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What is public relations and why does it matter?

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Last editedMay 20212 min read

For decades, thousands of businesses have lived and died on the strength of their public image and press coverage. While public relations (PR) is acknowledged as a vital element of modern business, there is still a lot about it that is misunderstood.

What is public relations?

PR is about curating not only a reputation for your business, but an identity for your brand. It’s how a business relates itself to the public and controls the spread of information. 

According to the Public Relations Consultants Association, PR is “the result of what you do, what you say, and what others say about you”. This is achieved through various media channels – everything from news coverage and social media campaigns to ground-level work with local communities. It’s all about building relationships with and gaining the trust of the general public. 

What’s the difference between marketing and public relations?

The goal of marketing is to drive revenues and boost profits whereas the goal of PR is to promote the business itself. Studies have shown that more consistent brands can boost revenues by more than 20% and when PR strategies are used in tandem with good marketing campaigns, the results can be significant.

Owned, paid and earned

There are three basic types of PR – they all work towards the same goal but attack that goal from different angles. An ideal PR strategy should use all three, but if you’re a small business with an even smaller PR team, you should focus on owned media first.


This refers to any media channels controlled directly by you and it’s these that often form the foundations of a PR campaign. Your website, social media, blogs and emails are owned media and should be seen as your home base of operations for all PR activity.

If you’re paying someone to promote your owned media, either through PPC advertising, newspaper ads, social media ads or influencer marketing, then you’re using paid media PR tactics. This is an increasingly popular avenue given the increase in paid advertising on social media platforms over the last few years.


This is the sweet spot – word of mouth. As people tend to trust the words of others more than the words of the company themselves, this is perhaps the most sought-after form of media. It’s also the hardest to obtain. Customer testimonials, reviews and news articles featuring your business are all examples of earned media and will often lead to more organic recognition and higher ranking on search engines. 

The advantages of public relations

Customers are more likely to choose a brand they recognise over a brand they’ve never heard of. PR is about building that recognition so that your business is always the first name that pops into a customer’s mind when they think of your sector. 

As long as PR is targeted to the right audiences in the right way and staff morale remains high (your staff are your greatest unsung brand ambassadors) then you should be well positioned to create a strong PR strategy. But any good strategy needs a leader to steer it in the right direction.

What makes a good PR manager?

A PR manager is responsible for building and maintaining all PR strategies and tactics. They need to be a good leader and organiser with great communication skills, creative writing skills (always handy for bringing a press release to life) and an eye for detail. It’s not an easy job, but thousands of successful businesses would never have got where they are today without a good PR manager at the helm.

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