“If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on public relations.” This is Bill Gates, billionaire and founder of Microsoft’s take on the importance of public relations (PR). It is the relationship an organisation has with others and, yes, the lack thereof when needed can send a company in a downward spiral, leading to a slow and painful death.
The Public Relations Institute of Southern Africa (PRISA) defines public relations as the direction, by means of communication, of insights and strategic relationships between an organisation as well as its internal and external stakeholders. Internal stakeholders are, for example, owners, managers and employees of a company whereas external stakeholders are customers, shareholders, creditors, government and the general public.
Understanding why public relations is important can arm a company against controversy. PR can also provide golden publicity opportunities to raise brand awareness and educate prospective clients about what it offers.
Here are five things every digital marketer should know about PR
It is deliberate
Every effort in PR is done to achieve a certain company goal and nothing is left to chance. Every piece of written content is evaluated and revised to convey a very specific message to a target audience in order to influence their perception of the company. PR also promotes two-way communication and actively seeks feedback form all stakeholders. This is done to achieve a certain outcome in the perception of the company.
It aims to create mutual understanding
For a relationship between an organisation and its stakeholders to be harmonious, mutual understanding must be achieved. This way all parties can reach agreement and build a positive relationship which is mutually beneficial.
PR is different from advertising
There is a saying which goes “Advertising is what you pay for and publicity is what you pray for”. PR-initiated publicity is earned while advertising is bought. Some also make the error of thinking that PR is totally free, though it can be, but it mostly requires some monetary expenses. Keeping the flame going in a relationship often requires some flowers and a nice dinner. The same principle applies when fostering business relationships, within limits of course. This also what brings us to the next topic.
Most countries have PR ethics regulators
Like in any other industry, bad apples exist, and the PR industry is unfortunately not excluded. In the 1930s to 1950s, for example, cigarette companies used doctors to prescribe ‘healthier’ cigarettes. For obvious reasons, this was completely unethical. Being found guilty of unethical PR practices holds a fate almost worse than liquidation; severed relationships and relentless public scrutiny.
Success can take time
A positive outcome in PR efforts can be instant or it can take time. In most cases, however, success takes time. Building positive relationships, fostering true trust and establishing mutual understanding usually takes time and effort. It is well worth the wait as these relationships can be worth more than an entire digital marketing budget.