What is public relations?
A short definition
We can define public relations as all the different techniques and methods used by companies to make institutional communication around their achievements, but also to promote their brand image. It also encompasses any action taken to generate sympathy among the public and to create good relations with all potential partners.
In other words, public relations consists of implementing various actions with the aim of building trust with the general public and taking care of its image. It is not about advertising but about communication.
Public relations was called "propaganda" barely a hundred years ago. It was not until 1919 that Edward Bernays, Sigmund Freud's nephew, democratized the term "public relations".
From that day on Bernays was considered the father of public relations. He used to claim to work in an "advertising department" before renaming his job as "public relations adviser".
What is a public relations officer?
The person in charge of public relations is the guarantor of his or her company's image, with the help of the various solutions that we will discuss in the rest of this article. They are part of the company's overall communication strategy, and are more specifically responsible for working on the company's message, image and personality, making sure that they are always in control of the information circulating about it.
Its primary objective is to establish the company's reputation and good image by creating a bond of trust with the general public, the press, the political sphere and all other stakeholders through public relations. To achieve this, a number of techniques are used, which are listed below.
What is the role of public relations?
Building a positive image
If the aim of advertising is to arouse the consumer's intention to buy, public relations are public communication actions aimed at presenting a company in its best light. Brand image, reputation and notoriety are essential notions for any company, and public relations allows these different aspects to be taken care of in accordance with its external communication strategy, but also with its internal communication strategy.
These communication actions can have a derisory cost compared to those of advertising. Indeed, by taking positive actions and making itself known, a company can draw attention to itself without necessarily needing to spend a lot of money. Anything that can help you build a positive image of your company and expand its notoriety by publicly communicating your values and actions falls under the umbrella of public relations.
Speaking to the press
One of the most important tasks of the public relations team is to build relationships with the press. Press relations, as the name suggests, refers to all actions taken by a company to maintain good relations with the media.
The techniques used to achieve this include speaking at interviews, events and press conferences, as well as providing the various media with materials such as press kits, press kits and press releases. This is a discipline where the relational aspect largely predominates, since the way you address journalists and offer them the opportunity to talk about your company is as important as the informational content you wish to disseminate.
Why do public relations?
Stimulating public interest
Your company needs to be known and have a good reputation with the general public. This notoriety helps shape your corporate image and establishes a form of trust between you and your public. In fact, it helps to create a solid adhesion of the general public who will gradually get used to hearing about you, your products and your services. By working on this bond over time, you will become an integral part of your audience's daily lives, and it will be easier for you to convey information without risk of loss.
Your image is therefore the foundation on which the success of your company rests. An excellent reputation is far better than any form of advertising. If you make people talk about you in a positive way, your reputation will eventually precede you and your communication campaigns will be all the more striking.
In addition to your image, you also need to keep the general public informed about your projects, new products and services and your initiatives. With public relations, you can achieve this goal more easily and prepare the ground for important announcements. Without this preparation, you will not have the visibility you need to showcase your assets and remain successful in your sector of activity.
If your industry is highly competitive and there are few differences between your products and those of the competition, strong communication and an excellent reputation will be crucial. Highlight the salient elements that characterize you: for example, the specific features of your products, your company's values or your CSR approach. Finally, do not forget that if you do not make this communication effort, which is of the utmost importance, your image with the public will not be able to evolve in a positive way. It is therefore the responsibility of public relations to ensure that this key information about you is conveyed to your public so that you can gain their support and trust.
What are the objectives of public relations?
Connecting with audiences
As for your audiences, remember to consider both your internal and external audiences. Indeed, your public relations are not limited to outside your company. The people who work for you should also benefit from the actions of your public relations team. These internal communication actions have a variety of objectives, including increasing cohesion within your teams and creating a climate of trust towards your company's leaders.
But it is also essential to do everything possible to bring your company closer to the general public. The ultimate goal is to convert your audience into consumers and then into brand ambassadors. Getting people talking about you is therefore essential to maintain a good reputation and to open up new opportunities.
Mastering your communication
In promoting dialogue around your business, you will need to remain vigilant about what is being said about you. One of the main objectives of public relations is to make people talk about you and to gain notoriety, but according to a strategy defined beforehand. In such an approach, it is essential to pay particular attention to your reputation. This can be achieved by analysing the press coverage and e-reputation of your company, particularly following the various events that punctuate its life.
The control of your communication therefore requires increased vigilance concerning the messages and speeches about you. It will sometimes be necessary to speak up to react to a situation that does not evolve as you would like it to: this is particularly the case in a crisis communication situation.
What are the means used by public relations?
The media make it possible to convey information quickly and to be in contact with the general public. Their credibility gives weight to your image and can greatly help you increase your popularity. Both print and online media reach a large number of readers every day; television, on the other hand, has a large audience. All these consumers have very different profiles, but they all share the same need to receive information. By appearing in the media, you make yourself visible at a time when the public is looking for this famous information. You will thus benefit from a welcome notoriety.
The Internet remains the world's leading communication network. Needless to say, the impact of websites on our daily lives is very significant, as we all visit a number of them depending on our needs and interests. As for the press, some websites are considered as references in their field. You can also create your own in order to be in complete control of what's on them. By opting for a third party website, you will have the opportunity to reach its readership. It is therefore advisable to carry out actions likely to arouse the interest of the sites in question in order to be able to appear on them.
Our daily lives have changed greatly since the emergence of social networks. All brands and companies, from the smallest to the largest, are doing their best to have a regular presence there by deploying considerable means to stay active and close to their community. It is therefore only natural that the public relations team should be involved in the company's digital communication strategy to ensure that the editorial line, tone and values are in line with the rest of the company's communication.
Becoming a sponsor implies financially supporting a place, a person, a group or an initiative. This approach has several advantages for a company, including tax breaks depending on the aid it provides. Patronage thus makes it possible to associate the company, its brand image and its notoriety with a specific action. It may be a matter of fighting a disease, improving the daily life of a section of the population or supporting an initiative or a place linked to culture or sport. Such support is often covered by the media and therefore benefits the company's reputation. It is by no means an advertising action, since the money spent is allocated to the supported entities and therefore does not serve to finance communication in a direct way.
Organising events such as a trade fair or a conference also helps to improve public relations. The same applies if you organize them. Events give a company the opportunity to make several announcements in a short period of time, thanks to different types of exchange time: press conferences, interviews, etc. This is an opportunity to approach public relations from several complementary angles. However, the process requires a great deal of organisation and preparation. You will probably have to call on service providers to assist you. But it is worth it, because any kind of event that can attract positive attention will benefit your public relations.
What is the impact of public relations in marketing strategy?
The authenticity of the approach
The general public's mistrust of advertising is well established. Advertising messages are, for the most part, easily identifiable and even automatically blocked on the Internet by dedicated extensions. Understand that effective communication must appear authentic and sincere, which is not the case for the image that advertising conveys because of its frequency and its objective, which is to trigger a purchase. Therefore, speaking out on other occasions allows your company to express itself without carrying an advertising message. In this way, public relations allows you to create moments during which it can be perceived differently by the public, with whom you will be able to strengthen your relationship of trust.
Make yourself understood
Above all, public relations allows you to hold a position of communicator. You can therefore convey all the information you need about your vision, your objectives, and your approach to achieving them. This approach promotes the idea of a coherent, well worked out and credible strategy to which your employees adhere. Your goal is not only to sell something: with the help of public relations, you also work to ensure that the public understands your intentions. Don't hesitate to call on a PR agency to evaluate your brand image and carry out a PR audit of your company.
What are the types of public relations?
As mentioned before, media relations involves having excellent contact with the various media. This allows you to create a relationship of trust that is conducive to more regular communication operations. Maintaining good relations with the press means keeping regular and positive contact and informing journalists by giving them enough material to help them do their job.
Among public relations, public affairs concerns a very specific sphere of individuals. Within private companies, public affairs is in contact with elected officials to lead discussions and take initiatives. Public affairs therefore depends on the current political climate and the way in which each company wishes to approach the public authorities in place at a given moment. The context can change quickly, which is why it is a good idea to have a vigilant person in charge of this complex subject.
This activity consists of using its influence and network to defend its interests and guide public policy decisions in its favour. This activity is highly regulated in France, with the existence of a register of interest groups set up by the High Authority for the Transparency of Public Life (Haute Autorité pour la Transparence de la Vie Publique). It is possible to call upon professionals who are part of lobbying firms, whose job is to put companies in touch with decision-makers and political parties. Lobbying still suffers from a negative image with public opinion, notably due to an ignorance of the techniques used by interest representatives, but it is the best way for companies to defend their interests and their economic model in the face of legislative and regulatory advances.
Public relations is also responsible for investor communications. Investors need to be reassured about the company's long-term vision and the means it uses to achieve its objectives. Delivering a consistent message is therefore of critical importance, as worried or disgruntled investors can significantly affect a company's stability.
How to communicate with the press?
The press release
Press releases are indispensable when you want to address the press directly. They should summarize all the information you need to share news about your company, announce the launch of a new product or service, or promote an event you are organizing or attending. Press releases must follow a specific format so that they are easily usable by the press. They must not be open to interpretation, otherwise the media could distort the message you want to convey.
The press kit
In addition to a press release, the press kit provides journalists with a wealth of information about your company or an event you are organizing, as well as resources such as photos or videos included in a ready-to-use media kit. The press kit, for its part, adds to this informational content products designed to promote your company.
The press is also online. Communicating on social networks also allows the various media to appropriate and relay information quickly. It is up to you to have a digital communication allowing you to complete the audience of a press release, for example by directly soliciting new media in a public way. You can thus directly interact with them and their user community.
Meetings with journalists
A company can meet journalists directly in certain specific contexts, for example by inviting them to a product launch event, during which they could preview the product. These meetings allow for exchanges in a framework controlled by the company in which the company, its products and services are highlighted.
Speaking in a more direct way allows for the formulation of an authentic and informative speech as mentioned above. The interview gives you the opportunity to go beyond the pure promotional framework to discuss the company's approach and strategy, by entering into the codes of the media you have requested. This allows you to tell your story in a way that will speak to the readers and/or listeners of the media in question.
The press conference
This allows you to bring different media together to speak at once. This type of meeting gives you the opportunity to make major announcements about your news, but also to answer questions from the press. This is a direct and indirect mode of communication that allows you to respond to requests from the various media, which will then relay the information they have learned, either in writing or with the help of video excerpts. It is one of the most effective tools of PR communication.
The press trip
Sometimes, your announcement is so important that the press has to go to a particular place, and this is done by organizing dedicated events. This is especially the case when you want to give the most authentic experience possible to journalists from the different media you want to see covering your event. You can therefore finance this trip in order to create the best setting for your announcements. Not every company can afford a press trip, and you may also need to enlist the help of service providers, but it is a particularly effective approach to public relations.
Public relations is an exciting and complex field. It is an unavoidable subject for any company, and a public relations agency can help you optimize your public communication. You will be able to increase your media visibility and rely on an experienced partner to match the leaders in your sector. This could be useful for activities such as event organisation, press relations or the definition of a sponsorship strategy.
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