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What Is Public Relations?

Public Relations (PR) is the act of conveying a brand to a target market. The brand is what resonates the with potential customers and needs to be well defined ahead of time. PR is the process of packaging and distributing that brand to consumers. Combined, brand and public relations, are a form of marketing.

Who should be doing public relations?
All businesses do some form public relations because they have a brand and a target market. However, not all businesses place an emphasis on PR because it is not their most effective marketing channel. Since some level of PR occurs naturally, referrals for example, it may not be a concious process.

If a company chooses to allocate a public relations budget for distributing its brand, the question becomes, who within the company should be doing PR? Without a doubt the same person that helped define the brand. The research that went into understanding a company's target market and building a brand message for that market, is critical to defining a PR process which is the last step in this marketing channel.

Choosing to do public relations internally or through an agency depends on several factors. Budget is a factor in any marketing campaign, PR is no exception. Agencies typically engage larger customers at several thousands of dollars a month. The size and distribution of a target market is key as well. Agencies excel at reaching large markets spread over long distances.

How Is public relations done?Public relations is a creative process that adds new processes all the time. At the time of this article, PR involves social media, blogging, events, contests, sponsorships, press, television, radio, info-graphics, and many varied creative shock branding stunts.

When should a company do public relations?It's never too late to start public relations but it can be too early.The temptation to use PR as a marketing channel is great within todays world of constant communication. However, without a well defined and tested brand, PR can be highly counter productive. Public relations is the process by which a brand message is introduced to a target market, wether that brand is well or ill conceived. Like any marketing channel, PR makes sense when it produces positive returns. For most businesses, this means start with small low budget PR campaigns and expand with positive results.

What are some public relations tools?The public relations industry has many tools built for different users. All aspects of marketing are evaluated by time and money spent per customer converted, PR tools are no exception. Tools that are more available and easy to use typically cost the most time. Options that are costly usually reach more people. There are of course exceptions to every rule depending on the skill with which each tool is used. Public internet tools like Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and directories are the most available. Any company can use a high end tool like Cision or ProfNet to promote themselves to the media but typically only agencies can use those tools well. In between the two extremes is where services like Awarelabs are most effective for small to mid size businesses.

What are evaluation criteria for public relations?There is a myth that public relations cannot be measured because it is about build awareness. Luckily, awareness should convert into increased sales. If a company is tracking sales numbers it is already evaluating PR like any other marketing campaign. Depending on the type of PR, a business should see either immediate or long term sales growth. Tolerance for lead time depends on the business and should be considered before launching any PR campaign. The best a business can do is have in place good sales metrics and correlate PR activities to fluctuations. If a company chooses an aggressive PR campaign then the results should be more immediate and probably less permanent.

When making any decision regarding public relations a company must stay true to its brand. Choosing tools, agencies, events, social media ambassadors, all need to reinforce the chosen brand. Remember, PR is just marketing.

Written By: Paul Kenjora

Paul Kenjora is the Product Manager and founder at AwareLabs, a company that provides the next generation website builder for small businesses. He has 10+ years product development experience, has launched sites netting millions of visits a day, and has consulted for fortune 500 companies.