While its an element the major conglomerates utilize to their advantage, many smaller companies overlook the utilization of public relations. Why? Honestly, probably because they don’t exactly know how to effectively utilize the vital business tool. Yes, the term is consensually understood by most business savvy individuals, but understanding the term, and effectively putting it into effect are two different things.
Many elements within business, or even marketing are black and white. Business is all about strategic planning, particularly utilizing numbers, key statistics, and analytics to ultimately propel a company’s overall strategy.
A marketing plan can take a few different directions, but all in all, the goal is curate a creative campaign to effectively promote your business. Are there numerous ways to do that? Of course, but public relations isn’t necessarily as defined.
Public relations is ‘technically’ defined as, ‘the professional maintenance of a favorable public image by a company, organization or a public figure.’
In other words, this aspect attains & retains a positive image in regards to the general public. The generic meaning while broad, is overall understood… A company screws up, they need a PR plan to retain a positive public image. A public figure has some type of scandal, they need some type of PR plan to reconstruct their public image. A company wants to increase their public perception & likability, they need some type of PR plan.
Here’s the challenging part, and the number one reason I find the implementation of the element absolutely fascinating. The most effective PR plan is one that goes unnoticed. What I mean by that is, the more discrete a course of action is, the more likely the PR will have the effect it was orchestrated to.
Marketing as a whole is the opposite, you want the entire world to know you’re marketing your business/product/whatever, there’s a simple game plan there. Sure, the creative concepts behind marketing is what make it challenging, and what separate the quality of a marketing strategy, but once a direction is diligently thought out, it’s usually smooth sailing from there (for the most part.)
It is why public relations is the true art form within marketing, & business. It not only takes a firm understanding of the term itself, as well as various other variables within a given situation (goal of the PR campaign, audience, analytics, statistics, etc.), it takes a creative concept that is not only going to effectively address the issue at hand, but attempt to make that concept look, & feel genuine (rather than an orchestrated PR campaign).
So here are a few key highlights when putting together an effective public relations campaign.
Understand Your Current Public Perception
Don’t create a PR campaign just to create a PR campaign. Before any plan of action is orchestrated, make sure you understand how the public currently perceives you as a brand, person, company, etc. While this step is the most basic, it’s surprisingly overlooked, as many are just quick to form a plan, or even hire a firm.
For example, say I’m a math teacher (which you would ideally never want), and you’re a student who just transferred into a specific class. I tell you, we have a math test next week. Is your gameplan to go, ‘ok, I’ll study and prepare?’ Well if it is, I don’t see it fairing well. You weren’t provided the current lesson, or specific topic it’s pertaining to. You have no idea what the ‘math test’ can account for. So you’re going to prepare for something in which you don’t have any perception of the current state (lesson) is of the class. Ideally, you hear ‘we have a math test next week,’ and you’re response is not to immediately take action, but examine the situation (find out what specifically the test is on, and what lessons have been provided that are essential to performing well).
Just like math, public relations is a broad statement, and every situation is different, and must be examined before any course of action is taken.
Choose The Right Creative Strategy
PR takes many forms, and from my past experience, the most successful campaigns are usually the ones that are executed with discretion. Why? Because if people can’t tell it’s a planned out PR plan, it comes off as more genuine, and the public will likely ‘buy into it’.
Some PR campaigns take a head-on approach, which is also effective if used in the right circumstance. The issue here is determining which campaign type would be most effective in your given situation. This goes back to examining the initial situation first and foremost, as there is absolutely no way to accurately determine the proper course of action without understanding the current situation first.
Once a strategy has been appointed, then the fun begins. For ultimate success, a PR campaign should take the applicable strategy, and implement creative elements to proceed. Have you ever seen a public figure hold a press conference after a major scandal of some kind, and they’ll address the public by reading off a piece of paper? Think back as to how well those go. Spoiler: they don’t go well.
The public clearly sees it’s an organized PR stunt that lacks ingenuity. Any form of PR in this lazy form, will usually see lackluster results. Implement a creative element towards what the campaign is set out to accomplish, it can absolutely be staged, but the idea is to make it look genuine, and real. So reading off a piece of paper at a podium is one of the most ineffective forms of public relations one can witness.
Discretion Heals All
As mentioned above, the most effective PR campaigns are discretely implemented ones. When I say discrete, I’m really emphasizing the ability to make whatever PR stunt at hand feel as genuine as possible. So common sense is going to sat to implement true ingenuity, implement true discretion. How can a PR stunt/campaign can do this flawlessly?
If you’re looking for examples on how masterful a clever PR campaign can have a lasting effect, be sure to check out the UnBiased. UnCut. podcast episode, ‘Discretion of PR’.