How to Make the Most of Your Public Relations By combining PR with branding, content creation, advertising campaigns and social media outreach, companies can generate marketing results and boost their business growth.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Public relations (PR) is essential to any successful strategic marketing plan, but is your business making the most of its PR efforts? An effective PR campaign not only delivers media coverage in your target publications. In addition, optimized PR feeds into all other analog and digital marketing efforts to help your business connect with its audiences, wherever they are.
Why PR is so powerful
Even in the age of digital marketing, public relations campaigns are based on pitching to the media. When just a few years ago, PR professionals focused on print and broadcast media only; they are now extending their efforts to include online-only publications and leading bloggers.
The goal is simple: PR professionals are working with journalists and other content creators to add credibility to the brand they are representing. Media coverage not only creates exposure for the brand. It also adds a layer of credibility and trust that exceeds what other elements of a brand's marketing strategy can provide.
According to the Institute for PR, audiences consider so-called earned media to be more credible than other sources of information. This credibility is critical to brand development, whether you want to build brand awareness or establish thought leadership in your field. Earned media is the result of effective PR.
The importance of PR is reflected in the industry's continued growth. PR revenue is expected to grow worldwide from $88 billion in 2020 to $129 billion in 2025. PR agencies in the United States generated $14.5 billion in revenue in 2020. PR grew during the pandemic when advertising and the marketing industry as a whole contracted.
How to optimize the outcome of PR campaigns
To optimize the results of PR campaigns and maximize the benefits of public relations for a brand, marketing and PR professionals need to recognize the strengths of PR. Although online and offline news coverage can support a brand in the short and the long term, PR thrives over time. In addition, PR campaigns have more impact when connected to other elements of a company's marketing strategy.
Focusing on the long term
Establishing successful media relationships takes time. PR experts understand which publications are interested in covering which brands and consistently pitch relevant stories to their media contacts. They understand that not every journalist will pick up every press release or feature suggestion. Rather than blanket-emailing press releases, PR pros get to know the interests of the most relevant journalist and pitch stories that are likely to make the cut.
The effort of relationship-building and consistency pays off when a brand receives attention in local and regional media outlets, eventually even getting the attention of national media. Industry-specific publications can also offer a great starting point for PR campaigns.
PR is best used as a mid to long term component of a brand's marketing strategy. Allowing time to establish and nurture media relationships plays to the strengths of PR. Of course, there may be situations when immediate crisis communications are critical to protecting a brand's reputation. But in most cases, PR excels as part of a long-term strategy.
Combining the strengths of PR with other marketing activities
Despite its undoubted strengths, PR alone is not enough to achieve all of a company's business goals. Expecting a single PR campaign to increase credibility, drive web traffic, establish thought leadership within an industry and drive foot traffic to local branches is unrealistic.
Saying that, once marketing teams combine PR efforts with other strategic marketing activities, they will soon see the desired results. Combined with consistent brand messaging, for example, PR can improve brand perception among audiences.
While public relations does not necessarily result in immediate sales, stories pitched to the media can effectively educate the public about specific products and services. Many online publications are happy to link to a company's website, thus helping search engine optimization (SEO) and local search rankings.
How PR, paid advertising and social media work together
Where PR is ideal for improving a brand's image in the long term and connecting with audiences through a third party, paid advertising offers short-term, data-driven opportunities.
A strategically planned program of paid adverts can immediately increase brand or product exposure. Since the advent of digital marketing channels, it has become easier to reach highly targeted audiences, increasing the effectiveness of campaigns. Real-time campaign performance data allows marketers to iterate messaging and campaign design on the spot, further improving the effectiveness of their approach.
High-quality visual content, including images and videos, can be compelling in local newspapers, broadcast outlets and online channels. By streamlining advertising and PR messages, paid and earned media start working hand in hand to reach users of publications they already enjoy and, more importantly, trust.
Social media has been another fairly recent addition to a marketing team's choice of channels where they connect with their audiences. Like traditional media, social media offers a range of opportunities, including paid, earned and owned coverage.
While earned coverage continues to come with the highest level of credibility even on social media, a company's owned media channels offer another opportunity to share the results of PR efforts. By sharing stories that have been published about the brand, marketers are allowing the third-party credibility of those stories to reflect on the brand.
Existing followers will feel reassured in their choice of brand followership, and sharing stories from credible sources may catch the interest of new potential audiences.
Bringing it all together
Successful marketing relies on a solid strategy that joins the strengths of PR and other marketing activities. Combining PR with the power of branding, content creation, advertising campaigns, and social media outreach allows companies to generate the marketing results and overall business growth they are looking for. On its own, PR is powerful, but in combination with other marketing activities, public relations become unbeatable.