“Out of all the marketing disciplines, PR is the one that causes the most confusion” believes Justine Smith, PR Director at KISS Public Relations. “People can relate to ‘advertising’ because it’s something they see every day on TV, radio, online, on billboards, in magazines or newspapers, but with PR there is an uncertainty of what it entails, what the benefits are and how it can impact an organisation’s bottom line. “Put simply, PR is about reputation. It’s the result of what your organisation does, what you say, and often more importantly what others say about you. Public relations is used to gain trust and understanding between a business or organisation and its various audiences. These could be employees, customers, stakeholders, prospective customers, the local community or investors. “PR is often confused with advertising but the two are very different. With PR, a company does not pay the newspaper or magazine for the media coverage it secures but rather it’s achieved by third-party endorsement, i.e. the journalist. The PR practitioner can provide guidance but has less control over what is written or said. The advantage, however, is that any exposure achieved through public relations has far more power and credibility compared to advertising.” Justine continues, “Public relations can play a critical role in achieving a competitive advantage. This could be opening new markets, building distribution, announcing a new service or product, creating debate through thought-leadership, attracting high calibre employees, or even protecting a business in time of crisis. All organisations, whether local, national or international, large or small, benefit from public relations. “Public relations professionals use many different techniques as part of a PR campaign. This can range from media relations and lobbying, to thought-leadership, speaking at conferences, online campaigns, and sponsorship. “It’s not just about individual product launches or short term campaigns, at its most effective, PR encompasses longer term strategic objectives, including brand building and profile raising.” There are a number of services that fall into the PR remit, these include: writing press releases, media articles, case studies, creation of opinion pieces or expert view articles, features, brand building, internal communications, product launches, sponsorship, social media, identification of speaker opportunities, media training, crisis management, media audit, competitions, and reader offers. “For a PR programme or campaign to be successful it needs to have the buy-in from the senior management team. PR is an investment both in terms of money and time investment but the benefits and return on investment for a brand or organisation can be significant,” says Justine. “One question many businesses may ask is whether to do PR in-house or use an external agency. This will obviously depend on a number of factors, including the size of budget, the capabilities and experience of the internal resource that will have responsible for PR in-house, and the time needed to execute. “A PR agency can be better placed to maximise coverage and achieve results by being independent and not affected by internal pressures. They also tend to make significant investment in media databases and PR tools and have good press contacts that have been built up over many years. Developing media stories, issuing press releases, and carrying out the time consuming process of following up all press releases with journalists is often better suited to an experienced PR practitioner.” Justine Smith is PR Director at KISS Public Relations and a member of the CIPR. She has worked in the PR industry for 18 years both in agencies and in-house. KISS Public Relations, part of integrated marketing agency, KISS Communications is a full service PR agency working with a range of clients from many different industry sectors.