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The role of PR in modern communications

Avoiding the dangers of anti-social (media) behaviour.

In business, there are few entities that are truly ‘money can’t buy’, but your reputation will always fall into this category. It does not matter whether you are a global chain or a small independent one-man-band, a key ingredient of your survival and success will always revolve around what your customer base, and the world at large, is saying about you.

In today’s ‘social sharing’ society, there is no abstaining from the conversation. Non-participation is viewed as behind the times or even worse, as having something to hide. Collated reviews and opinion aggregation metrics seem to impact every choice we make today, where to eat, where to visit, what to watch, where to sleep and ultimately who to trust. It is for this reason that the perception of PR is shifting, its practices are being adopted widespread and its value is being recognised more and more.

But what is PR in the digital age? A common misconception in years gone by was that PR indicated a fraudulent attempt to pull the wool over the eyes – a practice of making up stories or sensationalised ‘paparazzi’ style journalism, to trick the unsuspecting into false conclusions. That is not what PR is or ever has been and in a modern world that scrutinises ‘fake news’, it simply wouldn’t work.

PR is the practice of ensuring a company is presented in a light that reflects its true-self. Like cleaning your house before somebody comes to visit, the contents remain unchanged, but the way it is portrayed can help someone overcome pre-conception barriers and realise true value.

Good PR will see companies perceived as responsive to criticism, nobody is immune to mistakes – but it is how you respond to them that will define overall public perception. Crisis management is a key element of PR and having experts on hand to ensure comments made are informative, but protect the business from misplaced negativity, is invaluable. PR helps businesses speak directly to customers, addressing issues and topics beyond sales and ensuring in the long term, the ethos that defines your company is successfully communicated to the world at large.

From an internal perspective, PR can also help identify areas for change. Rather than simply promoting what is already good about a business, analytical and thorough PR services allow shortcomings to be identified and, if the opportunity is taken to address those, you will soon build a healthy pipeline of improvements, resolutions and successes to communicate to your audience.

It may seem scary, but an open relationship with customers and commentators can often become your biggest asset – PR is an opportunity to standout from the crowd and build ongoing positive relationships with stakeholders and critics alike. Whether you need to establish credentials, increase visibility, enhance your reputation, drive enquiries, alert new business prospects, help customer relationships or even demotivate the competition, there is no business that cannot benefit from good PR.

But, if PR is not about ‘spin’ then what makes up these successful communications? Many companies do not realise that the daily events they have grown accustomed to have news value – and would be of interest to a variety of audiences. Press releases are not advertisements and will often feature subjects such as corporate positioning, business wins, technical innovations, personal success stories, people orientated news items, credential focused resources and feel good factor information such as work with charities or on behalf of good causes. This is not to say that announcements about conventional advertised elements, such as new products, will not have a sales goal – but the wider implications of why a product has come to market, the problem it looks to solve or the need it aims to fulfil, can be explored in ways that traditional image centric advertising cannot.

Put simply, PR is the structured approach towards ensuring the hard work you do never goes unnoticed. Couldn’t we all benefit from that?

 

Joe Cuffaro

PR & Marketing Account Manager @ WSA – The Communications Agency

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