Q: Why is public relations important for my company?
A: According to Public Relations News, "Public relations is the management function which evaluates public attitudes, identifies the policies and procedures of an individual or an organization with the public interest, and plans and executes a program of action to earn public understanding and acceptance."
While the public part implies inclusion of things like public affairs, community relations, investor relations, public press conferences, media events, internal communications and crisis communications, it also involves a lot of behind-the-scenes, non-public activity. It could involve simply the writing of a press release, but it could also involve coordinating media contacts for an event or conference, securing credentials, lobbying for article placement and the like.
Sometimes public relations is an effort to influence the public. This is especially true for political action groups, associations and other groups. Sometimes public relations is community relations. Just look around your own community to see how many companies and organizations have a community affairs initiative or a person in charge with a related title. In larger, publicly held firms, this person is sometimes the director of investor relations. Investors are a public entity, so in this case public relations is appropriate.
What the public wants to hear is a good story. Good PR is the telling of a good story. The better the story, the better the acceptance by the public and the better the public relations. Of course if the story is especially appealing to those that could be your clients, then you could have a PR homerun. In this case, it is communication with your target market that may or may not be very public.
PR's importance is changing, according to The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR (HarperBusiness). American marketing strategists Al and Laura Ries argue that public relations has become the most effective way to build a brand. Well-known brands like The Body Shop, PlayStation and Harry Potter spend little on brand-name advertising. The same is true for many entrepreneurial companies like yours. Business owners become known in their respective fields of concentration many times through public relations and the associated media generated.
PR is communication in many ways with your target market. Maybe instead of public relations we ought to call it target market relations or TMR. You may be communicating about a new product, spreading news about your company or making a major announcement. You want to communicate publicly, but the only people you care about are potential prospects, customers or investors, in the case of a partnership or a public company. One exception may be communication to a group that you are trying to influence for the best interest of your company and target market. An example of this is lobbying government.
Define what your public or target is in your public relations effort. This is best done by defining your target market and then any sub-segment. Lining up publications and broadcasts with the market and the segments will define what the public is for your public relations.
The bottom line is to get word out about you, your company, your products and services to those who could potentially buy from you. Public relations is just one part of marketing, as marketing is made up of many things. The good news about PR is the cost and the effectiveness when it's in front of your target market.
Alfred J. Lautenslager is an award-winning marketing and PR consultant, direct-mail promotion specialist, principle of marketing consulting firm Marketing Now, and president and owner of The Ink Well, a commercial printing and mailing company in Wheaton, Illinois. Visit his Web sites at http://www.market-for-profits.comand http://www.1-800-inkwell.com, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.