March 19, 2024

What is public relations? And other frequently asked questions

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PR is an integral part of a cohesive marketing and business strategy. But what really is PR, and why does your business need it? Whether you’re focused on reputation management, elevating your brand’s profile, or communicating your charity’s impact, you might have questions about the fundamentals of PR, how it can help, and how results are measured.  

To provide clarity, the V Formation PR team answers some of the most frequently asked PR questions, from what is public relations to how you measure PR results.

What is public relations?

Public relations, often abbreviated as PR, is strategic communication that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organisations and their audiences. From communicating your brand’s story to managing crises effectively, PR offers a platform from which you can drive your objectives and be seen and heard, with the aim of building trust and shaping perceptions. 

Why do I need PR?

Effective PR can maximise and manage your reputation, establish you as a thought leader in your field, and put you in front of your target audiences, stakeholders, and influencers. By delivering sustained, strong messaging, you can turn one-time customers into loyal, returning clients – and reassure them that they chose the right company for their needs.

Additionally, if you are seeking to raise funds or are working towards an exit strategy, PR can be valuable in raising your business’s profile and making it more attractive to investors or prospective buyers.

What is public relations and what is marketing? Key differences

Whilst PR and marketing disciplines are often integrated and work together to achieve the same business goals, there are some distinctive differences between the two. In short, marketing aims to boost sales through the promotion of products and services, whereas PR is focused on maintaining a company’s positive reputation and image.

What is a press release boilerplate?

A press release boilerplate (also known as notes to editors) is a standardised piece of information found at the end of a press release. It provides journalists and other readers with essential about your business including, but not limited to:

  • The full legal name of your company
  • An overview of your mission, products/services, expertise, and experience
  • Any notable achievements, awards, or affiliations
  • Link to your website
  • Contact information, including your PR agency contact

Whilst the boilerplate isn’t considered part of the main body of the press release and is usually not published by the media, it serves as a consistent and helpful reference point for journalists covering your news or article.

Do I need to include an image with my press release?

It is always advisable to include a relevant, high-resolution photo (or two) with your press release. Whether it’s a headshot of your spokesperson, or a close-up of your product, visual imagery provides context and help to engage the media (and their audience) in your story. In today’s digital age, high-quality, original imagery and video content is key to capturing the attention of audiences, so journalists will typically expect this to be provided.

Is PR coverage guaranteed?

PR relies on ‘earned media’ coverage. This means a story has been published based on its relevance, newsworthiness, and value to the publication’s audience rather than its placement being paid-for, as with an advertisement or ‘advertorial’. Although a good PR agency will establish rapport with journalists and create an engaging, relevant story to boost the chances of media exposure, there is no guarantee that a press release or pitch will result in coverage. This is because journalists can and will exercise editorial discretion and may opt against covering a story due to various factors such as competing news, space constraints, or editorial preferences.

How do you measure results in PR?

So, we’ve answered the question: what is public relations, and we’ve explained why it’s so important, but how can you measure its success? Despite common misconceptions, there are many ways in which PR results can be measured and the financial return on your investment gauged.

Historically, AVE (Advertising Value Equivalent) has been used to calculate the value of media coverage by equating it to the cost of purchasing the same amount of advertising space. However, this metric has fallen out of favour due to the fact it overlooks important factors such as audience engagement, tone of voice, and the authority and credibility of the source.

By using digital PR measurement tools like Ace Media or CoverageBook, you can analyse the number of pieces of on- and offline coverage published, including the reach, sentiment, and mentions of your brand. You can also measure the number and quality of backlinks to your website or desired landing page in digital coverage, as well as spikes in website traffic, social media impressions, and engagement.

Why use a PR agency?

Using a PR agency can often be more cost-effective than hiring an in-house PR team, and they offer flexible and scalable resources that can be tailored to suit your specific needs or objectives.

A good PR agency will have strong and established relationships with key journalists – regionally, nationally, and in your sector. Your agency will understand what makes a good news story, and the sort of content the media wants to receive and when. They also keep a keen eye on sector trends, so you can ensure your voice is heard on relevant issues.

In addition, agencies will likely have access to PR industry tools such as media databases, journalist enquiry services, and coverage reporting systems.

Importantly, PR agencies also have expertise and experience in managing a crisis and how to mitigate any potential reputational damage.

Speak to us

Are you still wondering “what is public relations?” Do you have a burning question about PR that we’ve not answered? Or would you like to learn how V Formation can serve as your trusted PR agency? Get in touch with us for a friendly chat here.


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