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Union of the Trio – Public Relations Vs Publicity and Their Role in Marketing

6 min read
Union of the Trio – Public Relations Vs Publicity and Their Role in Marketing

There’s a fallacy that most public relations firms do PR. Essentially they do publicity. How’s that possible, you ask? Well, this according to marketing gurus and what’s stated in Wikipedia (as follows): “Public relations and publicity are not synonymous but many PR campaigns include provisions for publicity. Publicity is the spreading of information to gain public awareness for a product, person, service, cause or organization, and can be seen as a result of effective PR planning.” PR, then, is the creative strategy of a story. It’s focused on its intended audience and with the full utilization of the tools at its disposal, such as press releases, speeches and public service activities amongst others, can determine what and how people talk about a company, a brand, a product.

Steve Jobs and the new Mac successfully got placed on the cover of more than 30 magazines in the year the product launched. That’s referred to as “publicity”. However, the real challenge was crafting the storyline of the Mac – along the story of Steve Jobs. That’s PR work at its finest.

Press Releases in Tune with the Times

The words “Press Release” or “Press Statement” go back a long while when such written communication were printed and released to the press to spread their noteworthy news. These days the more common term used is “News Release” since it has a broader meaning. Materials are now posted online, either via newswire services, within a company and to other non-paid and to some extent, paid sources. As for the term “Media Release”, it’s like a brief newspaper article that is sent to media outlets to gain their interest and if they accept it, they will then publish a story about it.

Demystifying the Roles of PR and Marketing

In the same way that PR and Publicity are not equal, same goes for the former and marketing. Marketing is interested in the understanding of the consumer to meet his/her needs/desires, the goals of the company and to help the company find a way to profitably meet those needs. Public relations, on the other hand, works to build relationships with various sources, reduce conflict and improve cooperation between a company and its intended audience. Marketing focuses on selling and packaging products or services, whereas, public relations is more about reputation, crisis and image management as well as brand building. As the renowned marketing strategist Al Ries succinctly stated, “PR builds brands. Advertising maintains brands once they are built by PR.” Clever public relations will undoubtedly create a healthy environment for marketing. This requires a team with innovative minds.

Marketing and PR, therefore work best when they are treated as separate organizational functions. Nonetheless, they must coordinate in a team effort to make certain they are working to achieve the same objectives. Advertising is an effective marketing tool and frequently used in conjunction with PR, sales promotion and personal selling strategies in a marketing mix.

It’s the Image Silly

Any seasoned PR practitioner will tell you that a favorable corporate reputation and image are an essential part of their mission whether it’s to retain, recapture their clients’ credibility or to promote a favorable impression for a public company’s existing and potential investors. Companies, however, should too be proactive and focus on their behavior instead on words alone. As for brand building and awareness, a PR firm can implement a great brand story and distribute it through the appropriate target media which will be perceived as authentic and unbiased as opposed to a paid advertisement.

To retain the shine on one’s brand assets, companies are encouraged to frequent online chatter where people exchange gossip and views. Prevention is undoubtedly better than cure. By spotting problems early you could seize on an impasse before it spreads further and tarnishes your reputation.

Survey Says!

To offer a noteworthy rationale for media exposure, depending on the industry one’s in, companies should consider hiring a polling firm to conduct a survey about some worthwhile trend which is relevant to their product or service and which would be of interest to the general public or a niche market. The results from the credible poll can be used as an ideal story line for the media. A case in point is Berlitz Canada which carried-out a poll, through Harris/Decima during several days in March 2008, via an online panel, sampling 1,277 adult Canadians about the benefits of being bilingual or multilingual – especially with regards to career advancement opportunities. The results were exploited by being turned into a publicity feat which formed additional exposure Berlitz wouldn’t have otherwise received in the traditional sense.

Customer Care in an Ideal World

What is the meaning of paying a PR firm to glorify your reputation along with your product or service if you can’t deliver on your promises. Today’s consumer is not simply sophisticated but with the swift access to the Internet he/she can vent their frustration online through Twitter, blogs and plenty more social media sources. Much is touted by companies about customer service/relations but surprisingly only a few actually deliver on their promises. At the outset, it appears that many lack a vital customer relations policy including inadequate staff training and coaching. Picking up the telephone and calling certain companies can sometimes lead to an exasperating experience. People love to hate the phone tree encounter where you have to go through a maze of menus until you eventually get to speak to a human – assuming you’re lucky. It shouldn’t have to be that way. Dealing with a company’s customer service center should be an efficient and pleasant event. Companies should place toll-free numbers in visible and large type on their labels. Calls should be answered on the first or second ring and no phone tree. The trained person who handles the calls should be congenial, apologetic and non-argumentative. Amex and Apple are two such companies which seem to have achieved this. Hire mystery shoppers to gauge your service performance and report their experience/feedback.

What’s Next?

PR, the New Media and Talent for Hire Over the years, clients have become more demanding of their service providers. They have come to expect more personalized interaction, customized solutions, timely results and most certainly a “bang for their buck”. PR firms are expected to be more transparent, specialized in particular fields, rather than general practitioners, and embrace the de-facto new media sources – the online social media which is nowadays being integrated with PR. This includes blogging, Twittering, social networking and viral marketing amongst others. That is to say, be in the forefront of new fields of media and communication which will be fully utilized in the business of influencing perceptions.

In addition, one other notable trend is towards widespread audio and video production and communication. From podcasting to mobile video, audio and video will predominate in our world. PR has traditionally been all about effective written communications. While that will remain important, the new skills required to be part of a society driven by other media forms will be critical. With the plethora of multinational and boutique PR firms out there, differentiation in the delivery of services, personalized service and focus in niche markets/industries will be the determining core value equation.

Hiring the right practitioners should include candidates with a variety of business experience especially in marketing, negotiations including strong written communications. Additionally, prospective PR practitioners should possess soft skills, common sense, a flair to think laterally and be someone who gets excited by ideas. A communications or marketing degree should be considered an asset rather than a pre-requisite.

PR practitioners need more skills today than at any time in the past because there are more tasks, more media and more tools. Hence, a comprehensive in-house training program, as well as outside educational encouragement and support, should be part of a firm’s perquisites to their staff. The fact of the matter is, companies that invest in their employee’s education and training receive loyalty and better results from them.

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