13 September 2011 By Northern Lights
I have attended two events in the last week that shed very different lights on public relations and what people believe PR is about and does. It made me wonder what businesses are buying when they decide to hire a PR consultant.
With colleague Helen Standing I attended a session called How to Find the Angle – PR for SEO Experts at the ThinkVisibility conference in Leeds. The focus was on the benefits of using press releases containing relevant key words to drive search engine optimisation – in other words, traffic to your website. The press releases are sent to online publications and directories with links back to your own website.
After the session a couple of other delegates came over to tell us about lacklustre PR from consultants they had employed. In both cases they hadn’t seen any results for their investment and they were left with a feeling that they had wasted their money. What their PR people had been doing was largely media relations – sending a press release out to newspapers, trade publications broadcast media.
The other event was a PR Any Questions panel at international public relations conference Euprera 2011 at Leeds Metropolitan University. The panel consisted of some very high profile PR and communication experts, including Robert Hastings, former senior public affairs official and spokesman for the U.S. Department of Defense, Jane Wilson, CEO of the Chartered Institute of PR (CIPR) and Professor David McKie, who teaches strategic communication and leadership at Waikato Management School, New Zealand.
The message to the audience of PR practitioners and academics was that PR and communications needs to be strategic and in the boardroom. These were not people who believe that PR equals just media relations and press coverage.
Such a gulf of opinion is confusing for anyone outside our own industry – how do you know what you should be considering if you are looking to hire a PR consultant or agent? Here are my three tips
1. Decide why you need PR
You need to be clear about why you need PR. Reasons might include one or all of the following
To gain media coverage for your business, your product, your service – although I don’t believe that PR should be seen as just about getting media coverage
To write copy for a website
2. Prepare a PR brief
A clearly written document, outlining what you want from public relations with objectives and deadlines will help you to find the right PR agency or person for your business. This should include
3. How to chose the right PR consultant or agency for you
See or talk to several PR agencies or consultants. Your budget, particular needs and size of project will probably dictate the type of public relations consultancy you need – whether an independent consultant or an agency with several team members. Also, whether you are operating in a B2B market or selling a consumer product.
Getting it right means that PR becomes an effective business tool – not just a ‘would be nice to have’ extra. Do you agree?