While trying to understand what public relations are all about, you really have to differentiate between public relations and advertising.
Not because the two are directly related but because many people confuse the two professions as the same thing. Advertising can be a small part of a public relations strategy, but a true public relations campaign is a long-term strategy of building up relationships to get your message across. Many times a PR’s job is smooching with newspaper and other media editors keeping them updated with the latest information on their clients. And to do this a public relations agency has to understand what exactly is news? And basically, there are two ways of making news, either following a story, or creating a story. For anybody who wants to understand and execute public relations it is vitally important they understand how news works. You must remember that journalists and editors will always ask the question, What’s in it for me? And why is it important to my audience?
Create a Story
Above all, the most common form of public relations is to create a story, and good public relations people are great storytellers. Often public relations firms are engaged because their clients want to make the news about new products, a merger, winning a new contract, and other such things. The most effective news stories are third party endorsements, these can be things such as opinion-editorials, tweets, posts, videos etc. Some agencies create their own events and hold educational tutorials to prestigious and influential groups. This is a long-term strategy and takes time with no guaranteed results.
Follow a Story
Following a story is when a news item is one of significance and can be used to the advantage of a public relations firm. It could almost be anything, a financial crisis, perhaps some sort of political scandal. When this happens, reporters tend to look for an authoritative voice to give credence as an independent view. This is where public relations firms can really benefit as they can exploit a situation such as this.
How Important is Social Media to Public Relations?
There is a falsehood that many people in social media propagate, and that is a post or tweet can be just as important than a New York Times quote. This is simply not true, social media can augment a major press release but not replace it. Social media is a great amplifier, and the message has to be rewritten to fit social media’s short method of communicating.
Is it Possible to Measure PR?
Public relations is not an exact science, some doubters say it is all smoke and mirrors, and although this analogy is not exactly true it does have some credence. Many PR firms can create spreadsheets, and projected models but the data they provide are estimates. This is one of the most debated questions on how effective public relations actually are.