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What Public Relations Do

Now more than ever, people are relying on social proof for validation in their choices. No matter if it’s a purchase, who they like, follow or admire. This is why cultivating a good public image is so important.

With so many forums and platforms available to have a voice and share information, the reputation of a business can quickly unravel if people talk about it negatively. That’s why anyone with a career in public relations dedicates their time to making their client a household name. So more people trust in their brand and buy into what they say and offer.

Clients of PR professionals could be anything from a business to government, influential person or organisation. Anyone who wants to portray a certain image can enlist the help of PR Agency. Upon which, these savvy individuals will utilise their contacts, tactics and strategic ideas to communicate the message they want people to hear.

What Does Public Relations Mean

Public relations basically boils down to providing the public with information about a brand, so people think about them in a certain way.

The image your client will want you to portray is something that will be agreed upon ahead of time. Understandably, they will want to be painted in a positive light. However, depending on their overall goal, they may want people to think about them in a particular way.

Some companies may want to be aligned with affordable sustainability. Other companies involved with technology, for instance, may want to be considered an innovator. Whereas an individual may want to be thought of as a positive role model, or the public official who cares. It all depends on the image they want to have.

When you think about it in a personal sense, everything you do or say is public relations. Your actions, conversations and language used all give off an image to the people you meet. If you give off a bad image, you will put people off. If it’s a good one, people are generally drawn to you.

It’s no different to the way businesses operate and how they entice their customers.


What Is Public Relations in Marketing

Public relations is a promotion method that falls under the umbrella of marketing. Both marketing and public relations have a common interest in publicity and customer relationships. Though where marketing’s immediate goal is sales, public relations strives to develop and sustain a certain image with the public.

Despite public relations being a promotion tactic, it is very dissimilar to advertising. Advertisers focus on the transactional exchange of ad space for money. Whereas PR professionals focus on developing relationships that earn them their media coverage.

This is the advantage of PR in creating a positive reputation. The fact that it’s typically earnt makes media coverage more believable, so people have more trust in the message.

You can find more detailed information on what public relations is here.

learndirect - What public relations do - build a good reputation

What Are The Advantages and Disadvantages of Public Relations?

When used effectively, public relations accelerates the image of the brand and influences public perception in their favour. Though, while there are many advantages to this promotion method, it isn’t without its challenges. 

Advantages of PR:

  • Cost Effective – Compared to promotional tactics used in advertising, PR campaigns are relatively inexpensive. Adverts are 100% paid media with benefits that generally end once the budget has been spent. Whereas the media coverage generated from PR initiatives is typically earned or purchased for a discounted price. Plus, clients can receive long-term exposure if their content is shared by viewers on online platforms.
  • Trustworthy – PR campaigns are generally more believable because the coverage is earned through the building of positive beneficial relationships. This attests to the quality of the message as media professionals and other outlets have a reputation to uphold. The fact the message is posed from a third party perspective takes advantage of people’s tendency to rely on the opinions of others before making their own decision.  
  • Attracts Your Target Audience – Because more people are relying on social proof before making certain decisions ties in nicely to PR tactics. As it utilises this thought process to get people on board with a brand. By approaching key figures and getting them to promote your brand's message, people who look up to that person will be more likely to take notice.
  • Changes the Way People Think – Any brand wanting to enhance or improve its public image can do so with the use of effective PR. A brand may have a reputation for poor quality. But if they make improvements and get influential people to rave about how good the quality is now, the upgrade is more believable. Making people more likely to take the leap of faith and give the brand another try.
  • Portrays Brands as Industry Leaders – If your brand is the first thing people think of when they consider a particular product, service or concept, you’re likely to be positioned as a leader in that industry. That’s why using PR tactics to get your brand talked about online, on the radio, on television and by relevant influential people is a great way to keep it top of mind.

Disadvantages of PR:

  • Content Control – With advertising tactics, companies have complete control over how the message sounds, looks and feels. Unfortunately, depending on the agreement, PR professionals can have less say in how their messages are portrayed. In some instances, information is provided to outlets to be used, but they can redraft it and use it in their own way. This helps the message sound more authentic, but it can also change the desired outcome if not delivered properly.
  • Results Aren’t Guaranteed – This is the same for any part of the marketing mix. Unfortunately, the time and money you commit to PR campaigns isn’t guaranteed to get you results. You could send out press releases to the media, bloggers and influencers and it may not get picked up or used. Or you could have your message announced and have no noticeable gain from it.
  • Hard to Measure – Unless you only have one PR activity running at a time, it can be hard to know which has resulted in new leads. It’s also difficult to gauge how your PR Campaigns are changing public perception. Besides seeing and hearing more positive mentions of the brand, there’s no direct measurement to quantify the results of your efforts.
  • It Requires a Particular Skillset – People thinking of a career in public relations may be of the opinion that it’s all about writing clever messages and press releases. While this is certainly part of it, it also requires you to put yourself out there and mingle with influential people. So, while you need to be good at writing and cultivating a good brand message, you also need to be prepared to be client-facing.
  • It Can Be Hard to Please Everyone – This can especially be the case with crisis communications. Say for instance a product has been recalled. If that product made someone seriously ill or caused injury to a portion of customers, they will likely not be so forgiving after hearing a statement of apology from the brand. As a PR professional, you will need to have different levels of coverage prepared depending on the severity of the issue. That way, you will hopefully be able to recover the brand's image in the eyes of all affected.

learndirect - What public relations do - advantages and disadvantages of PR

How Does Public Relations Work?

PR representatives for a large part of their role work behind the scenes. They are the people with their ear to the ground, trying to get an accurate idea of what the public thinks of their client.

They scour online platforms and offline media outlets to find where people are talking, what they are saying and respond where appropriate. Guiding any negative conversations in a more positive direction.

To influence public opinion on a wider scale, public relations professionals also utilise traditional and modern media platforms to deliver carefully worded announcements. Making sure they align with the tone of voice of the brand and are consistent with the agreed public image.

They strike up relationships with journalists, bloggers and influencers and create newsworthy press releases and press kits for them to use about the client. Whether it’s to talk about a new product, service, an issue or provide an opinion on a particular topic. Which can often be well-received since anyone providing content in their career is always looking for something new to share.

PR professionals can also set up public events like press conferences, TV appearances, outreach and volunteer programmes. In many cases, they act as the face of their clients brand and appear on their behalf to deliver their message. When the client or a nominated other person appears instead, the PR representative will often train them on how to communicate with the media.

Overall, they carefully control the information that is provided to the public about the client. To reduce the amount of avoidable negative press, and put out any fires from the bad press that comes from external sources.


10 Principles of Public Relations

  1. Know the Audience – Do your research so you know the product or service you’re offering actually caters to the needs of the people who hear your message.
  2. Build Your Story Over Time – Laying all your cards out on the table right away won’t help you build an image over time. Be patient and build hype and momentum gradually.
  3. Prioritise Stories Over News – Riding on the back of news announcements can get you short spurts of attention. But sharing your own powerful stories can have a cascading effect when they are picked up and shared. Plus they are totally your own.
  4. Look Outside Of Your Circle – Don’t just focus on what’s happening inside the business. What are others doing or saying that’s working? Looking outside your circle helps you stay current with market needs.
  5. Be Modest – Be proud but don’t build the brand image into something that appears unattainable.
  6. Don’t Over Promise – While you want people to think highly of the brand, don’t promise what you can’t deliver.
  7. Actions Speak Louder Than Words – Don’t get a reputation for empty words, the public needs to see action that proves your message.
  8. Always Take The Chance To Tell Your Side Of The Story – If the media needs a quote, make sure it comes from you rather than an ex-employee or someone with an unfavourable view of the company.
  9. Plan Ahead – Reactive responses often appear defensive. Give off the best impression by being proactive and preparing correspondence for possible scenarios in advance.
  10. Don’t Be A Barrier To Communication – Effective PR listens and responds to the views of the public and stakeholders. Blocking it out and masking problems will only lead to frustration and more damaging press.

learndirect - What public relations do - the principles of PR

What Courses Can I Study to Get Into PR?

Studying a course in public relations provides you with a great advantage when it comes to securing employment. This creative and dynamic line of work is highly coveted, so competition for roles is often fierce. Studying a course in PR not only proves you know your stuff, it shows you are dedicated to the profession.

General courses focusing on Press, Publicity and Profile Raising will help you to acquire desirable skills. However, courses dedicated to giving you PR skills will be more beneficial.

You can study PR courses in college, at university and online. The advantage of taking a course online is that you can gain the skills you need quickly since the course materials are completed at your pace. Rather than being dictated by a set timetable of classes.

Entry-level courses like the CIPR Foundation Award in Public Relations not only gives you essential industry skills, it provides you with an accredited qualification. Being accredited by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations means your qualification will be recognised by PR employers in the UK and overseas.

Other courses prepare you for specific roles, such as this Public Relations Consultant course. However, the skills you gain will be applicable and relevant to any PR career you decide to pursue.

If your goal is to work in public relations, there is nothing stopping you from getting started in this career.

As the leading UK distance learning provider, learndirect can help you achieve your career goals. We’ve recently established a unique and exclusive partnership with PR Academy to deliver courses that will help you secure employment in public relations.

Studied online, our courses can be completed on your terms. So there’s no worry if you have to study around other commitments.

Find out more about starting a career in PR by speaking with one of our Course Executives. They will help you find the PR course most suited to your needs.

Call them on 01202 006 464 or contact them online here.


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