What Is PR and How Entrepreneurs Can Use It

What is PR?

A question I often get asked after sharing my job title is,

“What is Public Relations?” followed by “So what is it you actually do?”

I would like to begin with the name, 'Public Relations'. In its simplest form, this defines itself as ‘relations with the public’. Conventionally, the role of a PR practitioner consists of establishing, developing and maintaining relationships with key stakeholders to influence the way an organisation is perceived.

As defined by the Public Relations Society of America, PR “is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their public's.”

It is known as the business of persuasion, this is because a good PR practitioner will be able to persuade, and affect change in public opinion. Therefore enabling a business to reach a broader audience and sell more products and services.

Edward Bernays, one of the pioneers of PR, explained: "The three main elements of public relations are practically as old as society: informing people, persuading people, or integrating people with people."

PR is commonly confused with advertising, although the line between the two is often unclear, they are in fact very different industries. The balance careers revealed some of the differences:

📺 Advertising is paid space

🗣️ PR is free coverage

📺 When paying for advertisement space, you have full control over what will be mentioned and how it looks and sounds

🗣️ When striving for free publicity from the media, you have no control over how your news is presented, and journalists have no obligation to share it at all

📺 Consumers know when they are reading an advertisement and are aware the business is trying to sell them something

🗣️ When an individual reads a news article written about a product, it is viewed differently as it is from a trusted third-party source

How can entrepreneurs use it?

To connect and inform your audience

A previous blog post, Great Entrepreneurs Build Deep People Connections clarified (yes, the title gives it away) that entrepreneurs must be able to communicate. Whether it be to their customer, through social media or the press; to construct a business that is known, used and respected by the public, an entrepreneur must be able to connect with the audience.

Public relations is a brilliant way of connecting with the audience in an honest and more personal way.

You can communicate with them directly, and create a mutual understanding where you can find out what your audience would like from your business. The audience can also discover more about you as an entrepreneur, and your ideas or product.

Understanding your audience will develop the foundations of your PR plan, allowing you to target your customers effectively with relevant content to them. This will assist you in building thought leadership and a loyal customer base.

Now you know a little more about who you are talking to, you can use PR to inform them. PR is an effective method of sharing your ideas and can be earned by delivering news and information to the media about your business through the use of press releases and pitches. As an entrepreneur, being featured by the media is invaluable because it can build exposure quickly and credibly, which can massively impact the success of your business 📈

The more you are mentioned in the media, the higher chance you have of persuading your audience! This is because individuals don’t tend to buy unless they feel well informed of the product or service.

When something goes wrong...

When starting up a business, pending disasters aren’t normally on the forefront of an entrepreneur’s mind. However, being knowledgeable and prepared on what to do and how to deal with a crisis when it happens, is essential in order to keep your business running smoothly.

Coca Cola is an excellent example of turning something that went wrong, into an admirable public relations campaign.

I’m sure some of you will remember back in 1985 when Coca Cola changed the recipe of the famous soft drink in a dire attempt to win their taste test war with competitor Pepsi.

They branded the drink “New Coke” and let it take to the stores; loyal Coca Cola customers were outraged, and the company received thousands of complaints and (of course) heaps of bad press.

The company took advantage of their mistake by reinventing the old taste and naming it “Coca Cola Classic” which is still used today. The scandal received so much attention, it gave Coca Cola masses of exposure over all its competitors and resulted in a significant increase in sales, media coverage and customer base.

It just goes to show, with the use of effective Public Relations, you can turn bad press into good press, or (at least) 'soften the blow' by formulating an excellent response to the bad news in order to protect the reputation of the company. Phew!

An example of this is the current pandemic of COVID-19, which has caused global disruption and has affected every business in one way or another. Although it is out of their control, organisations have to use public relations to create a response to the outbreak and implement a crisis communications plan.

The Institute for Public Relations produced a communications study from March 5th - 10th showing that entrepreneurs are utilising communications functions as an essential resource in dealing with COVID-19.

Their report disclosed that 81% of respondents said the communication function is “important” or “very important” to their company’s response to the pandemic. With all non-essential stores closing, businesses have had to adapt, and communicate with their customers through a different medium.