In the world of today, public relations has become more complex and more important than ever before, yet many people don’t know what it is, or why it is so important.
There are many definitions of public relations and many of them are very wordy. The one I prefer is that “public relations is the management discipline of communication”. This recognises the breadth of activities that public relations should cover within the organisation. It also identifies that communication is two-way – you have to listen, as well as talk.
One of the most enduring clichés in public relations is that ‘new is news’. Newness is a promotional advantage that should be utilised to the utmost, while it’s still news. You only have your newness story for so long, so don’t waste it.
I started by working life on a daily newspaper
I started my working life as an office boy on a daily newspaper, then to copy boy and then to cadet journalist.
After that initial grounding in journalism I moved into public relations and in my professional journey I have served the Public Relations Institute of Australia as President, edited the National Magazine for 25 years and my consultancy was a founding member of the Registered Consultants Group. I am a Fellow of the Public Relations Institute of Australia.
When I first started in PR, most of our time was spent on media relations and presenting the client’s story to the public via the media. Some saw this in simplistic terms as a cheaper form of advertising but it is much more than that, as it carries the endorsement of an independent third party, the journalist who accepted the story and submitted it for publication and the editor who allowed it to be used.
In many respects the focus on media coverage has distorted the understanding of what PR people actually do, as we spend much more time on planning, strategic development, researching and writing than on the media side, but media coverage is the most visible evidence we see of PR, hence the distorted view.
The benefit of media coverage is still important
In public relations practice today, the benefit of media coverage is still important, indeed even in this era of social media, it is still the most effective means of reaching important specialist professional and trade audiences, or the people in a country town.
I’ve always felt that my early journalist experience has always given me an edge in PR practice as I understand the job the journalist has to do and can relate to their problems and limitations.
But there is no doubt that the Internet has revolutionised public relations and changed what we do as well as increase the work load. This includes the website with the design and copy, writing a regular newsletter, articles and blogs, as well as posting media coverage from other publications, and of course there’s social media, particularly Facebook and You Tube. Facebook also allows your audience to talk back to you with comments and likes, so it can also provide a research feedback function.
But you must always remember that social media is a communication platform that demands content that must be interesting and attract readers, otherwise it’s like a newspaper with blank pages. Social media must be constantly fed otherwise it won’t work for you.
Another key element in a public relations program is continuity of messaging. This can be summed up with the phrase:
“ Effective communication is the repetition of credible key messages and the repetition factor will always be underestimated – you have to tell ‘em, tell ‘em you told them, then tell ‘em again.”
But coming back to the point I made earlier. Communication is two-ways and part of the listening process is via the Internet as well as specific research. I monitor the categories my clients are involved in as well as those where I am interested in getting a new client. It is a powerful indicator that if there is little of no online Australian traffic, no one is doing anything.
Call me today and let’s explore how we can best tell your unique story to the world.