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What is the Role of a PR Firm?

If you have a business, product or service, or are doing something new and/or different, you need to communicate that to your audience, whether that audience be consumers, other businesses or employees.  One way to do this is through Public Relations.

So what is Public Relations?  According to Wikipedia:Wendy Alpine - Public relations (Atlanta, Georgia)

Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing the flow of information between an individual or an organization and the public.  Public relations provides an organization or individual exposure to their audiences using topics of public interest and news items that do not require direct payment.

Many people confuse public relations with advertising, but the two practices use different approaches to create brand awareness.  With advertising, companies spend significant dollars for an ad or series of ads, to get your attention and convince you to buy their product.  Because of this, the public is often skeptical of advertising and may view the message as self-serving.

Public relations is a more subtle approach, influencing the audience through a third-party endorsement by a media outlet.  The use of a third party gives the product or service credibility and puts an issue into perspective rather than pushing out a particular theme or message.  Your product or service can be wrapped into a story about that product or service, or as part of a trend story about a particular topic.

Does that mean that advertising is bad?  No, in fact a lot of times it is better to have advertising and PR work hand-in-hand.  PR introduces people to you and your brand through appropriately placed media stories.  When the public has already heard about you, and/or reads an article about you, their skepticism of your paid advertising is diminished.  When they see your ad, they already have brand recognition and awareness.

People don’t realize that many stories they see, whether it is on TV, in the newspaper or on the radio, are generated by PR companies.  They come up with an idea like “Summertime Trends,” or “Father’s Day,” as a way to talk about the product or service they are working with.  The media is always looking for sources for their stories, so if you have a product or service that people need to know about, you can get the word out through PR.

PR firms can also be advisors to companies regarding the launch of a product.  A good PR company will ask questions, such as:  “What’s the best time to launch?”  “What trends are going on in the world that your business can respond to regarding its products or services, or people?”  “What would be of interest to the business, or to the potential audience that you are trying to reach?”

Some PR firms are involved in research or marketing.  They deal with focus groups and media audits to see what people are saying about a particular product, service, or company, and how they perceive that particular brand or company.  With that information, the firm can then work toward reshaping or reinforcing those perceptions.

Many companies use PR to bring about awareness and education about a particular topic:  a disease, a new product, a campaign, or a new way of looking at things.  This serves to educate your audience about a problem or issue and what your company or organization is doing to address it.  PR can be an effective way to galvanize people and create grassroots movements, or to generate “buzz” about your brand.

What are you doing in your business, with your products or services, that is new or different?  How are you making your public aware, or educating them?

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