What is Public Relations….?

Marketing, Public Relations, Advertising …… a common misunderstanding is that these terms are interchangeable; they are not. When I meet a prospective client for the first time they are often confused by these terms so I thought I’d use this article to explain the differences between each of these terms.

 Think about your favourite brand…. What made you decide to buy their product or service?

  • Was it because of the glossy packaging they used?
  • Did you fall in love the story behind the company?
  • Was it because you saw a friend using it, or maybe a business contact recommended a particular service to you?  
  • Had your read stories about the product or seen reviews in the media, whether print or online?
  • Did you see their advert in a magazine or TV, Facebook, Instagram or online? ​

Marketing

According to the Chartered Institute of Marketing “Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.”   

​In order to get your favourite brand to market, the company will have undertaken market research, focus groups, branding exercises, photography and a myriad of other things all designed to create a story around the product and make it attractive to you, their consumer. Having identified that there is a demand or a need for their service, and worked out who their target customer is the company now needs to get their messages out to you. This is where Public Relations and Advertising play their part. 

Public Relations 

According to the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, “Public Relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.”

Going back to your favourite brand, what spurred you to make that purchase If it was a technology product or fashion item, had you seen reviews of the product in your favourite magazine or website? Perhaps you saw an influencer review the product or do a live unboxing on Instagram, Facebook or YouTube? Do you ever wonder how the journalist or influencer found out about the product so that they could review it? This is where the company’s PR will have been involved; they will be responsible for getting the brand’s key messages out to the media, so that you, their target market, can find out about their products and services.

PR also works in other more subtle ways, if you follow a brand on Social Media, a Blogger or an Influencer, have you ever stopped to question why? The chances are it’s because what they post resonates with you, it might be because they share great tips and advice, photos of their latest products or simply things that you are interested in. All of this helps them to build a relationship with you and maintain goodwill and understanding. 

Lastly, think about how the brand engages with you directly. Every time you visit their store, whether that’s a bricks and mortar one or online, do you receive great customer service? Are you able to buy what you want? Do you get annoyed when they charge you for a bag, or gift wrapping? Each staff member you interact with plays their part in promoting the brand and developing your relationship with the company, the more positive your experience the more likely you are to recommend them, all of which is good for their PR in general.

It’s important to remember that good PR doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a minimum of three to six months to start to see results and the effort has to be sustained. Once you’ve built a relationship with a journalist, blogger or influencer you’ll often find that other opportunities start to come your way. I have clients who have regularly been called upon to provide comment, answer questions or offered the opportunity to provide articles following the initial campaign, which just goes to show how PR can benefit your business in the long term.  

Advertising

Advertising differs from Public Relations in one key way. An advert is a paid for announcement that appears in the print, broadcast or online media.  With PR, there is no direct financial transaction between the brand and the journalist, a journalist or blogger will have featured the product because they feel that it is something that their readers will be interested in. 

However there are occasions when these lines are subtly blurred and that is when a company pays for advertorials and sponsored posts. This is where a brand pays to get an article into a magazine or onto a website. The brand pays for the advertising space but can then use it to publish a piece of promotional editorial. In these instances the articles are, usually, flagged as either advertorials or sponsored posts so that readers are aware. The same applies to Social Media if an influencer is paid to promote a product then they must state in the copy that it’s an #Ad #SponsoredPost or that the products featured were given for review purposes.

In summary then, Marketing can be viewed as the canopy of an umbrella that uses Public Relations and Advertising as its ribs which in turn help to create demand for a product and service that ultimately results in profit and sales for the company. 

Eleanor Lester
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Eleanor Lester

Eleanor Lester is a PR and Marketing Professional with over 20 years’ experience, including B2B, lifestyle, food and drink, fashion and online retail. She is a passionate believer in the value that good PR and strategic marketing can bring to small and medium sized businesses.