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Marketing,PR Advice,Wine Business

What is PR and How to Best Leverage It

There are so many articles written about how to hire a PR firm, but it’s nearly impossible to find anything that goes the other way; namely, how to best leverage a PR firm once it’s been hired.

Defined:

Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing the flow of information between an organization and its public. PR gains an organization or individual exposure to their audiences using topics of public interest and news items that doesn’t require direct payment. Because public relations places exposure in credible third-party outlets, it offers third-party endorsements that advertising doesn’t have. Common activities include speaking at conferences, working with the press, and employee communication.

The very first sentence is the most critical line in all of the above definition:

Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing the flow of information between an organization and its publics.

A public relations specialist is the communications conduit between a client and the media, with whom the client is wanting to interface. The specialist must first be given information from a client in order to pass along that story to media. The worst mistake that a client makes is that when a PR firm has been hired, the client believes that his or her job is over; when, in fact, quite the opposite is true. The job has just begun.

Consider the Latin etymology of  “communications”

com-
a prefix meaning “with,” “together,” “in association”

munio, munire, munivi, munitus –
a prefix meaning “to build,” “to fortify”

cate-
a prefix meaning “choice bit”  (your story)

Now consider the definition according to Merriam-Webster:

Communications: plural but sing or plural in constr a: a technique for expressing ideas effectively (as in speech) b: the technology of the transmission of information (as by print or telecommunication)

The very first rule of being a great PR client is… Be prepared to communicate what is important for the PR specialist to in turn disseminate to the public through media channels.

PR people are not mind readers with tremendous seance skills that allow them to know what’s in someone else’s brain. They’re simply the conduit between a client and what that client wants to disperse to the media and public, all of whom want to know the latest news about the client.

The worst mistake that clients make is to shut down the communications stream, thinking that somehow things are going to improve on their own. Like an ostrich that buries its head in the sand, the problem that things aren’t perfect yet still exists.

Consider the writing process. It’s a four step program.

  1. Write it (first draft)
  2. Read it
  3. Edit it
  4. Rewrite it (second draft, third draft, forth draft, etc.)

The rewriting step may take many more edits and rewrites, depending on how close the story is to finalization.

When a publicist hands a first draft to a client, it’s almost never picture perfect, even though the author has gone through all of the steps above before even handing it to the client. The author is also keenly aware that a client is going to put his or her own spin on the document, communicate the changes that will make it more truly aligned to what the client wants, and then the revisions begin again.

History comparison reports highlight the chang...
Image via Wikipedia

[This image shows a history comparison of the same report, which now highlight the changes between two revisions of a page.]

This is only an agonizing process for anyone not committed to being part of that partnership, once the PR specialist has been hired. Edits are not an admission of incompetency. They’re an admission that you’re not quite there yet, and must keep developing the story until it’s a document that clearly addresses the issue about to be distributed. Remember, a document is almost never written perfectly the first time.

Also, as a relationship begins to develop between a PR firm and a client, each time a new document has been created, the style between the client and PR specialist also begins to go through a process of natural growth, differentiation, and evolution by those successive changes… The relationship between the client and the PR specialist blossoms… And becomes a beautiful thing.

If you’ve made the commitment of hiring a PR agency, you must now make the commitment of working with that PR firm, in order to best leverage it.

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2 Responses to “What is PR and How to Best Leverage It”

  1. Nicely said. Nothing makes better music that a client who is engaged with his or her PR firm.

    However, let me challenge one of your assertions: PR people are “simply the conduit between a client and what that client wants to disperse to the media and public, all of whom want to know the latest news about the client.”

    One of the greatest challenges PR professionals face is helping clients discover what their key messages are. A true PR pro doesn’t simply take the client’s direction. Instead, he works with the client to figure out who the right audiences are and how to best address them.

    If PR people were simply conduits, I don’t think they’re be a whole industry sprouting around them.

  2. Jo says:

    Touche, Alan!

    There have been many times I’ve been able to listen to a client’s history, and based on that develop a continuing story line… but I’ve always had to start with each client’s history, in order to get from point A to point B to refine that client’s key bullet points. That’s why I was thinking “conduit.”

    And, yes, the right audience is another important key to the right doorways opening.

    I recently had a client tell me, “I know who my media group needs to be,” rather emphatically; and yet, when I introduced the prospect of a very important media person – I’d say within the 10 most important US wine writers – this client asked, “Who’s he?”

    So, there is a lot of guiding in the process, and that’s another great blogging story. Thanks for the inspiration.

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