By: Emma Honn
As a senior in the public relations program at the University of Central Missouri, I am often asked “What is public relations?” I get the question at family functions, social gatherings and different events around campus. Sometimes, I get tired of the question and think to myself “How do they not understand?” I have realized that people do not know what public relations is because PR professionals have been doing PR for their clients, and not for the profession itself.
Public Relations Society of America defines public relations as “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” To a public relations professional, this makes sense. However, to someone who knows nothing about the industry, it may not. Here are a few things you need to know about public relations.
We are strategic storytellers. We use narrative to build our brand and relationships with our intended audiences. It can be through social media, brand specific communications or the media. We tend to try and humanize a brand, meaning we add a human element to a story or brand to help our audiences relate. For example, instead of saying “buy this product,” we say, “this is important because…” We do this to build trust between our company and our audiences.
We work with the media. Read that correctly: we are not the media, we work with the media. The goal here is to earn media placements. We build a story with a human element, and earn media coverage on the subject. This gets our brand in front of our audiences for something that may not necessarily be our products. Although there is no guarantee of media placement, when we do earn a spot, there is a third party validation of our brand, our products and our story.
We write press releases and speeches, and plan and execute events. A press release is typically written by a public relations professional with the goal of it being picked up by a media outlet. These, however, are written with much thought, newsworthiness and human element. If you are ever listening to a speech, chances are, the script was written by a public relations professional. The basis of speech writing is solid writing skills. PR professionals have an eye for detail and design, two things that are essential to a great speech. Public Relations departments typically handle the planning and execution of events meant for public outreach and media relations. If you are ever at a large event, it was probably handled by someone who works in PR.
We manage social media and handle crises whenever they arise. Social media is a tricky subject. Since it is a relatively new thing in public relations, we have had to learn how to adapt and work with ever-changing platforms. We handle crises that may come up for organizations. For example, think of Volkswagen’s emissions scandal. Every statement given by VW, press conference held, you name it, was planned and handled by a PR team. Crises can range in severity, but whatever the crisis may be, a solid PR professional can handle it.
We are strategic storytellers, work with the media, write press releases and speeches, plan and execute events manage social media and handle crises. These topics are all under the public relations umbrella, but this just scratches the surface. Now, the next time someone says “I work in public relations,” or “I am a public relations major,” you will know a little bit about what they do.
Authenticity is first and foremost, one of the most important practices a public relations professional should be undertaking. Publics have proven that their trust in the media and online information is at an all-time low, so having to weave through press releases and information coming from specific companies themselves is a daunting task in and of itself when one already feels as though a strong bias is present. It is important to be sincere in your messaging and ensure your information is both credible and with no ill intent. It is a good idea to always present sources, data, and strategies behind a statement you are making to ensure the reader is able to check if your statement is valid.
2.) Utilize Social Media
Social media is arguably one of the most important elements a business can have. It allows a company to have a voice and write their own story instead of allowing others to write one for them. One bad Yelp review can spiral into a large mess for any business if they are not there to give background a mediate the situation. For example, if a local= sushi restaurant relies on word of mouth consumers and one customer feels as though they have a negative experience and decide to put a review online, that may be the first thing anyone sees when they look up “nearest sushi restaurant” on their phone. People are likely to not go somewhere with a bad review and no way to see good reviews or see that everyone else in the area loves to eat there. If this business had a personal website, that would likely be the first thing to pop up in a google search and could allow you to have a voice in sharing positive testimonials and photos capturing happiness of customers. This could make or break new customers visiting your location. Social media also allows others to interact with your business in personal ways and spread the word. A good example of a business using social media to help their brand is Wendy’s. (http://twitter.com/wendys ) They are able to perfectly advertise their menu items and deals, while also providing a comical element that many young adults and teenagers engage with.
3.) Video Content
Video content is said to be one of the most important elements of utilizing your company’s online footprint. People are more likely than ever to engage with creative videos rather than reading articles or releases or any other form of written content. It allows users to stay engaged and interested rather than be distracted or overwhelmed, and when used correctly, could allow you to impact a large audience. For some great ideas on how to better utilize video content, refer to this article https://www.singlegrain.com/video-marketing/10-useful-types-of-video- content-viewers love/ .
4.) Humanize Your Brand
Consumers do not want to feel as though their favorite brand is ran by robots. Try to avoid sounding canned or emotionless when producing content for the public to see. Use emotion, provoke thought, allow empathy to be a frontrunning emotion in your mind when speaking to the public. Nike is an example of a brand that does this extremely well. Whether or not one agrees with their stances or messaging, it is inarguable to state that no matter what emotion it is, you are feeling something after one of their campaigns is ran. There are ways to do this without eliciting controversy, but keep in mind that people want to WANT to connect to you. They must feel as though there is a two-way communication rather than simply a computer speaking to them.
By Shelby Bueneman
Podcasts have become increasingly popular. You can listen to them on Spotify, on the app itself and on Apple music. With such a wide variety of podcasts it can be difficult to find the right one that will benefit you. For public relations professionals there are five basic podcasts to listen to that will help them grow their skills and their business. Listening to these podcasts will help them stay on top of trends, revamp their creativity, find ways to be a better leader, keep up with the actual PR industry and benefit from writing tips.
Stay on Top of Trends
Public relations professionals need to keep up to date on what is trending within their business area, nationwide, and globally. Keeping up with different trends allows PR professionals to see how their target audiences are affected and how they react to the trends. They can use this to their advantage to reach their publics more efficiently. For news podcasts I ,recommend NPR News Now by NPR and Global News Podcast by BBC. Both of these podcasts are updated daily and are fact based with some occasional humor.
Having a creative mind is important for PR professionals. It’s how campaigns and other communication strategies are created. PR professionals should keep their mind flowing with these different podcasts. The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry is a great podcast that showcases different speakers, artists and thought leaders. In this podcast Henry points out different ways to be happy, healthy, and creative, not only at work but in life.
Find Ways to be a Better Leader
I previously attended a conference where it was noted that leadership does not only come from those with higher up positions. Leaders are found throughout the whole company. This sentiment is shared through different podcasts such as Leadership and Loyalty by Dov Baron and This Is Your Life by Michael Hyatt. Baron talks about leadership by using honesty and emotional intelligence. This provides a more insightful way to connect with those you oversee or those with whom you work closely. Hyatt’s podcast is more about helping those with fast-paced lives lead with confidence.
Keeping up with the PR industry
While it is important to stay on top of current trends, it is also important to stay on top of what is currently happening in the PR world. With so many new ways to keep track of everything it is helpful to have much of you need to know wrapped up in an episode. You can follow The Spin Sucks Podcast by Gini Dietrich and Inside PR podcasts to keep up with the PR world. Both of these podcasts follow the inner workings of the PR world and talk about current trends within it.
PR professionals are constantly writing and there is always room for improvement. While professionals usually use AP style, these podcasts can provide a bit more of a fresh narrative. Check out Writing Tips by Brian M. Taylor and Copy that Pops by Laura Peterson, M.A.E.D. for inspiration. Both of these podcasts has some humor to them so you won’t snooze on your way to the office.
With the PR world always changing, listening to podcasts is one of the easiest ways to stay in touch. They are great to listen to on your commute to work or even when you are unwinding from a long day in the office. Happy listening!