What is public relations? – a comprehensive guide to PR in NZ

Public relations is the art of persuasion. It is the ability to convince an audience outside your typical realm to adopt your idea, buy your product, provide kinship to your position, or acknowledge your accomplishments. Think of it as a mutually beneficial relationship between businesses and their publics.

The best PR agencies will look at a business, seek out the positive messages and recreate these messages into positive stories. That’s why PR practitioners are often referred to as storytellers – they create narratives to fulfil an agenda. Conversely, if the news is bad, an experienced PR consultant will formulate the best response possible, thereby limiting the damage.

In New Zealand, businesses use PR to protect, enhance or build their reputation through the media, social media or their own channels of communication. When it comes to governmental organisations, effective public relations will keep the public informed about policy and campaigns, while consumer or business PR will manage consumer relations, stakeholder relationships and internal communications.

Key services offered within Public Relations include:

  • Drafting and disseminating media releases
  • Events
  • Market research
  • Pitching to media
  • Speech writing
  • Crisis and issues management
  • Social media
  • Experiential and activations

What’s the difference between PR and advertising?

The old adage ‘Advertising is what you pay for; publicity is what you pray for’ sums up the major difference between these two mediums – essentially, PR is unpaid exposure for your business, whereas advertising is paid. PR garners credible stories and reputations in editorial channels, whereas advertising can elicit a more skeptical response given that audiences recognise it is paid media.

Put another way – advertising tells a business what they want to hear. PR people tell a business what they need to hear.

“Advertising is what you pay for; publicity is what you pray for”

What is news and why is it important?

Understanding the nature of news is vital before you make the decision to go down the PR route or kick off your own campaign.

To make news, you either need to create a story, or follow a story. This is where a journalistic background is advantageous to a PR practitioner, as the following questions characterise your groundwork when chasing a story. A good PR person will ask you ‘What’s the story’. Why should I care? Why should I care now?’, because those are the questions that journalists, bloggers, speakers and other influencers will also be asking. Media don’t care what’s in it for you – they care about what’s in it for them, and their followers.

To make news, you have two options – to create a story, or follow a story.

Creating a story is one of the most common forms of PR. At its heart is storytelling, which is why a business will look to use this method to promote something new. Alternative ways of making news can include social media, content marketing, and opinion-editorials that focus on a contentious issue rather than the business itself.

Quantitative research is another great way to create a story and provide fresh information relevant to news, trade or consumer media.

Following a story is all about recognise and respond. You notice a story in the media – you respond. This method of making news relies on good media relationships which PR people typically have, alongside making new connections and garnering media attention. The advantage of following a story is also immediacy, or lack thereof. When a story isn’t immediate, a business or brand can subtly insert themselves into a trend.

Will social media take the place of traditional media?

Not likely – but it continues to gain in relevance and desire from businesses who want their message to be seen and responded to in real time. Social media relies on strong relationships with a business’s key demographic – in sum, your online reputation can have a significant effect on your reputation – both good and bad.

Utilising social media platforms, networks and tools to interact with online audiences and build relationships – this is what digital PR is all about – a support function to make these conversations effective and relevant. The social media aspect then comes into pay through content and conversations on channels such as Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Is it possible to measure PR?

Yes and no. But one thing’s for sure – this is one of the most debated and emotive topics in the PR industry! There will never be an exact measure or marker for what PR delivers – it will always be an estimate. Trying to quantify the results of PR through advertising equivalents is an inexact science and will likely remain that way for years to come.

Fleur Revell

Fleur Revell

Director at Impact PR
Fleur Revell is one of the country’s most eminent PR consultants and public relations practitioners with more than 20 years industry experience behind her. Fleur is also a three times Qantas Media Awards winner and Feature Writer of the Year; and has an exceptional working knowledge of the New Zealand media landscape and its accelerating evolution in the digital age.