Public Relations agencies unlike ad agencies promote individuals and organisations through the use of editorial coverage in the form of stories and thought leadership pieces appearing on websites, magazines, television and newspapers. This, which is sometimes called free or earned media as opposed to advertisements or paid media, can have a largely different effect on consumer behaviour.
Public relations and marketing agencies share much of the same goals in that they promote their clients in order to ensure they are perceived as honest, exciting, successful and ultimately someone that their consumes should be engaging with and buying from. The difference however, comes in the manner in which these goals are reached.
In this day and age most consumers are aware of the advertising industry as a whole and view many forms of paid advertisements with scepticism at best. PR generated coverage in reputable publications and media formats on the other hand has the great advantage of third-party validation and subjective anonymity from the side of the brand, and as such is viewed with a lot more favour.
The Public Relations Society of America defines the management of public relations as:
Although a good overview of the general function of a PR agency, this definition doesn’t quiet portray the complete role that a public relations agency fulfils. In order to give a better picture one can also consider the tactics that PR professionals employ. Some of these include:
A good Public Relations agency or PR practitioner can analyse an organisation, find the positive messages and translate those messages into positive media stories. When the news is negative an agency can formulate the best response and mitigate as much of the damage as possible.
Effective PR practitioners have built long standing relationships with many different journalists in many different industries and are able to leverage these relationships to get their clients messages to the right people at the right time, greatly increasing the likelihood of these messages making into the main stream media channels. PR agencies know the best ways to pitch a story and how best to reach editors and journalists. Since they are not employees of the firm that hires them, they can give an honest and objective view of the firm and have a better understanding of what story ideas will work.
The relationship between an agency and a client should never be a passive one, and clients should be encouraged to inform their PR agency on the continual happenings and news worthy events within the organisation, with the current media atmosphere which includes blogs, websites, TV shows, magazines and other media that evolves every day, a good PR agency will help clients increase their visibility via increased recognition on as many respected editorial platforms as possible. Long term, public relations is an investment in the brand and the visibility of a firm or individual that results in increased recognition and reputation over a sustained period of time.