An organization’s reputation, brand, profitability, growth and future success depend on how effectively they reach and motivate their target audiences. Public relations specialists are communication and media professionals who act as advocates for businesses, hospitals, medical professionals, corporations, universities, nonprofit associations, and other organizations. His specialty is building and promoting positive relationships with specific audiences for his clients.
Entrepreneurs, professional service providers, small business owners, and business managers are increasingly looking to public relations specialists for help with strategic planning.
What does a Public Relations Specialist do?
Public relations professionals or companies that handle advertising for individuals or small organizations often handle all aspects of the job. They are involved in building and maintaining contacts and relationships, strategizing and planning, and preparing promotional materials. Manage or are directly involved in advertising or sales promotion work in support of marketing.
Depending on the needs of the organization, public relations specialists are involved in the following:
- media relations
- Press releases
- press conferences
- Commitments to speak
- media tours
- Interview Preparation and Coaching
- government relations
- Labor Relations
- Investor Relations
- reputation management
- Crisis management and communications
The public relations process
There are a number of widely accepted “public relations process models.” One of the most popular is Sheila C. Crifasi’s (2000) process model that uses the acronym “ROSIE” to define a five-step process of “Research, Objectives, Strategies, Implementation, and Evaluation.”
As with almost any professional service, the project starts with a bit of due diligence and analysis. Goals are defined along with strategies to achieve those goals. Media tools are selected and prepared at this stage. The implementation includes the preparation and release of materials. The success or failure of the program is determined in the Evaluation stage.
In recent years, the Internet has greatly contributed to the selection and accessibility of media tools with real-time feedback. These tools are highly prized by marketing and public relations professionals because they provide immediate insight into the effectiveness of a program.
The main instrument of most advertising campaigns is the “press release”, which provides the media with the raw material and background of a story. There are several online press release agencies with syndicated feeds targeting thousands of journalists around the world, such as PRWeb (www.prweb.com). The best online press agents provide the original advertiser with ongoing “real-time” feedback, including how many journalists have read the press release.
Statistics from the client organization’s website are another valuable online analytical tool. Most web hosting companies offer access options to a detailed statistical tool such as WebTrends (www.webtrends.com). Statistics are updated daily, making it possible to spot trends at the start of an ad campaign. This near real-time feedback helps provide the necessary information professionals require to manage a campaign effectively and maximize impact and ROI (return on investment).
Another popular advertising tool is “article submission.” As with the press release, there are also good sources for syndicated and targeted article submissions on the Internet, such as GoArticles (www.goarticles.com). These articles are often picked up by other websites that generate valuable links and targeted traffic to a client’s website.
Selection of a public relations firm
By choosing a public relations firm, an organization is selecting the professionals who will shape its image to clients and clients, the public, and the media. The image is reality in many societies, this decision can have far-reaching effects.
Here are some suggestions on how to select a public relations company:
1. Determine your most important public relations needs. For example; Are you launching a new product or service? Are you in a crisis management situation? Do you need to establish a relationship with investors?
2. Determine how long you will need public relations services, if possible. Is it a long-term or even permanent goal, like establishing and maintaining a relationship with investors, or is it a short-term project, like promoting an innovative surgical procedure? Remember that most PR firms will ask for a commitment of at least 6 months to establish themselves and demonstrate affectivity.
3. Research public relations companies. Ask colleagues and business acquaintances? The O’Dwyer Directory is a good Internet resource. If you are looking for someone local, please specify the geographic region in your internet search. Many public relations companies and individuals specialize. When doing Internet research on PR firms, some may have “case studies” that reveal details about strategic successes.
4. Conduct phone interviews with the person who would handle the account if you selected that agency. Strongly consider similar experience and personal or corporate compatibility over the phone and in face-to-face interviews.
5. Ask for and check references. Most PR firms have an online presence that usually sports a client list. New or small businesses will often be less expensive than larger businesses that have more resources to invest in a large, time-constrained project. Smaller companies tend to specialize and may know your business very well.
6. Hold meetings with potential candidates and present your program requirements. Look for genuine interest and healthy idea generation. Larger companies may send an account representative to a meeting. Ask to meet with the public relations specialist who will actually do the work, especially if long-term compatibility is important.
The growing demand for corporate responsibility
The need for professional public relations in an increasingly competitive business environment is creating a demand for public relations specialists from companies, organizations and institutions of all sizes. A company’s value is measured by its balance sheet, but continued success is determined by the quality of its public visibility.
The increasing demand from the public, investors, and government for corporate responsibility will continue to place an emphasis on building public trust and a favorable client image, which are best handled by public relations professionals.