Thursday, 19 April 2012

An Idiot's Guide to PR

I have been asked to write a regular article on public relations for one of the English language portals here in Prague (  I thought it would be easy – maybe it will be once I get started properly - but coming up with a topic for the first article – i.e as an introduction – was a bit more complicated.  In the end I decided that the first ‘edition’ should be something along the lines of an ‘idiot’s guide to PR’.  Here is an excerpt.

1.    What does a PR agency do?

That might seem like a strange first question, but I have to say that a good percentage of companies that come to see us do not really know what a public relations agency does.  The difference between marketing/advertising and PR is not always understood, and it is  not unusual for someone to say that they need some help with public relations and then start talking about advertising and other marketing tools. 

Generally, I would say that the term ‘public relations’ relates to the tools that a company can use to promote themselves to the public generally through talking ‘through’ the media – whether print, on-line, radio, TV, etc.   Of course it is a lot more complicated than that, and I will talk more on the subject as we go along, but hopefully that is enough for starters.

2.   Do we [public relations agencies] ‘have contacts’ in the media?

You would be surprised how often a company asks us this, particularly since we have been in the business for more than 20 years!   Bearing in mind the definition above, it would be a little strange if we didn’t have contacts in the media.  However, see next point!

3.   Can we use our contacts to get an article/interview/press release onto the front page of whatever newspaper is requested?!

I am afraid that this is also a regular assumption, and, sadly, if it was that easy, no-one would need us (plus every paper would be full of rubbish - bear in mind that most journalists receive hundreds of press releases and interview requests every day!).   Having ‘contacts’ does, however, mean that we can discuss articles, releases, interviews with the journalists in question, etc, and, in turn, they can tell us what they are interested in writing about.  There are very few journalists that, just because they are friends, will automatically place something in the paper for us.

4.   Who is the best person to handle the public relations for a company?

Another frequently asked question, to which I usually respond ‘who is the best person to handle the accounting, legal, IT for a company?’  You wouldn’t normally trust these things to someone that has absolutely no experience in the field, so why trust your PR to such a person….?  But if you don’t have such a person, then use an agency, in the same way that you go to an external supplier for other professional services!

5.   Should we use a PR agency/person?  We don’t really have anything to talk about….

You may be surprised, but most companies/individuals think this, and actually they DO have something to talk about – but that is where the PR expertise comes in.   Nearly every company that we deal with worries that they don’t have enough interesting news to carry out a PR campaign, but then we start discussing what they get up to each day, and endless possibilities spill out.   

6.   I have tried doing some PR before but have not had any results, so why could an agency help?

Many smaller companies have told me this over the years.  And I always respond that PR always works… it is what has been done that doesn’t work!

I could go on… and in the next few articles I probably will.  But for now, I hope that the above is enough of a taster to start you thinking about how you might use PR to support your business, and then read on to see how you, yourself, can start to get results!


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