The Ultimate Guide to Public Relations for 2021

Table of Contents

Do you want to lessen the gap between how the public perceives your organization and how you see it?

Would you like to see more positive mentions about your brand in the media?

Are you worried about negative publicity?

Public relations can help protect, enhance and build your organization’s reputation. PR efforts are an investment in your brand and visibility that results in increased recognition and reputation.

What Is Public Relations?

Public relations is the art of building relationships to maintain a favorable public image. The Public Relations Society of America PRSA defines it thus:

“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

PR people are storytellers that translate your organization’s message into stories that resonate with your target audience.

Why Public Relations Matters

Public relations matters because it promotes positive awareness, association, imagery and perception of your organization. It drives desired audience behavior. From securing investment to hiring the right talent to winning the hearts of customers, a positive public image is key to your organization’s success.

There is a positive relationship between a firm’s reputation and its financial performance. According to a Moz survey, a business can risk losing 22% of its customers because potential buyers found one negative article about the company. Consumers are more likely to purchase products and services from your company if it has a good reputation.

Without PR initiatives, it will be hard for your organization to maintain a positive reputation and participate in conversations around its industry and business.

Public Relations vs. Marketing

Traditionally, marketing handled advertising while PR handled press; however, the lines between PR and marketing are less defined today. Businesses have embraced internet technology and social media platforms to carry out PR and marketing activities.

While public relations and marketing now collide, overlap and intertwine, their main focus remains vastly different. Marketing focuses on promoting and selling a specific product or service. On the other hand, PR focuses on maintaining a positive public image of an organization.

Pro tip: Let PR and marketing work in tandem with each other to avoid fragmented brand communication.

Social Media Marketing and PR

The focus of PR was to influence public opinion through media and celebrities at the beginning of modern public relations. In the past decade, influence patterns have been changing. Social media tools, such as blogs, podcasts, online video and social networks have evolved the PR landscape. Public relations management now includes nurturing relationships with the public via social media.

Public relations firms and teams can tap into the power of social media to influence public opinion without needing media intermediaries. While the open landscape of social media can have many advantages, the digital world is also ripe for PR nightmares. To avert a social media PR disaster, your PR team will need to frequently comb social media for company mentions, respond to emerging news around the clock and have a crisis management plan ready.

It is also critical to remember that social media has not replaced traditional media yet. In most cases, a blog or a tweet will not have the same reach or credibility as coverage in The New York Times.

Pro tip: Use social media to augment and amplify your other PR efforts.

Target Audience for PR

It is not only businesses that practice public relations but also trade associations, celebrities, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, cities, countries, etc. This means that the target audience for PR campaigns can be quite diverse.

Depending on the type of your organization, your audience can include investors, customers, employees, stakeholders, journalists, members, government regulators, suppliers, distributors, and the general public.

A good PR practitioner will analyze and understand the attitude and behaviors of your audience before devising an effective PR strategy.

Public Relations Media Mix

A successful PR strategy embraces a diversified media mix to manage communication between an organization and its audience. PR professionals need to embrace the PESO model to reliably reach their main audience.

The PESO model is usually represented as a set of four circles, corresponding to the following media types:

  • Paid – Includes sponsored content, social media promotions and content syndication using aggregators such as Outbrain.
  • Earned – The traditional form of PR. Your PR manager will develop relationships with journalists, bloggers and influencers to reach a specific audience.
  • Shared – Another term for social media. You can use social media to share in-house and third-party content.
  • Owned – Content that your business owns. It lives on your website and blog. Modern public relations firms and teams create blogs, whitepapers, e-books, webinars, etc., to engage their audience.

What Should a PR Plan Include?

Whether you are a new business or want to boost the public image of an existing brand, a PR plan can help you define your objectives and guide your PR activities. A good plan needs to consider the full year ahead and contain the following six elements:

1. Situation Analysis

Your PR plan should include an analysis of your past year in terms of PR activity. If you hire a public relations firm, it will read and audit any previous media coverage and study your industry, company and competition.

2. PR Objectives

Every plan should include one to five objectives. Your objective should answer what you want to accomplish with your PR plan. Each objective needs to be in line with your overall business objectives. We recommend S.M.A.R.T. objectives:

S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Attainable or achievable
R – Results-oriented or relevant
T – Timely

3. Target Audience

This is where you clearly define the target audience of your PR communication. Some important audience metrics to note are:

  • Pain points
  • Demographics
  • Location
  • Psychographics

Pro tip: An easy way to gather information about your audience is to look at PR campaigns run by competitors that have strong results.

4. Key Messages

Next, develop key messages that you want to communicate to the public. These messages will form the backbone of your public relations activity throughout the year. If you hit a wall while developing key media messages, think about message themes that will greatly impact your target audience.

5. Communication Channels & Media

This section of your PR plan should answer the question, “What is the best way to reach my target audience?” Does your audience prefer mainstream media? Does it spend time watching YouTube videos? Do digital influencers sway it? A good public relations management firm will consider all of the above for your PR plan.

6. Content Type

Next, choose the content types you are going to use to communicate with your audience. It’s better to choose a variety of these so that you can engage your audience. Different brands will choose different content types. A podcast, for example, might make sense as a content type for one organization and be the wrong choice for another.

Pro tip: Make sure that your PR plan is a living document. It will need to be updated frequently due to changing external and internal circumstances.

What Are Public Relations KPIs?

Measuring the success of a PR campaign is not an exact science. Many public relations firms and professionals swear by the Barcelona Principles, which comprise seven criteria for measuring the value of PR campaigns. Evaluating a PR campaign using the Barcelona Principles can be a complicated, time-consuming and costly process. An alternative is creating public relations KPIs specific to your organization, industry and media mix.

The following 12 PR KPIs can help you determine the effectiveness of your PR strategy:

1. Active Coverage

Active coverage is earned media coverage secured by your public relations firm or team. You need to regularly collect items reported in print and digital media, on TV and radio, and create a coverage analysis. It’s especially crucial to track coverage in top-tier publications for your industry and audience.

2. Share of Voice

Share of Voice is one of the most popular metrics used in public relations management to track the success of your PR strategy. It is defined as the number of media mentions for your brand, divided by the total number of media mentions about your industry or niche. It can also be defined as a percentage of coverage compared to your competitors.

Share of Voice can be tracked by volume or reach. You might notice that a competitor has a higher volume of mentions in lower-reach publications, while your organization has fewer mentions in higher-reach publications.

3. Quality of Coverage

When you gauge the quality of coverage, you can look at several things:

Tone – How was your brand perceived in the publication?
Key message delivery – Did the article share the key message of your organization?
Placement – Where was your brand mentioned (e.g., headline vs. body)?
Relevance – Is the publication’s audience relevant to your brand?

4. Media Outreach

Media outreach is another popular KPI. You measure the number of pitches your team is sending out and how each one is performing. You can use tools to track email opens and internal link clicks. Another way to measure media outreach is by tracking your team’s progress in building relationships with media professionals.

5. Potential Reach

Potential reach in public relations is the sum of the viewership of all publications where your coverage is featured. This can include the circulation for print media, number of visitors or specific page views for online media, number of viewers for a television channel and listeners for a radio show.

6. Social Engagement

Social engagement is one of the easiest KPIs to keep track of. You can track the number of impressions made in the social media newsfeed and interactions with your coverage in the form of likes, comments, and shares.

7. Social Shares

Social shares is a powerful KPI to track. It is different from social engagement because it tracks when your audience directly shares something from your website or blog to their social media profiles. This means that your audience liked the content enough to vouch for it.

8. Website Traffic

As you run PR campaigns, track the number of website visitors and check their referral sources. If you are running a successful PR campaign, more and more people should be hearing about you and making their way to your website.

9. Domain Authority

Domain authority is a metric that predicts how well your website will rank on search engines like Google. It uses a logarithmic 100 point scale and is a valuable measure of how your website compares to your competitors. By securing backlinks from well-ranked websites through public relations, you can boost your domain authority.

10. Sentiment

This KPI will help you track whether your organization is creating positive or negative associations. Once you start to see how the audience perceives your brand, you will understand whether there are any issues that you need to address.

11. Event Promotions

Here, you track your PR team’s success in driving event attendance, garnering media coverage of your organization’s events, and building relationships with guest speakers and event attendees.

12. Crisis Communications

Here you will track the effectiveness of your PR team’s crisis management. You need to gauge how quickly your PR efforts get things back to normal.

Is Hiring a PR Firm Worth It?

Businesses and organizations of all sizes can benefit from the services of a PR agency. Effective public relations firms have strong ties with many journalists and influencers in various industries. Many PR professionals are former journalists, so they know how to approach a pitch and reach out to media professionals, bloggers, influencers and editors. An established PR firm will also have extensive ties in the business community. You can and should leverage your PR firm’s network to build your own.

Public relations firms also have the staffing to devise and execute a PR plan. A good public relations agency will help its client get visibility on as many relevant and respected editorial platforms as possible. This is especially helpful for small businesses as it helps level the playing field against much larger competition.

Moreover, a good PR agency can get your valuable data on your market. It can help you assess customer surveys, focus groups and other projects to gauge the public view of your organization.

Are You Ready to Experience the Benefits of PR?

We at prMEDIA Reach are a full-service public relations and media agency with the connections and expertise to build, grow and leverage your brand’s positive reputation so that you can focus on other things, like expanding your business.

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