What is Public Relations all about?

Often, it is a challenge to explain what public relations is all about and what we PR professionals do for a living and how do we contribute in organisations and businesses. We do not reach out to clients to sell a product and do not go for client servicing, so in terms of direct monetary contribution to a business, we are not the ones. But we do try to promote a business through various other means which is mostly via unpaid or earned methods. Be it the traditional media, social media or speaking engagements, we communicate with our audiences through trusted sources.

PR professionals are storytellers. They create stories around a brand. PR can be used to protect, enhance or build reputation. A seasoned PR leader analyses the organisation, finds positive messages and translates those into positive stories. In case of a negative news, they can formulate the best response and mitigate the damage.

PR pros job is to convince reporters/editors to write a positive story about a client, brand or issue. It appears in the editorial of a magazine, newspaper, electronic channel or online through a website. Such a publicity through a story has much more credibility than any other medium.

Talking about storytelling. Organisations keep looking at ways to promote something fresh: a new product, a new app, a new market, a new senior management hiring, a new business plan, merger, an award, and the likes. The various methods of making news include bylined articles written for a publication, opinion pieces on a relevant topic, social media post, etc.

A PR pro must follow a story and that is when an opportunity knocks which can be availed by answering. Notice a story in the news and respond. It could be anything from a plunge in the stock market; a political scandal; the economic scenario; or any specific industry-related news. For breaking news, journalists often need an expert to comment in real time via a phone interview, video-conference, live video interview, tweet or email. Reporters often contact their usual list of experts whom they know or trust. With some quick thinking, reaching out can lead to great new connections and media attention.

When there is no story for immediate attention, businesses can insert themselves into a trend story. These are usually feature stories, in contrast to news happening today. PR pros can identify and create commentators out of organisations, who can expertly comment on certain industry trends. These identified people can be properly trained to face media and address the queries, and can be fed with a lot of expert information.

In today’s day and age, Digital PR makes use of social media platforms, networks and tools to interact with people online and build relationships. The social media part is the content and conversations on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and YouTube. The Digital PR part is the support functions needed to make those conversations relevant and effective – research, social audits, identifying influencers, developing and distributing the content.

All the above, along with paid publicity through various mediums can draw maximum results for an organisation’s publicity. Advertisements, advertorials and editorial are seen at the same time, you cannot divorce one from the other. Every day, organisations make the decision to spend their marketing funds on PR or advertising. They must make real choices. Huge budgets are allocated and spent on electronic channels, internet and print advertising every year. A good part of this budget is also allocated towards media entertainment which plays an important role in maintaining media relations.

So, we see PR all about information, awareness, alertness, media relations, timely dissemination of information, being well versed with the happenings around and much more.

Ritu Bararia
Ritu is a Corporate Communications leader, Mentor, Author, Public Relations Evangelist, Thought leader, Advisor. She has nearly two decades of working experience having spearheaded Communications, PR and Corporate Affairs with corporate brands such as Kingfisher Airlines, The Park Hotels, Bird Group.

She quit her corporate career in the beginning of 2018 to try her hand at various related things within communications space. She turned into a published author in 2020 with her maiden book ‘Little Joys of Communication’.

Currently Ritu is Senior Director at SCoRe and, Executive Director Communicators Guild – India (CGI).

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