PR experts, like those at this Leeds PR company, started their careers in journalism, so they know the sort of deadlines journalists have to work to. Providing all the help a reporter needs means that they're more likely to run stories about you in future; companies that give poor or late responses get bad reputations in media circles.

When PR works it can give a positive image of a product or company, increasing awareness of the brand in the relevant market sectors. When it goes wrong it can ruin reputations and put people out of business. PR companies have the intangible job of swaying opinion, and whilst it may seem an art rather than a science, the results can unmistakably make or break a business.

Sylvia Kittens lives in Harrogate, England

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