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PR – Is it just a load of case studies, press releases and glitzy events?


PR = ‘blighted by case studies’ and not strategic enough? Or at least that’s what Alex Aitken, executive director for UK government comms, said at a recent global PR event. So is it time for the industry to have a facelift? Do we need to get better at doing our own PR?

Rhianna Brien is a Senior account manager at Lexis.

It’s disappointing when we hear comments like this about our industry. It’s always been a bit of a bugbear of mine when people’s response to a job in PR is: “ohhh so you go to lots of glitzy events and spend your days writing press releases.” In actual fact, the press release and broad brush sell in approach is fast becoming out-dated – and I rarely get to go to glitzy events!

PR incorporates much more than just media relations, encompassing anything from issues management, investor relations and stakeholder engagement to government and industry relations, internal comms and corporate responsibility. But it seems as though people either don’t always realise this or don’t see enough of the strategic side of PR.

People often don’t think about PR agencies as actually doing the campaign planning or creative work, coming up with concepts and executing them from start to finish. At Lexis, we’re trying to change this perception of PR. We’re encouraging our clients to move away from the idea of ‘coverage for coverage’s sake’ and think carefully about their end goals.

Strategy should always come first

One of the first questions we ask is: “what would success actually look like?” Strategy should always come first; then tactics will follow. This may seem obvious but too often people use methods that have worked in the past – case studies, press releases, journalist meet ‘n’ greets – because that’s what they’ve always done. And it feels safe. But we’re here to challenge that.

PR needs to be considered during the early stages of any new campaign, project or product launch – rather than being an add-on at the end. Objectives should be closely aligned with the overall business objectives to ensure the results are meaningful and add real value. It’s important to be clear on target audience, how best to reach them and what themes and messages will resonate. Sometimes it’s a case of going right back to the drawing board and commissioning research to get to know your audience better: what drives them and potential barriers and misconceptions. This will help develop the most effective communications strategy – insight really is a valuable tool.

While it might look impressive to get a name check in a national newspaper, is it always the best way to communicate your brand story, change perception or reach a new audience? Sometimes a dedicated stakeholder engagement campaign – targeting just a small group of key individuals – can be far more effective. Here, media outreach might not be necessary at all. Instead, a sophisticated (and very targeted) social media strategy or a small but high-level event which gets some of the most important people to your business in one room, may be the best way of communicating.

Maximise content beyond the press release

It’s also important to consider how you can maximise content beyond just the standard case study or press release. Sometimes a well-considered blog post for a company’s website or an animated infographic shared over social channels can generate as much brand awareness as an article in The Times or Telegraph. Content really is king – and good-quality content that resonates with the target audience (without being self serving) can be one of the best ways to form stronger relationships with customers and build brand loyalty.

That’s not to say that media relations can’t be successful or isn’t important – it’s just to say that good PR is so much more than that. Good PR has the potential to increase revenue, attract new customers and ultimately make or break a business – and it’s just what Alex Aitken wants to see more of from the industry.