To a layman Public Relations (PR) may mean managing media relations or rather getting your stories published in targeted media outlets. However, Public Relations is much more than just media relations.
The Public Relations Association of America (PRSA) defines PR as a “strategic communications process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and its publics”.
The term “publics” is a diverse term used to refer to anyone that has an interest in an organisation. It could customers, regulatory authorities, journalists, industry pressure groups, investors, shareholders, employees, trade unions and the general public.
The way an organisation relates with publics often shapes its reputation. Their experiences will shape their opinions of the organisation and consequently their decision to purchase products, use its services or to support its cause. This makes public relations an important management function involved in building a company’s corporate reputation by building mutually beneficial relationship between an organisation and its stakeholders.
In times of crises when a company is faced with reputational challenges such as product recalls, fatal workplace accidents that may result in massive industrial and legal challenges, it is its reputation that will enable it weather the storm.
The Chartered Institute of Public Relations thus defines public relations as a “planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics”
So how do you use public relations to build your brand reputation? Bill Gates once famously said: “If I was to one dollar, I would spend it on Public Relations”. The statement highlights the importance public relations in brand communications.
A brand is culmination of its unique image and customer experiences that distinguish it from its competitors. Your brand is a result of who you are, what to be, and who people perceive you to be. It includes “a set of beliefs, values and perceptions that exist in the mind of your stakeholders about your organisation”. Considering that the very nature of public relations is building beneficial relationships between the organisation and its publics, therefore it is key in managing brand reputation both online and offline.
PR tactics can be used to build a socially-networked community that share stories and experiences about your brand. When deployed effectively stories from such a community can influence their peers, family and friends to gain interest in your brand and perhaps make that important purchase decision or support your cause.
PR can help brands should monitor conversations both online and offline and respond in real time to ensure that any emerging issues are dealt with before they turn into crises.