I have been running my own freelance PR business for two years now and, I have to say, I love it. The variety of projects; the opportunity to learn, grow and develop; and the freedom to manage my own business and specialise in certain sectors have all brought me a great deal of career satisfaction after 17 years working in large organisations.
I have discovered a whole new world of small business owners, local charities, community-based organisations, networking groups and training opportunities. Plus, I have met some very inspiring people who have all given me the drive and determination to go for it.
As a PR specialist, working with charities and small businesses across the North West, I want to share my work, my experiences and my passion for creating engaging stories. Getting people talking about the fantastic and diverse range of charities and small businesses we have in our region.
I help charities and businesses to see the value, impact and cost-saving that good PR and communications can have on their reputation. Not to mention their growth, success and, let’s be frank, their bottom line.
Firstly, let’s settle that age old question…
What exactly is PR?
To satisfy my own curiosity, after years of people looking blankly at me when I’ve tried to explain what I do for a living; I asked a few randomly selected individuals (aka my friends and family) what they think PR is.
The responses included a range of things like “advertising” and “spin”, “Ab Fab” and “writing press releases”. Actually, most of these do play some part to a greater or lesser extent (ok, maybe not Ab Fab, although I’ve come across a few Edina’s in my time). In all honesty, just like most professions, PR is a combination of many things and is continually evolving.
“Public Relations is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you.”
Essentially, PR it is about telling stories to a wide range of stakeholders through an increasing number of channels. In a wider sense, it is how you present yourself, your image and your reputation.
Why do we do it?
PR is a vital tool in shaping your reputation, growing your brand, raising awareness of who you are and what you’re about. It’s about how others see and think about you.
Good PR will grow directly from the overall objectives of an organisation. It will ensure that you have a strong and relevant presence in your field of expertise. It will bring your brand to life and connect you with your target audience, helping them to form a good opinion of you.
How long will it take?
There’s no way around it, PR takes time. There’s no quick fix. To be effective, you have to have a long-term approach. Let’s be honest, you’re never going to build a great reputation from one press release.
In the advertising world, it is widely thought that you need at least seven ‘touch-points’ with a business before consumers start to know who you are, take an interest and start to form an impression of you. It’s the same with PR. One story in the press is very unlikely to have a real impact on your business.
That’s not to say that a one-off press release is never worthwhile. It depends on your objectives and expectations. I have successfully written one-off news stories for clients in order to promote a specific event (with the simple objective being to get bums on seats). But this also relies on the success of the event itself, and your guests having a positive experience, for them to form a long-term impression of you and, crucially, to tell others about you.
In the majority of cases, however, one press release will not grow a business’s reputation or gain the trust of its target audience.
How do I do PR?
You start at the beginning. What are your objectives? Who are you trying to reach? What methods of communication can you use to reach them? There are nearly always interesting and unusual stories to tell that will engage your target audience.
The key is to create regular and relevant content, to know your target media inside out and to build relationships with those writers and journalists.
You need to be communicating the right messages to the right people at the right time.
A strategic PR plan is essential for any organisation, no matter how big or small. This will make sure you are well prepared to promote the ‘ups’ and react to the ‘downs’.
All of your stakeholders – whether they are employees, trustees, members, fundraisers, existing customers or potential customers – should be kept fully informed and involved in your organisation. Continually connecting with them, building your reputation and raising your profile.
PR is continually evolving
These days, PR is much more than writing a few press releases and ringing round newsrooms. The transition from print to digital media has brought many changes to the PR and communications world but, with it, many opportunities.
A modern approach to PR has to be all encompassing and fully-integrated. But it needn’t be overwhelming.
We have to step back and focus on what we’re trying to say and who we want to say it to before we even thinking about picking up the phone to a journalist or writing a press release.
We need to bring traditional and digital communications together in a targeted way to really get your audience to stand up and take note for the long-term.