In this episode, I’m talking to you about PR. Some of you may know, I’m one of only a few hundred chartered PR practitioners in the UK, so PR is one of my big passions, and today and I’m going to share some insights on this topic. I will bust some of the biggest myths, I’ll share how to effectively support your business with PR, and some tips on how to get started with a PR programme of your own.

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Full Transcription

Emma Drake:
Hello, and welcome to this episode of Communication Strategy That Works with me, Emma Drake.

So I wanted to talk to you today about PR. Some of you may know that I’m a Charter Practitioner with the UK Chartered Institute of Public Relations. So I’m going to share with you today some insight on this topic. I’ve been working in this area for many, many years. I’m going to bust one of the biggest myths. I’ll share with you how you can be really effective at supporting your business with PR and also some tips on how to get started with a PR program of your own.

If I sound a bit different today, it’s because I have treated myself to a new microphone. So I have a lovely blue Yeti that I’m road testing today. So hopefully it sounds great, fingers crossed.

So the number one myth and probably the biggest one, I think, is that PR stands for press releases. Well, I’m here to tell you today that, that is completely and utterly wrong. P and R in PR stands for public relations. And it means or stands for everything you do and say as a business, really. So how you and your employees act as a brand, how your projects and your business is perceived to the outside world and how you are perceived by your audience. It encompasses everything you promote, everything you say and all the content you put out. It’s arguably at the very heart of your business.

The word public in public relations, in that sense, is everybody from people in your supply chain to your customers, to your staff, funders and shareholders. It’s really everybody. Press releases on the other hand are one tool in the wider PR tool kit. And they’re aimed at informing journalists about news regarding your company, product or service. That is the sole purpose they serve. It is to connect with and inform journalists of your company news. And they are an excellent tool when written and executed well. I’ll be doing an episode purely on media relations, including press releases later down the line. So make sure you listen out for that one.

Number two is that PR is all about promoting your business. Well, actually that’s wrong too. So public relations is primarily about reputation. So what does that mean? Well, it’s about affecting every single way your business is perceived and impacted by every single person or entity you interact with, as they form an opinion about you based on that interaction. And you will have this yourself when you interact with brands or buy their products or services you form an about that brand. And it drives why you buy that product or service. Public relations activity can help you manage that opinion, protect your reputation and promote your brand. So it’s a really important one.

Number three is, and I’m going to paraphrase it. Toxic sludge is good for you. So this is, is PR about spin? The reason I used that phrase is it’s actually the title of a great book I read on my post grad in 1999. So many moons ago. But it was very much of its time. It was on the reading list. So the art of spin or the term spin doctors has become synonymous in particularly with politics in recent times. But generally speaking, spin in this sense, in this example, is not really a good approach to public relations. It’s not a best practice approach. Creating a positive brand experience is. I’ll explain a bit what I mean about that.

So most importantly, we live in an age where people can find out stuff about us. Stuff about you, your business at the swipe of a finger on a screen. So don’t pretend, don’t lie and never spin a negative situation into a positive one if it really isn’t. Be open, honest and transparent if something goes wrong, and be clear, honest and ethical about what you do, even if you work in a challenging sector.

There’s a world-leading PR agency called Edelman actually, and they do a trust survey every year called the Trust Barometer. I’ll put a link in the show notes for you, but they did a sense check survey in June of 2020. And it was mid global pandemic with Coronavirus. And Trust came out only second to price for why people buy products. This is a global survey people. So, don’t just take my word for it, okay? This is really some food for thought, right?

So hopefully that’s the myths busted. Let’s now move on to answer the question if PR is good for your business. Well, absolutely. I’m a huge advocate obviously, but one of the benefits well executed PR is that traditionally, PR activity is what I like to call earned or what we call in the sector, it’s called earned. So unlike marketing activity, which is typically paid for, there is no transactional cost involved. So in particular, lots of traditional PR activities such as media relations and speaking events and things like that would be things that you would do without actually exchanging any money.

Now, there are some exceptions that apply obviously now. There’s a lot more crossover these days, and things like award entries and paid social media obviously have a cost associated with them. But if you decide to do some PR for yourself as a business, for example, writing and sending out press release or writing your own content for your blog or your website, if you have your own newsletter, it can cost you very little. But if it’s a good story, you can get some really good media coverage out it for example, and a lot of traction, and it can have a huge impact on the profile of your fledgling business or service.

So PR is a really effective tool for building brand awareness, but you do need to have a sustained effort over a period of time. So for example, I say to clients that I prefer to work on a minimum of a six month basis, because I know that you need to have a sustained effort. One swallow a summer does not make, as the phrase goes. And one press release will give you that [inaudible 00:06:39] in the moment, but it won’t support or grow a business over time. So program of activity really is the best way forward if you’re starting out, and one that supports a particular business goal, for example, otherwise it can be a little bit scattergun and have mixed results for you.

Here’s some tips about how you can get started with a PR campaign of your own. I thought I’d give you some basic tips around this, but obviously, as I said, I’m going to be doing a deep dive into some of these areas in future episodes. So firstly, you guessed it. You need to set a goal. So what does success look like for you and how would this activity support it?

Secondly, you need to focus on short bursts of activity to achieve that goal. And make a plan to do two or three activities each quarter at first and test the water. See what works for you. Track and monitor it. And there’s more about tracking and monitoring in, I think it’s episode four. So listen out for that one. For example, if we take media relations as an activity, I’ve worked with and for companies where we’ve had 12 pieces of news a year, so that’s 12 press releases. But I’ve also worked in organizations where we’ve had three a week. So it really depends on what you do and what sector you’re in. There is really no one size fits all here and don’t let anyone tell you any different on that.

So in terms of content planning, think about what is your industry talking about? What are the trends and topics that you can contribute to knowledgeably? Make a list of the top three things where you know you can contribute strongly or have something to say and make this the basis of your content planning. I like to call these content pillars. Next, you could check out the publications that you want to be in, and talk to them. Email them, call them. Are they going to be speaking on your topic areas? Are they going to be doing interviews around those topics or special features? Think of an angle or a particular standpoint you might have. As it’s really good to have an opinion and not just talk about a topic in the same way that everyone else is talking about it.

So next, you could have a look at what words are coming up in your sector. So what could you enter along these content themes? I would make a list of one or two that fit the bill and schedule them into work on because you will need to write some content to support an award entry, and that can take a bit of time. I would also make sure that you work a year ahead on those because they tend to have a 12 month timeframe.

So you would be working this year on something from a product that was released last year, for example. And don’t forget there is some great awards for individuals in business, as well as the business itself, as well as the products within your business. So have a really good look around at what could really suit you and where you could get most impact.

Thirdly, I would look at what podcasts you listen to in your sector. Obviously I’m a great podcast advocate, and I would look at approaching one or two and pitch a topic idea around one of your content pillars. See if they’re using guests or experts, or you could talk in other business groups or forums or industry events. Maybe a webinar where you can show your expertise.

So hopefully that’s given you a few ideas on how you can take forward a simple PR plan for your business. Of course, using PR for your business, I said at the beginning, is not just about promoting your business. It’s about protecting your fledgling reputation as a brand as well. It’s hugely important. So it’s important to have a plan for when things might go a little bit wrong. Whether that’s a product that you’ve had to recall or a service that wasn’t delivered effectively, or maybe… Something 2020 has taught all of us is that anything can happen and we need to be prepared for the worst.

So this could be as simple as having a statement prepared and a process for getting news and information out quickly to the people that matter to your business, in the right order. And a mechanism for speaking to the media, including a nominated spokesperson for your business to do the talking. I’m going to also cover this in more detail, so look out for that.

So finally, thank you for listening to this episode of Communication Strategy That Works. Don’t forget to check my show notes for those links that I mentioned, and I’d really love it if you would subscribe to my podcast and leave me a review. And also, if you think there’s someone that could benefit from listening to his podcast, please share this within your networks. So I’ll just say bye for now and see you next time.