By Lisa Metzger, PR Director
Explaining what I do as PR director at Avocet Communications is sometimes complicated. What does “relating to the public” actually mean?
Perhaps the confusion comes from a misunderstanding of the concept. So, let’s define terms.
Wikipedia defines public relations as “the practice of deliberately managing the release and spread of information between an individual or an organization (such as a business, government agency, or a nonprofit organization) and the public in order to affect the public perception.”
Here’s what’s important about this definition: it’s broad. Ridiculously broad, in my opinion. So broad that you could quite easily get confused. It could easily encompass creating websites, advertising, digital, social, creative development…ALL of which a marketing agency like Avocet manages. They all are, after all, essential vehicles to “spread” information between a business and its customers/audiences, and all contain messaging and positioning that “affect the public perception” of a brand.
So by that definition, ALL marketing agencies are really just public relations agencies.
But that is far too limiting a definition. The word “PR” is NOT interchangeable with marketing. It is, instead, one vitally important component of a thorough and comprehensive brand-building marketing strategy.
This is especially true when you look at the way that Avocet articulates public relations as part of its Earned, Shared, Owned, and Paid (ESOP) strategic approach.
I’ve been in PR for over 30 years and I am quite frequently met with the need to explain all the different elements of a marketing strategy. And I actually enjoy doing so because it allows me to highlight PR in a way that I hope illustrates its value and power.
Public relations generates public exposure by tapping into different channels. Media relations uses one: the news media (print, TV, radio, and influencers). Public relations looks to build relationships between organizations and their stakeholders (which can include many people and entities). Media relations focuses on building relationships for clients with only one entity: the media.
Traditionally, PR can be sorted out into three main categories: publicity, event management, and media relations.
Publicity is pretty simple: It’s all about coverage and attention and promotion. It’s all about getting your event, book or product launch, movie premiere, or your client, especially if they happen to be a celebrity, in the news.
Events are inclusive of trade shows, launches, product demos, and more. They often require the management of venues, invitations, catering, promotions, and the like. At Avocet we organize and manage events for our clients frequently. The goal is to get people to attend the event and we measure success by the number of people in seats, or by how many people stopped by the booth or signed up for the workshop or sampled a product. Lots goes into orchestrating a successful event, of course, including website updates, social and digital promotions, media outreach, and the development of creative.
Media relations is a different animal entirely. Put simply, media relations can be bucketed into two disciplines: one, the dissemination of announcements (about a new hire, year-end financial reporting, a change of leadership, etc.) by the way of a news releases and the pitching to key editors, reporters, and influencers; and two, proactive thought leadership.
Both represent the “earned” piece of the ESOP pie. We say “earned” because my job is to EARN a key public’s interest in attending an event and EARN the interest of an editor with a well-crafted, newsworthy story.
Media Relations has a slightly tangential tie to the marketplace as it applies to sales, whereas Social, Owned, and Paid…as well as creative…should all work in tandem to help boost sales. But it does share a very important common intent with all of the pieces of the marketing pie: to change and motivate behavior. Media relations, in particular, goes a step further and aims to change opinion. Whether I am pitching my client to be included as an expert able to provide insight into a larger story about a particular topic that impacts their industry, or I am proactively calling an editor to set up an interview, my efforts are designed to position my client and their brand as a thought leader — sought after in their space, a voice to be listened to, someone influencing the marketplace and changing how the game is played. PR and Media Relations are powerful tools in a marketing arsenal that can grow awareness for a brand and drive sales and acquisitions. At Avocet, we strongly believe that each of the strategies we deploy — Shared, Owned, Paid…and Earned — should be implemented in tandem. Our 40+ years of experience tell us that when that synergy happens, goals are achieved, brands grow, smart business transpires, and our clients are in demand.