The Beginner’s Guide to Public Relations and The Best PR Tools

Would you like to learn how to use public relations to build your business and raise awareness about your brand more effectively? Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about PR.

What Is Public Relations?

To eventually use public relations successfully, you must first have a basic understanding of what PR is. Public relations is a strategic communication process used by individuals, businesses, and organizations to create a positive relationship with the public.

A public relations specialist aims to maintain a strong relationship and positive image with a target market. This is accomplished using a communication plan encompassing media and other direct and indirect mediums.

Public relations is not the same as advertising. PR is a process where brands are promoted through editorial content on blogs, websites, magazines, news channels, television programs, and newspapers. This is entirely different than advertising, where paid promotions, ads, or stories written for reporters are the main methods of operation.

Types of PR

  • media relations
  • community relations
  • corporate and social responsibility
  • public affairs
  • crisis management
  • social media
  • employee relations
  • integrated marketing and communications

The History of Public Relations

How long have public relations been put to use? That’s a topic up for debate. While some point its origins back to ancient Egypt, our modern view of PR is said to have started about 100 years ago with Ivy Lee and Edward Bernays.

Lee is said to have invented the press release when he had to spin a news story about an accident for his client, the Pennsylvania Railroad, in 1906. He wanted to avoid the situation before reporters could report on other versions of what happened.

When John D. Rockefeller became a client in 1915, Lee told him to show his philanthropic side by giving dimes to poor children. Lee is also credited with inventing the “Breakfast of Champions” slogan for Wheaties and developing the Betty Crocker symbol.

Bernays used lessons from his uncle, Sigmund Freud, to take a more scientific approach to public relations. He used Freud’s ideas of psychology” to ideas ell soap, cigarettes, and bacon. Bernays is credited with creating what our modern world calls “media events” when he staged “overt acts” to tap into the subconscious feelings of the public.

The Purpose of PR

PR aims to raise awareness about your brand and establish trust in your company. Public relations will help you:

  • Manage reputation
  • Build credibility
  • Promote your brand’s values
  • Create a likable image
  • Strengthens community relations
  • Increase niche authority

Traditional PR vs. Digital PR

Today’s public relations world involves an exciting mix of traditional and digital PR tactics.

Traditional public relations methods include:

  • Crisis communications
  • Sponsorship opportunities
  • Event coordination
  • Press release distribution
  • Trade shows
  • Reputation management

While traditional PR successfully improves brand awareness, tracking exact performance metrics isn’t easy. For example, print and broadcast numbers are estimates of how many monthly readers or potential TV audience sizes are reached. Unfortunately, knowing precisely how many people saw or read your piece is more challenging.

Rather than focusing on numbers, traditional PR practitioners focus on brand positioning inside each media placement. They want to know how often the client brand has been mentioned in the post, how well the message was communicated, and how well their client was portrayed.

While the strategies used with digital PR are similar to those used with traditional PR, the digital arm has added to the impact of link building and search engine optimization across the Internet. In addition, these tactics bring about more tangible and measurable insight and results.

Another way digital PR differs is its ability to create partnerships with online influencers and bloggers. These online influencers often have just as much authority with their audiences as traditional sources do.

A digital PR specialist builds strong relationships with influential bloggers and works with them regularly to share content. For example, this might be a blog post that links to a client’s social media or website.

Both forms of PR are essential. Traditional PR helps create brand awareness and complements digital PR’s more immediate and measurable results.

Public Relations vs. Marketing

Now that you know the difference between traditional and digital PR, let’s tackle another common question: What is the difference between PR and marketing?

Here is a quick recap of our PR definition: Maintaining the favorable public image of an organization, a company, or a famous individual.

Marketing can be defined as a way to promote and sell products and services.

Marketing focuses on selling, while PR focuses on maintaining the positive image of the company selling the products or services.

How success is measured between these two business activities helps provide more clues about the differences.

A PR specialist might look at these activities as a success:

  • For example, the positive press produced from a company executive’s speech at a significant event.
  • Positive press about a company or product generated in broadcast outlets and trade publications
  • Generating positive “buzz” about a company from what is said by journalists, social media followers, or industry influencers
  • Awards won at industry events.

A marketer might look at these metrics when defining the success of a campaign:

  • The return on investment (ROI) – Was more revenue generated than money spent on the marketing campaign?
  • Whether or not sales goals were met

There is also an overlap between public relations and marketing. Ensuring people like a company and products sell well are intertwined goals. If people don’t connect well with the brand, then they’re not likely going to buy the product. If a product is horrible, then people aren’t going to view the company in a positive light.

Top 10 Public Relations Strategies and Tactics

Use the Power of Influencers

More and more people today are losing trust in traditional advertising. Instead, they listen to the third-party recommendations of influencers. Find influencers with your target audience and partner with them to promote you and your business.

Add the Human Element to Your Brand

It’s easy for an upset customer to take to social media and attack your company. Combat this by sharing the core values that make up the backbone of your brand. This establishes a human feel to your company and helps mitigate the few who cause trouble.

Use the Power of Testimonials

This is one of the most effective public relations strategies. It’s powerful when you allow happy customers to express excitement about your brand. Ask for video testimonials—feature full-length customer case studies.

Media Relations

This creates positive relationships with publications, journalists, and other news outlets. Doing this correctly helps get your brand exposure and encourages the media to market your company for free.

Offer Exclusivity

Rather than blasting your press releases to all the traditional media outlets, offer your exclusive story to one targeted outlet at a time. Research journalists in your industry and pitch why you selected them for each unique and complete level.

Use Native Advertising

Native advertising is paid media that appears like a standard piece of content. However, with traditional advertising becoming less effective, native ads are less promotional and provide actual value to readers.

Use Social Media

Your social media activity is exposed to the public at all times. Therefore, ensure each post adheres to a positive, consistent, and accurate strategy.

Internal PR

This is another name for employee relations. Employee relations involves communicating a positive employee perspective about your business. For example, you might use free training, employee newsletters, appreciation events, and employee perks.

Social and Corporate Responsibility

This lets you directly impact your company’s and brand’s public perception. It includes taking the following seriously:

  • Environmental responsibility
  • Ethical business practices
  • Philanthropy

Business Events

Business events can be attended by or hosted by your company, providing a chance to gain brand exposure. They also allow for sales opportunities as you meet prospects and current customers.

What is a Media Influencer?

The top tip in the previous section discussed the power of influencers. It’s important to know exactly what a media influencer is.

An influencer is a person with the ability to sway audiences into making purchase decisions. They possess this ability because of their knowledge, authority, or relationship with their audience. In addition, they have already invested years actively engaging with their following and know that following pays close attention to anything recommended.

Your job is to identify influencers in your niche who have your perfect audience so that you can get your brand and products in front of those targeted individuals.

Social media has grown significantly over the last decade, and many influencers use this medium for communication. They have built their reputation around their knowledge in their particular area of expertise. They create regular social media posts about that topic, and many followers pay close attention to their viewpoints.

Media influencers are made up of these four groups:

  • Industry experts and thought leaders
  • Bloggers and content creators
  • Celebrities
  • Micro-Influencers (experts in a specialist niche)

How to Develop Strong Media Lists

It’s essential to develop a media list of who will receive your news and how you’ll approach every blogger, journalist, editor, producer, and influencer to that you want to spread your brand story.

Figure out your target audience: Research everything about your audience. Learn what they’re interested in and how they enjoy consuming information. For example, do they use television, blogs, newspapers, websites, magazines, or videos?

Research your media outlets: You need to know what the audience or readership size is, the medium (radio, online, TV, etc.), and the topics covered.

Take the time to understand how often each media outlet produces new content. For example, a magazine might publish monthly, while a blog may publish daily posts. Understanding lead times and when your story lands in front of your audience is essential.

Find out who your contact is: Your media list must include the best people to contact for each media outlet. For example, which journalist do you need to get in touch with when sending your pitch to the tech section of a local newspaper?

Take note of the journalists who wrote the stories inside your target publications. Look at the job titles of producers, reporters, and journalists. Job titles offer clues into their specific area of expertise.

Please find the contact details of each person so you have the opportunity to pitch them directly. You won’t get anywhere if you send your pitch or media release to general email inboxes: many media outlet sites list staff members and their email addresses on the Contact or Company page.

Get organized: Use an excel sheet, for example, to manage your media list in a database. Use columns for a media outlet, contact person, email address, phone number, and job title.

Keep the list updated: Media contacts often change jobs or roles inside their organization. Read industry news, so you’re aware of changes taking place. This will inform you when new media outlets launch or existing outlets shut down.

Primary Public Relations KPIs You Need To Be Measuring

Here is a list of essential KPIs:

  • Potential reach
  • Active coverage
  • Social engagement
  • Media Outreach
  • Quality of coverage
  • Geographical presence
  • Overall media presence
  • Earned traffic
  • Domain authority
  • Event promotion

Top Public Relations Tools You May Not Have Heard About

  • PRWeb helps you get found by the best-rated press release services. Then, all you need to do is create your news, distribute it, and track it.
  • Zoho Reports allows you to share data about your brand. It includes easy-to-use charts and graphs. These can be used for visuals in press kits and with media outreach.
  • JustReachOut helps connect you with bloggers and journalists writing about your industry and brand topics.
  • PRNewswire is effective for distribution services and news production. They offer many ways to get in front of your audience, distributing to over 8,000 websites and 200,000 media outlets.
  • HARO (Help a Reporter Out) is a quote-mention service. The site emails source requests relevant to your brand three times per day. You can email a pitch or quote to any requesting journalists, and they then select which ideas or sources they want to pursue.
  • Prowly gives you the tools and insights to make you better at your everyday PR work.
  • Use Muck Rack to find journalists, get press for your story, monitor the news, and report on the impact of your PR.
  • Meltwater is a media intelligence company that monitors media and social media to help companies grow and build a brand.
  • Prezly provides software for communications teams that want to do more. For example, manage your media relations, create online newsrooms, and publish and pitch your story.
  • Mention is an easy-to-use media monitoring tool that lets you track social mentions and analyze competitors.
  • The coverage Book is used to showcase and measure the impact of your PR work.
  • Anewstip allows you to search global media influentials by what they have written or tweeted.
  • Agility PR Solutions allows you to discover journalists and influencers, amplify your messages, monitor media coverage, and measure the success of your PR campaigns.
  • Brandwatch helps the world’s biggest brands listen to their customers and understand consumer trends.
  • Critical Mention Critical Mention is the fastest, most reliable media monitoring and earned media measurement platform for broadcast media, online news, print, and social media.
  • JournoRequests get PR opportunities delivered directly to your inbox daily.
  • Augure gives you the power to transform how you launch your Communication and Public Relations campaigns.
  • Radio Guest List is similar to HARO; this service helps you find Interviews as a Podcast Guest, Talk Show, or Radio Interview Guest Expert.
  • BlogDash Uses its Blogger Outreach program to filter through 200K+ bloggers by keywords, categories, Klout score, and more data points.

Use the above information to create your PR plan and watch as brand awareness builds for your company.