The term public relations (PR) has its origins in the early 20th century. It evolved as a response to the need for organizations, businesses, and individuals to manage and improve their relationships with the public, including customers, stakeholders, and the broader community. The development of PR as a profession and a concept can be attributed to several key figures and historical events:
- Ivy Lee: Often considered one of the founding figures of modern PR, Ivy Lee is known for his work in the early 1900s. He is credited with coining public relations and is recognized for his efforts to promote transparency and ethical communication between organizations and the public. Lee’s work with major corporations helped establish open and honest communication principles.
- Edward Bernays: Edward Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud, is another influential figure in the development of PR. He is often referred to as the father of public relations. Bernays applied psychological principles to shape public opinion and behavior. He authored the book Crystallizing Public Opinion in 1923, which further solidified the concepts and strategies of PR.
- World Wars: The world wars played a significant role in the evolution of PR. During World War I and II, governments and military organizations utilized PR techniques to manage public perception and garner support for the war efforts. This led to the recognition of PR as a strategic communication tool.
- Corporate Growth: As businesses and corporations grew in the 20th century, they recognized the importance of managing their image and reputation. PR became essential for corporate communication, crisis management, and branding.
- Professional Organizations: The establishment of professional organizations like the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) in 1947 helped formalize the field of PR and set ethical standards for practitioners.
The term public relations reflects the core concept of the field, which is to manage and foster positive relationships with the public or various stakeholders. PR involves strategies and practices aimed at building and maintaining trust, credibility, and goodwill between organizations and their audiences.
Over time, public relations has evolved to encompass various aspects of communication, including media relations, crisis communication, corporate social responsibility, and digital marketing. It plays a crucial role in shaping public perception, managing reputation, and facilitating dialogue between organizations and the public in the modern world.
Public Relations Today
I’ll be honest that I’m less than impressed with many public relations professionals and the strategies they utilize. Perhaps some of it is that I am inundated with PR requests on a daily basis for Martech Zone and it’s exhausting. Most are cut-and-paste irrelevant press releases sent by email that are automatically resent when I ignore them the first few times.
We still advise our clients to hire a public relations professional to help execute the outreach necessary to build awareness and authority. It’s rare we work with a PR agency that truly understands how key their efforts are… and how they should communicate, develop, and track their efforts across the entire sales and marketing strategy. For that reason, we typically impose ourselves in that relationship to ensure we can fully leverage their efforts… and so they can leverage ours.
Let’s first speak to some or all of the goals that we recommend PR for:
- Building Brand Awareness: PR efforts aim to increase the visibility and recognition of the brand among the target audience, contributing to brand awareness and recall in sales and marketing campaigns.
- Enhancing Brand Reputation: PR works to maintain and improve the brand’s reputation by managing online reviews, addressing customer concerns, and promoting positive news and stories.
- Generating Media Coverage: PR professionals strive to secure media coverage in relevant online publications, blogs, and social media to amplify the brand’s message and reach a wider audience.
- Driving Website Traffic: PR campaigns can increase website traffic by attracting users interested in the brand’s stories, news, and content.
- Supporting Lead Generation: PR can indirectly support lead generation efforts by creating trust and credibility, leading to more conversions in online marketing funnels.
- Managing Crises: PR is crucial in managing and mitigating online crises that can impact sales, such as handling negative social media trends or addressing product issues.
- Influencer Partnerships: Collaborating with influencers as part of PR strategies can increase engagement and sales, especially in industries where influencer marketing is prevalent.
- Supporting Product Launches: Public Relations helps create buzz and anticipation for new product launches or updates, driving online technology adoption and sales.
- Establishing Thought Leadership: PR can position key figures within the organization as thought leaders in their industry, helping to attract online audiences and potential customers.
- Measuring and Analyzing Results: PR professionals use data and analytics to measure the impact of their efforts, aligning PR goals with sales and marketing objectives and making data-driven decisions.
- Creating Online Advocates: PR campaigns can turn satisfied customers into online advocates who promote the brand through word-of-mouth and social media, indirectly contributing to sales.
- Supporting Content Marketing: PR and content marketing often work together to create and distribute valuable content online, which can drive traffic, engagement, and sales.
- Strengthening Customer Relationships: PR efforts focusing on customer engagement and communication can enhance customer loyalty and retention in online sales.
- Complying with Regulations: In online technology and marketing, PR should ensure that the brand complies with relevant regulations, such as data privacy laws, to maintain customer trust.
- Adapting to Online Trends: PR strategies should continuously evolve to align with emerging online technology trends and platforms, ensuring the brand remains relevant and competitive.
These goals of Public Relations are interconnected and play a vital role in supporting sales, marketing, and online technology initiatives, ultimately contributing to the success and growth of the brand in the digital age.
The relationship between PR and other digital marketing strategies is symbiotic, where each can complement and enhance the effectiveness of the other. I’m genuinely disappointed in the lack of interest by PR professionals to work across the silos of both sales and marketing to drive or identify opportunities. Here are examples of how PR can drive other digital marketing strategies and vice versa:
PR Driving Other Digital Marketing Strategies:
- Influencer Marketing: PR can identify and engage influencers who align with the brand’s message and values. Influencers can then be leveraged in digital marketing campaigns to reach a wider audience and promote products or services authentically.
- Content Marketing: PR can generate newsworthy content, such as press releases or stories, that can be repurposed for content marketing. This content can serve as the foundation for blog posts, videos, and infographics that engage the target audience and boost SEO efforts.
- Social Media Marketing: PR efforts that result in positive news coverage or customer success stories can be shared on social media platforms. Social media marketing can amplify these stories, generating increased engagement and brand awareness.
- Email Marketing: PR-generated content, such as industry insights or expert commentary, can be incorporated into email marketing campaigns. Sharing thought leadership content with subscribers can help establish credibility and nurture leads.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO): High-quality PR content can contribute to SEO efforts by generating backlinks from reputable sources. PR professionals can collaborate with SEO experts to optimize content for relevant keywords and improve online visibility.
Other Digital Marketing Strategies Driving PR:
- Content Marketing: Content marketing campaigns can create a stream of valuable, shareable content that PR teams can pitch to journalists and bloggers as relevant stories. This can lead to increased media coverage.
- Social Media Marketing: Social media can be a powerful tool for PR to distribute news and updates to a wider audience. PR strategies should align with social media calendars and utilize paid promotion to reach specific demographics.
- Email Marketing: Email marketing campaigns can be used to share press releases, company updates, and success stories with subscribers. This aligns PR efforts with email marketing strategies, ensuring consistent messaging.
- Online Advertising: Paid advertising campaigns can be designed to support PR initiatives. For example, a brand can run online ads to promote a featured news article or a product launch covered by the media.
- Customer Reviews and Testimonials: Digital marketing can encourage satisfied customers to leave positive online reviews or provide testimonials. PR can then leverage these testimonials in media pitches to enhance the brand’s reputation.
- Data Analytics: PR and digital marketing teams can benefit from shared analytics data. Metrics like website traffic, social media engagement, and lead generation can inform both PR and marketing strategies, enabling data-driven decisions.
PR and digital marketing strategies can work hand in hand to amplify each other’s impact. Integrating these efforts cohesively ensures a consistent brand message and maximizes the reach and effectiveness of both PR and digital marketing initiatives.
How Can You Measure the Success of Your PR Strategy?
Measuring the impact of a PR strategy in a digital context requires a combination of quantitative Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and metrics. These metrics provide insights into the effectiveness of your PR efforts and their alignment with sales, marketing, and online technology goals. Here are some key KPIs and metrics to consider:
- Media Mentions: Track the number of times your brand is mentioned in online media, blogs, and social media. This can indicate the level of visibility your PR efforts have generated.
- Earned Media Value (EMV): Assign a monetary value to media mentions based on advertising rates. EMV helps quantify the value of PR coverage in terms of ad spend.
What is Earned Media Value (EMV)?
- Advertising Rate: This is the cost per impression or advertising space in the media outlets where your brand received coverage.
- Equivalent Media Impressions: This represents the estimated number of people who could have potentially seen or been exposed to your brand through the media coverage. It is often determined by the media outlets’ reach and readership/viewership.
- Website Traffic: Analyze the increase in website visitors following PR campaigns. Tools like Google Analytics can provide detailed insights into referral traffic from PR sources.
- Social Media Engagement: Monitor likes, shares, comments, and other forms of engagement on social media platforms in response to PR-related content.
- Follower Growth: Measure the growth in social media followers or subscribers to newsletters or blogs due to PR efforts.
- Conversion Rate: Assess the percentage of website visitors who take a desired action, such as signing up for a newsletter or making a purchase, after engaging with PR-related content.
- Lead Generation: Track the number of leads generated through PR campaigns and their quality in terms of potential for conversion.
- Online Reputation Scores: Utilize reputation management tools to calculate online reputation scores based on sentiment analysis and user reviews.
- Share of Voice: Measure your brand’s share of media coverage compared to competitors in your industry. This can provide insights into your market presence.
- Backlinks: Monitor the number and quality of backlinks generated from media coverage or PR content. High-quality backlinks can positively impact SEO efforts.
- Social Media Reach: Calculate the potential reach of your social media content through shares and retweets. This metric quantifies how many people could have seen your message.
- Click-Through Rate (CTR): Measure the percentage of people who click on links within PR content, such as press releases or articles.
- Email Open Rate: Assess the percentage of recipients who open PR-related emails, which can indicate the effectiveness of your email outreach.
- Sentiment Analysis: Use sentiment analysis tools to gauge the sentiment (positive, negative, or neutral) of online mentions and reviews related to your PR efforts.
- ROI (Return on Investment): Calculate the financial return on investment by comparing the cost of PR activities to the revenue generated or cost savings achieved.
- Customer Surveys: Conduct surveys to gather direct feedback from customers regarding their awareness, perception, and trust in your brand after exposure to PR initiatives.
It’s essential to establish clear objectives and benchmarks before implementing PR strategies, and regularly analyze these metrics to assess performance. Keep in mind that the specific KPIs and metrics you focus on may vary based on your company’s goals and the nature of your PR campaigns. A comprehensive measurement approach will help you demonstrate the impact of PR on sales, marketing, and online technology efforts.