What the Heck is Public Relations, Anyway?

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By Jenny Kosek for our 15 Ways to Build Your B2B Brand in 2015 Blog Series

Public relations, marketing, and advertising are terms that get tossed about interchangeably, which is unfortunate because public relations is a decidedly unique animal compared to the other two. And when done well, it can make a positive impact on your business.

Public relations is simply “using the news or business press to carry positive stories about your company or products.” PR is all about the relationships you’re building with the trade press, media, and potential clients, and leveraging those connections to convince those people to talk about you – at no cost to you. That’s the real beauty of PR: while it takes time, it does not take additional money in the way that publishing an ad campaign or printing new sales brochures does.

How do you begin connecting to the media and letting them know that your business is interesting and worth talking about? This is where an agency can really help you make a splash. Marketing and PR agencies familiar with your industry already have these connections established, allowing you to essentially skip Step 1: Find the press and jump directly to Step 2: Get the press to notice you.

Editorial calendars are a great place to start when getting your foot in the door with a trade publication. Is there an article you can prepare that will display your thought leadership or expertise in a particular topic trending in your industry? Publications are always seeking good content, so reviewing an editorial calendar and pitching a story idea that relates to the scheduled themes or topics is a great PR option. Just remember, an editorial is not the place to sell your product or business (buy an ad to do that!).

If your knowledge doesn’t seem like a good fit for any upcoming editorials, you can still put PR to work for you. Create content – blogs, white papers, videos – that informs, but doesn’t sell. Show that you understand the industry and the challenges your customers face. Then put it out on the web or share it at meetings or tradeshows free of charge. These goodwill marketing pieces help make connections with your brand that can develop into genuine sales leads.

Finally, consider sponsorships and charitable donations as a way to build coveted “good PR.” We’ve all heard marketers on TV say that of seemingly touchy-feely, profitless endeavors, and absolutely it’s true. Showing that you’re connected to your community and the greater good makes customers and employees more sympathetic towards and willing to support your brand. Do some good, send out a press release, and strengthen your business in the process.

Ultimately, your PR strategy should be a distinct but equally strong branch of your overall marketing strategy. Don’t neglect this important channel, which, when done properly, may shape public opinion of your brand more than any other.