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By Brian Murnahan
People often ask what is public relations and then swiftly follow up by asking what I do. It sounds easy enough to answer, but it can often be confusing to those not in the business.
In short, public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics according to the Public Relations Society of America.
Over the years that I have been in the business I have been an advocate for public policy, reached out to the community (many of them), been a webmaster, writer, worked with media, boards of directors, stakeholders, been a spokesperson and often defined the messages to be delivered by those on the front lines dealing with customers and other key publics.
The Basics of Public Relations:
First we have to establish our overriding business goals, this is different than our PR goals. As a PR guy, I want to know how your business measures success from the bottom line to sales leads to web hits and inbound calls to whatever you got. Without knowing the current baseline numbers for your goals, it becomes virtually impossible to determine the impacts of PR efforts, at least analytically.
Example PR Goals:

  • Increase unpaid media attention by 3 local articles per month
  • Increase brand recognition on cold calls by 20%
  • Increase brand awareness with a defined audience by 30%
  • Increase website visits by 10,000/month
  • Increase length of website visits by 1 minute/visit
  • Increase inbound calls by 25/week
  • Increase newsletter readership by 25% over the next 6 months
  • Establish town hall meeting schedule

Measurement: As our goals or time frames are reached we want to be able to show you, the client that what we are doing as compared to our plan. We measure our success so that you can see the value and know that the work is being accomplished.
Research: (without research we can’t answer the measurement questions) We have to know where we are beginning, so when we have to run a survey of current newsletter readers or perspective clients, we are not trying to waste your time / money, we are setting a baseline to measure our success.
Audience: After the goals are established, we must define who we are talking to. That is to pick an audience, preferably an audience that will make a difference to the business goals that we are trying to achieve. We don’t likely need to be talking about dentures on blogs focused at teens. Some audiences include:

  • General public
  • Board of Directors
  • Potential Customers
  • Existing Customers
  • Employees
  • Investors

A good audience definition can be the adult women, with children at home in owner occupied homes within one or more specific zip codes. If you are a doctor or in the medical profession, you might want to talk with the medical decision maker for the household. We make assumptions based on our research and then as the data comes in we can test to see if our assumptions are good or if they need to be tweaked.
After we have an audience defined we develop our messages. These messages work to educate the public with the information that we believe will be the most relevant to shaping the way the public views our issue or product/service. We are also looking to ensure that misinformation is dispelled.
The next part is where many people actually start, the tactics. Does our audience read magazines or social media, do they listen to the radio or Pandora, do they visit websites or do they like post cards?
Example: Let’s say we are offering a free service to senior citizens age 65 and over. We know that they read publications, but more over they trust their friends and value personal interaction.
In this case, our target audience may be the staff at senior centers, local elected leaders and community service organizations. It is not that the senior themselves is not targeted, they would also likely be targeted directly, but in this case our target audience are the people that can influence the senior in their decision making process.
Again, we would likely still use traditional media, perhaps phone calls, post cards, flyers and posters. We might try some social media, streaming ads or other flyers to churches etc., but for this example we are targeting key influencers.

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