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Businesses can leverage public relations (PR) strategies to draw consumer’s attention to their brand.

When businesses and brands make headlines, they often benefit from the attention without incurring advertising costs. Moreover, PR communications are generally seen as credible, with a significant portion of the audience placing their trust in press releases.

But not all publicity is good publicity. Ineffective PR crisis management can cause severe financial and reputational risks. It is, therefore, important to have a strategic PR marketing plan to position your brand in a favourable light.

Understanding the Core of a PR Agency

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Since its inception in the early twentieth century, public relations has been described in several ways, including branding, social media management, and influencer and media relations. PR has grown in tandem with societal and technological advances.

Public relations agencies, in a nutshell, aim to produce media coverage that contributes to a positive public image for their customer base.

But how does this differ from other communication agencies? 

What is the difference between a PR agency and a marketing agency?

Although the capabilities of public relations (PR) and marketing agencies sometimes overlap, they serve two distinct functions. PR aims to establish a favourable perception, while marketing revolves around promoting the sales of goods and services.

Let’s examine the many aspects distinguishing public relations firms from their communication and marketing counterparts.

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Routine tasks: Marketing and public relations professionals differ significantly from one another. Public relations experts often cultivate contacts with news outlets, write press releases, and pitch favourable stories about their clients.

Objectives: Public relations and marketing teams approach their work with entirely different objectives. Public relations (PR) is about making the company look good and getting along well with its stakeholders. Marketers focus on driving sales and increasing the company’s market share. Their strategies are often focused on advertising, brand management, and targeting specific consumer demographics to boost product or service awareness and demand.

Audience: The people these agencies reach is another area where they diverge. The public relations team tailors messages to specific demographics in response to business demands. For instance, they could establish cordial relations with members of the press, key business stakeholders, or even fellow workers.

KPIs: Further separating marketing and public relations is how each division evaluates performance. PR professionals assess their level of success by how they generate positive publicity for their clients.

The Strategic Framework of Public Relations

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Importance of a well-defined PR strategy

A public relations (PR) strategy aids you in organising your company’s PR (or media relations) initiatives. Creating and executing a public relations strategy may help brands in two ways: first, by attracting the media’s attention to their services and products, and second, by organising the diverse stories that brands have that appeal to their varied audiences.

What Makes PR Strategy so Crucial?

Public relations (PR) or “earned media” is a powerful tool for increasing website traffic, fostering relationships within different online communities, promoting more genuine and trustworthy brands, and engaging target audiences. To increase exposure for your business and draw in more prospective consumers, it is essential to strategically use media channels to your advantage.

What’s more, communicating company objectives and initiatives to certain demographics becomes much simpler with an effective public relations plan. The strategy guides multiple ways of getting the main point of your PR message across, which helps to maximise efforts and raise awareness.

Steps to develop a strategic PR plan

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Ultimately, storytelling is what shapes public relations strategies. Tell them about yourself, your work, and why they should care about you; this is your opportunity to shine. Your company’s “why” should be the starting point of every narrative. What is the purpose of your actions? What is the point of caring about this? After you’ve thought about your “why,” the next step is to establish your ultimate objective.

The procedures are as follows:

Outline an Objective: Starting a public relations campaign without a plan can backfire, particularly in sales-driven industries where yearly and quarterly revenue targets are crystal clear. These goals are usually quantitative or qualitative. 

Specify Target Markets: Many different types of audiences choose to congregate in various locations. Think about who frequents coffee shops like Brand A, which are common in college communities around Singapore. Public relations for Brand A are concentrated on online platforms such as BuzzFeed since this demographic consists primarily of college-aged men and women who spend a great deal of leisure time on their mobile devices. Public relations experts can zero in on specific media sources with tailored pitches and compelling tales by verifying the target demographic.

Craft a Compelling Narrative: When communicators know who they’re talking to and which media venues to reach them, they can tell the brand’s message more effectively. The story should include essential statements relating to the brand’s reputation, mission, and values. 

Disseminating Creative Ideas: Nowadays, Consumers obtain information from various places, such as podcasts, social media, and blogs. Effective public relations strategies surpass the limitations of conventional journalism by engaging target audiences in the sources where they usually obtain information.

Researching: Explore a range of viable choices for efficiently communicating with the intended audience.

Developing a suitable schedule: When a chance presents itself, the next step is to create a timeline that will serve as a roadmap for sharing the PR messages.

Tracking progress: By keeping track of progress, agencies can tell if the PR work they did worked or not. One way to do this is to count how many news stories are written about the brand. Public relations efforts typically pay off if the brand is mentioned in several mainstream media houses.

Setting PR goals and creating a timeline for campaigns

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Whatever the nature of the objective, it must be clear, quantifiable with a deadline. This is known as the SMART method. One standard formula for outlining PR strategy timelines is “To get from ________ to ________ by ________ (date).”

Applying the SMART approach to goal setting helps make each objective attainable so you always reach your campaign goals. 

Set a suitable timeline for your campaign

The meetings and campaign activities schedule depends on how long your PR campaign lasts. Public relations campaigns typically take anywhere from one month to a few months or even a year, depending on the aims and objectives. 

For instance, a retailer seeking to initiate a rebranding campaign might set a campaign timeline spanning six months to one year to redefine its brand completely.

The significance of owned, paid, and earned media in Public Relations

For PR professionals, certain terms are “nice to know” when dealing with PR strategies and campaigns, but others are “must-know.” Paid, owned, and earned media fall within the second grouping. These terms are indispensable elements of PR strategies. They help PR professionals to understand what options are on the table.

Simply put, PR (public relations) is coverage you earn. You can engage the public directly or pay for PR services. Meanwhile, content such as your press releases constitutes owned media. Earned media, on the other hand, includes brand mentions involving your product or service, quotes, or business in the mainstream media or online discussions. 

Why use Earned, Owned and Earned Media?

The most effective public relations initiatives are those that utilise several platforms. 

But why? 

For starters, most people today have short attention spans. Did you know the average person’s attention span is only 8.25 seconds (33% less than in 2000)? Today, people rarely focus on one platform at a time. 

Therefore, your audiences are more likely to recall your messages if they’re mentioned in several posts and ads on different platforms. Likewise, seeing respected colleagues, friends, and families discuss it will increase the likelihood of consumers becoming interested. 

See? 

That right there is earned, paid, and owned in action. 

Executing a PR Campaign: From Start to Finish

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Phases of a PR campaign

The pros and PR experts advise that public relations campaigns always comprise four phases. Having said that, the R.A.C.E process encompasses the following phases:

  • Research
  • Action and planning
  • Communication and relationship-building
  • Evaluation

Now, let’s take a look at each step.

Research

To define the issue or opportunity, formal and informal research involving both internal and external parties is needed.

For the circumstances affecting your organisation, you ought to be able to respond to the questions “Who,” “What,” and “Why.”

Noting what other groups have accomplished in the past under comparable conditions is a useful place to start when gathering research. How can you make sure the results you get are trustworthy? Check that you are collecting your data in an organised manner.

Action And Planning

This stage mostly consists of planning and strategy. The PR author and researcher Dr. Hongmei Shen suggests utilising S.M.A.R.T. objectives to establish program goals that are grounded in analysis and research. Shen suggests keeping a:

  • Specific (purpose)
  • Measurable (outcomes)
  • Attainable (objective)
  • Realistic (goal)
  • Time (available and necessary)

Communication And Relationship Building

Using that reciprocal communication style, establish connections with your public to benefit both parties. Gaining the trust of customers requires complete disclosure, integrity, and openness. Sending communications is no longer sufficient; continuous dialogue needs to be. Keeping social duty front and centre is essential to building healthy relationships.

Evaluation

The campaign results should be the main emphasis of the evaluation phase, which should also help you prepare any further actions for the future and be in line with your main goals. Analysing overall efficacy should be a continuous procedure that is checked against your pre-established objectives. Want a solid method to demonstrate your progress?

Calculate your return on investment. Keep track of any press your campaign generates, assign a rough value to that press, and contrast it with any costs related to creating that PR.

Importance of target audience identification

Are you familiar with the expression “know your audience”? These wise words are the bedrock for a successful PR strategy and campaign. 

Since it is hard to appeal to everyone all at once, it is essential to identify and define a target audience. With a targeted PR campaign, even the smallest companies can compete with their larger counterparts in today’s market while saving time and money.

Leveraging Big Data for Crafting PR Strategies

In the PR industry, there are several sources of data. These can include:

Client Database

Regarding PR, an in-house database is one of the best places to get information. You may learn a lot about a customer’s preferences, stats, and preferred methods of communication by looking at their behaviour, preferences, and earlier interactions. 

Usually, PR agencies use customer relationship management systems to organise and process this data into useful formats. 

Third-party Data

In-house data doesn’t have to be the limit. Agencies can supplement their insights with valuable data from other sources to inform strategic decisions. They do so by working with databases, thought leaders, or other professionals in the field who possess vital information they need. By using these (often bigger) databases, PR agencies can obtain a more comprehensive understanding of diverse target markets, industry trends, and pressing topics.

Measuring the success of a PR campaign: KPIs to track

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It’s not enough to start PR efforts, and hope things go well. More PR pros are becoming aware of how important it is to keep track of success in PR. A study even found that 94% of PR pros keep an eye on at least one metric.  

What are the most important KPIs that they track? Let’s find out. 

Coverage from Media Outlets

Media coverage is how many times media outlets talk about a specific brand. This may occur in more conventional media like newspapers, television, and magazines, or it may take place in more modern forms like online forums, blogs, and social media.

Media Impressions

Media impressions are another key performance indicator for public relations. In a nutshell, this key sign shows how often your PR message is seen or heard by the audience you want to reach.

Website Traffic

Web traffic is one of the most fundamental KPIs for gauging the effectiveness of an Internet marketing strategy,—including public relations. It shows you how well your campaigns are doing to attract and retain viewer attention.

Social Media Engagements

Social media engagement encompasses the degree of interaction PR clients receive on the various social media channels. It comprises social media metrics such as retweets from Twitter, likes on Instagram, and social shares on Facebook.

Share of Voice

The Share of Voice (SoV) metric quantifies a business’s share of overall industry conversations. In terms of public relations, this is one of the KPIs that shows how visible you are compared to your competitors.

The Role of PR Professionals in PR Agencies

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Skills and expertise required for PR professionals.

The five essential skills PR professionals need to work in an agency are:  

Communication: Possessing exceptional communication skills helps you create engaging content, interact with audiences, launch effective public relations efforts, and improve teamwork.

Research: Public relations experts have to perform extensive research regularly. After all, knowing your audience inside and out is equally as crucial as knowing your clients inside and out. 

Creativity: PR professionals need to think outside the box for a PR strategy to work. Since every PR campaign is unique, it’s beneficial to creatively use a variety of approaches and tactics to convey messages.

The day-to-day responsibilities of a PR professional.

​​Typical responsibilities of public relations officers and executives include:

  • Earned Media & Media Relations
  • Media & Content Strategy
  • Media Monitoring & Analysis
  • Corporate Communications
  • Messaging & Positioning
  • Internal Communications
  • Media Training
  • Executive Thought Leadership
  • Writing & Editing of Miscellaneous PR Assets
  • Crisis Communications
  • PR Reporting
  • Media Measurement
  • Speaking Engagements
  • Multimedia Development & Visual Storytelling
  • Event & Experiential Marketing
  • Influencer Marketing & Blogger Relations
  • Social Media & Community Management
  • Managing PR Agencies
  • Data Journalism
  • Trend Spotting
  • Reputation Management
  • Community Relations

The importance of media relations and its impact on PR

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Building lasting media relations may be a powerful tool for expanding a business’s reach and impact. It opens doors for your company to new audience groups, like investors and consumers, which can help you grow into a household name. 

Some of the most essential benefits of having good relationships with the public are:

  • Generating leads
  • increased brand recognition
  • Attracting Investors
  • Employee satisfaction

Crisis Management: A Crucial Aspect of PR

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Definition and importance of crisis management

Crisis management is the strategy-driven approach employed by organisations to recognise and deal with a critical event.

By prioritising crisis management, organisations can minimise the impact of crisis events. In addition to potential personnel, assets, and operations risks, these incidents frequently have far-reaching and unpredictable consequences on brand reputation, customer satisfaction, supply chain, and employee morale.

PR agencies can help plan for critical events, and businesses can go from reacting to crises to effectively protecting themselves from their effects. 

The five stages of crisis management

Five distinguishable stages characterise crisis management. These stages are:

  • Early Warning and Signal Detection: Everyone knows crises can occur. However, no one knows when, where, or how it will unfold. So, it’s vital to be in a state of constant preparedness by defining the warning signs. 
  • Planning and Prevention: Once you know the warning signals, the next step is to take preventative actions that will, ideally, shield you from the crisis or at least make you more resilient when facing it.
  • Damage Control: How you respond immediately after a crisis arises is crucial for damage control and containment. It also decides how you and your company will proceed to the next stage: recovery.
  • Recovery: Recovering from a crisis, meaning getting your money, time, and resources back, and then some, should be high on your list of objectives in crisis management. Making a full recovery should be your North Star.
  • Learning and Reflecting: By thinking about what happened and how to use what you learned from the experience, you can stop or lessen future problems before they arise.

Establishing a crisis management team and the role of PR in it

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A crisis management team, also called an incident management team, corporate incident response team, or CMT, prepares a company for possible emergencies. The requirement for crisis management at all times evolved public relations into a 24-hour profession. 

Therefore, PR agencies can recruit and assemble teams using the checklist below. 

  • Choose a crisis team boss and a backup.
  • Collaborate with the crisis team manager and external advisors to ascertain the roles required on the team and compose detailed job descriptions.
  • Determine who will serve as the organisation’s spokesperson, safety chief, and liaison officer. (Someone whose primary responsibility is elsewhere shouldn’t serve as an alternate.)
  • Meet with each member to go over the job description in detail.
  • Do it again for each location, business unit, or branch.
  • Create a backup plan and reliable crisis communication channels for team members when a crisis comes knocking. 
  • Once your crisis response team and strategy are complete, schedule team drills at least twice a year, preferably at the beginning. 

Post-crisis analysis and resolution

When preparing, the organisation should consider the scenarios following a crisis.

The company should determine how to avoid crisis circumstances while attempting to minimise harm and optimise recovery. 

The steps you can take to post-analyse a crisis event include:

  • Carry out a baseline assessment
  • Sincerely evaluate accountability
  • Provide actionable insights
  • Implement productive reforms

Conclusion 

The public’s beliefs have a big influence on most facets of society. Public relations is an indispensable weapon for influencing and guiding public sentiment. Whether it’s managing a crisis or interacting with the media, public relations experts have the power to form narratives and sway public opinion. Nonetheless, tremendous power is accompanied by great responsibility.

Public relations experts have to conduct themselves in a transparent manner, putting honesty and clear communication first. These are the challenges stalking the future of the PR industry, some of which technological advances are helping to address. 

 

References (to be filled with reputable sources after research)

https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/gartner-survey-reveals-marketing-budgets-have-increased-to-9-5–

https://www.prsa.org/about/all-about-pr

https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/490177

 

Joscelin Kwek

Joscelin Kwek, founder of Muse & Motif, is a PR expert with nearly 20 years of experience in brand communications and investor relations. She launched her Singapore-based agency during the pandemic, focusing on digital marketing, data analytics, and sustainability. Known for her strategic thinking and crisis management, Joscelin is committed to community support, dedicating efforts to pro-bono work and environmental conservation. Her blogs offer insights into effective PR strategies and industry leadership.