Public Relations Best Practices

Jesse Hopps

Public Relations (PR) is the act of managing communication between an organization and its key public stakeholders, with a focus on building and maintaining a positive image.

PR professionals execute campaigns targeted at specific audiences, to influence opinions and measure public perception.

Typically, Public Relations involves:

  • Evaluating public exposure, opinions, and attitudes
  • Developing policies for communicating with the public
  • Implementing communication programs across media channels
  • Integrating communications with Marketing programs and brand
  • Creating goodwill by managing a two-way communication process
  • Building a positive relationship between the public and the organization

Public Relations vs. Advertising

Public Relations Advertising
Free Placement Paid Placements
Slant from journalist Full Creative Control
Creates Credibility Creates Visibility
Only mentioned in a story Obvious to consumers
Viewed more objectively Will run when you pay for it
Takes time, and no guarantees Simple, if you have budget

Public Relations Elements

As you form your PR strategy, keep the following elements in mind:

    • Audience Targeting - a fundamental technique in PR is targeting a specific audience for your planned communications. Select the appropriate audience before creating your message to ensure you will appeal to their interests.
    • Press Conferences - this method allows an organization to select a specific group of journalists, analysts, or other constituents, when communicating its position on a given topic. It is assumed that the speaker will answer questions, following their speech.
    • Press Releases - providing a written statement to the media, usually communicated via newswire to many sources. Generally, journalists quote press releases verbatim, as if they had completed an interview. If you don't have a standardized template, download our Press Release Template to help you get started.
  • Optimized Press Release - written communications posted on an Internet news portal. Be sure to include many carefully selected keywords so that top search sites, such as Google and Yahoo News, index your release. This medium allows you to connect with readers, rather than just journalists.
  • E-newsletters - newsletters are an excellent way to keep in touch with customers and prospects. By having people register online for your newsletter, you can build up your email-marketing database.
  • Investor Relations - communicating with current and potential investors is another critical dimension of public relations.
  • Webcasts - this communication vehicle provides steaming audio and/or video content to your audience and can be viewed on their convenience. A well-developed webcast is an excellent method for generating leads and industry buzz.
  • Speaking Engagements - positioning your key executives as experts in your industry is another effective way to add credibility to your organization. Contact industry event planners to determine which speaking engagements would be a good fit.
  • Corporate Events & Sponsorships - sponsoring industry tradeshows, community events, or charity fundraisers, demonstrates commitment to being an industry leader. Be sure to develop a policy for this medium, to avoid under-the-radar expenditures.
  • Analyst Relations - many industries have analyst firms who provide objective research & advisory services. Be sure to contact these firms to establish a relationship and communicate your competitive advantages.

Public Relations Best Practices

Consider these Best Practices for effective PR Strategy:

  • Segment Various Target Audiences - evaluate your target audiences, such as customers, prospects, partners, suppliers, etc, and segment into relevant sub-categories.
  • Determine Customer Information Sources - talk to representatives from your target audience categories to identify where they go for information related to your organization and industry.
  • Build Media Source List for Each Segment - create a high-level list of potential media outlets that correspond to your customer information sources.
  • Review Media Sources & Identify Journalists - look for online editions of your media outlets to determine which journalist would be an appropriate contact. Develop a relationship with these people as they have a large influence over what content will be published.
  • Evaluate Distribution & Delivery Options - there are three traditional distribution options: newswire, media database, or individual correspondence. Most PR applications automate the delivery process, and can provide substantial contacts for your industry.
  • Decide an Appropriate Time to Deliver - avoid the end of fiscal quarters or year-end, as many large organizations will be flooding the media with their results. Don.t get your message lost in the clutter. If you are launching a new product or service, identify the optimal time to send your message, i.e. two weeks prior to an event in a specific geographic region.
  • Select the Right PR Tools - review the following section of this report to get an understanding of the PR tools & services marketplace.
  • Monitor Coverage - monitoring websites, blogs, or other media outlets for mentions is a critical step in the PR process. There are many tools to assist with this process, including website/blog monitoring, press clipping services, or video clipping services.
  • Measure Results - the hottest topic in PR is the ability to measure campaign results. Evaluate the total coverage, tonality (positive, negative, or neutral), sources, and how your organization compares to the competition. Additionally, contrast how your efforts stack up to traditional advertising to demonstrate cost savings. Be sure to ask your PR service provider how reporting and analytics are integrated with their solution.

Selecting the Right PR Tools

There are many providers who offer PR Consulting; media contact databases; newswire distribution; press and video clipping; blog monitoring; webcast platforms; and other helpful PR services. This section will help you further develop your strategy by outlining various vendor offerings.

  • PR Consulting - partnering with a PR Consulting firm such as Hill & Knowlton, or a local provider, can help you with developing an effective PR process.
  • PR Suite Vendors - while organizations such as Vocus and PR Newswire claim to have a best-of-breed, comprehensive PR system, many practitioners prefer to save money and piece together vendor solutions that are well-known for their particular offerings.
  • Media Contact Database - if your needs necessitate a large media contact database; consider Bacon's MediaSource . Contact Module.
  • PR Submission Engine & Tracking - PR Newswire provides an excellent press release submission engine but is more expensive than PRWeb who also offers an integrated solution with their partner Businesswire.
  • Press Clipping Services - to help you monitor the coverage of your press releases, consider a subscription to BurrellesLuce.
  • Video Clipping Services - to monitor your broadcast coverage, look at multivision’s Digital Showroom 4.0.
  • Blog Monitoring - blogs are a rapidly growing content medium. Analyze what people are saying about your organization with Biz360 Blogview or CyberAlert.
  • Webcasting - create winning online presentations with IVT, or Angelvision Technologies.

Public relations, if done effectively, can be an inexpensive addition to your marketing mix. As you develop your strategy, consider the various elements of a PR Program, learn PR Best Practices, and select the right tools for your organization.

If you anticipate having difficulty, consider partnering with a PR agency that has relevant industry experience. Many mid-sized organizations outsource this function, but with the right tools and know-how, you can save money and enhance your skill set simultaneously.