Decoding Public Relations in NZ – How Does PR Work to Build Brands?

Public relations describes the channels an organisation uses to deliver key messages to its audiences, with the main intention being to make these audiences think about the company and its services in a positive way. Common public relations tools used to achieve this include media releases, press conference, speaking engagements, events and community outreach.

While PR and advertising undeniably sit in close proximity, the end goals of these two disciplines are opposed. The goal of advertising is generating sales, while the main aim of public relations is generating goodwill. Good PR is all about lessening the gap between how a business sees itself – and how others outside the business perceive them.

The goal of advertising is generating sales, while the main aim of public relations is generating goodwill

PR is a two-way street when it comes to communication between a business and its public. This is the essence of any effective PR campaign – maintaining an image of transparency and trust between a company and its audiences.

What does PR aim to do?

Image is front and centre of what PR aims to do; to create, maintain and protect the reputation of a business, boost its credentials and present a positive image to all relevant publics is what PR is about. Reputation is key – consumer purchase behaviour can rest on a company’s reputation and perceived authenticity and trustworthiness. With this in mind, PR can play a significant part in a business’s marketing strategy and resulting sales and revenue.

Fostering good will is another essential PR objective. This can be achieved through positive media relations, community relations and internal functions for relevant parties, that seek to enhance reputation, garner trust and respect and ultimately create a positive image that goes on to foster good will between a company and the people it wants to reach.

How a PR campaign works…

  1. The first step of effective PR is to identify all relevant factors that may influence public attitudes towards an organisation. This identifies key factors of public perception when it comes to the company itself.
  2. Establishing an agreed approach to the campaign helps to define goals and desired outcomes, alongside any constraints to be identified and dealt with. Guidelines such as these will also work to evaluate proposed tactics and strategies and forecast successes of the campaign.
  3. The third step in a PR campaign is when an organisation defines its strategies and tactics and follows this by devising targeted methods to achieve their objectives.
  4. A business will now communicate with their target audiences, using specific PR services such as events or press conferences to reach people.
  5. The last step in a PR campaign involves public feedback to a business; their reaction to the campaign, any unforeseen outcomes and liaison between PR and client as to how to address feedback and any timely adjustments.

Public Relations Decoded…

Here, a breakdown of the different types of PR:

Consumer PR: Often referred to as Product PR, Consumer PR has a close relationship with marketing, given that this type of public relations typically relates to a new or existing product or service. PR is key to this exposure – creating awareness, differentiating the product from its competitors and potentially altering consumer behaviour.

Creating or renewing visibility is something that PR is often used for by businesses to give their existing products and services a boost. If a product has changed, an opportunity exists for PR teams to refocus and attract consumers’ attention. PR helps to properly position a product and reduce or overcome negative public perception in a challenging situation.

Crisis Communications: The most important part of a PR campaign to manage a crisis situation is to have a plan. The objective of this plan is to provide accurate information in a timely manner to reduce uncertainty and minimise damage.

Types of crisis that a PR team would be asked for assistance with could include product failure, management malpractice, bankruptcy or a major accident or natural disaster affecting a business and its surrounding community. Transparency in all relations between a company and its audiences is essential to effective crisis communications.

Community Relations: Being a likeable, respected and trusted business can often require some PR legwork. But with a good community relations campaign, good will is achievable! Supporting local charities or community organisations and construction projects are all great ways to foster good community relations, likewise for smaller businesses sponsoring local sports teams or other events is an excellent way to create positive visibility among the community.

When a business supports a programme that improves a community’s quality of life, prevents crime, promotes employment or looks after the environment, it is regarded as a good citizen and or one who does good things for their community.

Employee Relations: Good PR within an organisation is key to maintaining employee good will, alongside fostering a positive image and reputation for a company among its employees. After all, employees are one of the most influential audiences a company has. An effective employee relations programme will work to keep employees informed and keep the lines of communication flowing through all tiers of the organisation.

Financial Relations: A PR strategy for financial relations involves both the company stakeholders, with scope to financial analysts and potential investors. Financial relations done well has the potential to increase the value of a company’s stock, therefore increasing the likelihood of being able to raise additional capital.

Financial relations can involve a tour of a company’s facilities, press kits and timely communications, helping to achieve visibility among key target groups. When it comes to effective investor relations, annual reports and stakeholder meetings are essential.

Consumer Education: Opportunities exist to educate consumers about a particular business or organisation through sponsorship of targeted radio or television programmes, materials for classroom use, other printed materials and releasing results of surveys. These methods help to educate consumers while simultaneously developing good will and limiting the potential for misunderstandings at the same time.

Other types of PR: Public relations also extends to corporate identity campaigns; including but not limited to new trademarks and change of business or brand name, through to an overhaul of a company’s overall image. Getting these changes into the public domain can come in the form of events, anniversary celebrations and more. Engaging a celebrity spokesperson or ambassador can be a hugely effective PR tool for communicating a brand or business’s point of view. Where possible, direct communications – i.e. face to face – is often more effective than a message conveyed through print, particularly when the target audience is small and clearly defined.

What PR offers a small business:

Small business owners are adept at managing all facets of their business – they’re as close to their business as anyone, and as the most visible representatives of their company, typically handle many of the public relations functions themselves. However, if a campaign needs to be launched, and finances allow, PR help can be invaluable.

One of the key reasons for a small business to engage PR services is for their knowledge of the media, alongside their relationships with media. After all, you can’t put a price tag on great contacts! Keeping an organisation at the forefront of the minds of its target audiences requires consistent PR activity – but this doesn’t have to mean large costs. Public image can be improved through small, targeted measures like sponsorship of a local sports team, volunteering at a neighbourhood planting session – it only takes something small to make a big PR difference.