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What is PR?

Series 1 - Episode 1

Starting from the basics, we help to answer the age-old question, what is PR? Picking apart what falls under the umbrella of communications, the difference between advertising and PR, and what do we mean by ‘earned media’?

So, grab a beverage and join us, and don’t forget to hit subscribe so you don’t miss the latest episodes.

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Hello. We’re the Revitalize & Grow podcast here to give you top tips on how to take your marketing and communications to the next level and help you grow. I’m Jenny, your host, and each week I’ll be joined by one of my fellow pros to pick apart various PR and marketing topics. Demystify the jargon and give you some practical tips that you can apply to your own business.

Occasionally, we’ll be bringing on some special guests for bonus episodes. You can find all the latest episodes and keep in touch with us at eight., or find us on all the socials. You can find the handles in our bio. So, grab your cuppa and join us and don’t forget to hit subscribe, so you don’t miss the latest episodes.

Jenny: Hi, and welcome to episode one of the revitalize and growth podcast. So we’re here to give you some top tips on how to take your marketing and communications to the next level. And I’m your host Jenny. Today I am joined by my colleague, Kate.

Kate: Hello, and we are going to be starting pretty much from the basics.

Jenny: So, we are going to try and answer that age old question. So, what is PR? A lot of you listening will be small businesses and it might be that you haven’t had a marketing or a PR department before, or you are looking to take your step into that area. We’re hoping we might be able to demystify the subject for you and give you the tools eventually throughout this whole podcast series to create your own awesome communications campaign.

Yes, we are starting with what is PR. What the blinking hell is PR, Kate?

Kate: I think for us as a people PR professionals and having gone into PR as our chosen career it’s always a little bit frustrating for us, isn’t it? When that people seem to have a real lack of understanding about what PR actually is. And Jenny, I don’t know about you, but how many times have you been out for dinner with people and they asked what you do and you say PR and people nod their heads and you think they haven’t got a clue what I do?

Jenny: After uni, when I first started my first job, one of my friends thought I sold bathrooms, because I said I had a bathroom clients. I said I worked for a PR agency who had clients who sold bathrooms bathrooms. SO they said, so, you sell bathrooms? No, I help them to communicate their messaging and why they’re the best company out there so that people buy their bathrooms. That is often it, people don’t really know what it is, or they think of Ab Fab or Siobhan from 2012. That’s generally the perception of it, like you are fluff and spin.

Kate: Yeah. And that can be really quite frustrating for us as professionals, because the one thing that we do know, and we know this through years of experience, is that when it’s done well, PR works and it actually grows businesses. And it can make all the difference in the world to a lot of companies.

And I think what we quite often find when we’re speaking to various companies is, they haven’t got time. They’re wearing lots of different hats every day, and having to look after their staff and finances, it could be that they’re looking after manufacturing, all the different elements of their business, they’re really focusing on, and then they say we haven’t got time to do any of the PR and the fluffy marketing stuff.

It doesn’t really matter to them. And actually, that is quite difficult for us to hit because it should be considered as important as your finances. And I think to put it simply, although PR is an area that’s quite often misunderstood, ultimately, it’s about communication and it’s all about communicating with the right people at the right time, in the right way.

Now as a business, if you’re not talking about your business to people, how on earth are they even going to you exist? You could create the best product in the world, but if you don’t tell anybody about it and you don’t sell it, properly sell it, and sell the benefits of it, really, you’re not going to get those sales because they’re not going to come to you.


Jenny: No, they’re not going to, they’re not going to magically know you exist and come to you. And I think that’s so right. And obviously it’s people, sometimes aren’t sure where to start their PR and marketing. Years ago, PR and marketing used to be quite separate entities. And now they’re not, which is why we wanted to talk about it a little bit. Didn’t we? Because people tend to think historically marketing used to be the direct communications with customers. E.g. your emails, your newsletters, advertising, all that stuff that comes under marketing, and PR is your nice fluffy media relations, go out, speak to the journalists, get them to write about your product.

Whereas actually, all of that is really merging. PR is becoming it is marketing. They all sit under the same umbrella. And it’s important that they aren’t separate, it’d be very difficult to unpick them and separate them.

There is media relations, and that is part of it, but it’s such a small part of it. You do as you said, it’s everywhere, you’re communicating with your audience every time, every single touch point. And that includes that newsletter, but it also includes the direct conversations people are having with your business. It’s your customer service, all of that falls under the same comms umbrella.

Kate: It’s a really wide topic isn’t it? We try not to refer to it anymore as just “PR”, because we know that it’s so much more than that, but that’s a whole separate show really isn’t, if PR even exists in its own right anymore? Haha!

But I think you’re absolutely right. And we just, we need to look at it as everything that falls under that marketing umbrella. And I think, showing my age now I’ve been working in PR for, around 15 years and it has changed beyond belief. It’s a completely different job now to what it was 15 years ago.

And I think that has been the rise of social media and digital platforms, and yes media relations is a really important part of promoting any company or brand, but it’s actually just a really small slice of a much larger cake. And I think where PR is really successful is when it’s strategic, and we will talk about that a lot in other episodes. But one of the biggest things that we tend to find is the confusion between PR and advertising. We’ve even had people sign contracts with us and then say, where’s the adverts you’ve promised us when you come off? Hang on a minute? That’s not really what we do. So, I guess one of the, most basic things that we should probably clear up today is the difference between PR and advertising. Sounds really obvious, but clearly it isn’t because it’s something that we come up against time and time again with people. Isn’t it? So yeah, I think really the easiest way to break it down is to think that advertising space is paid for, whilst PR is all about earned media. So, what do we mean by that?

Jenny: So, you have you’re paid for, as you said, you would exchange of money. You place your piece in a publication and they give you a nice glossy ad that your design department have come up with. Whereas with earned media, you speak to the journalists and you talk to them about your story. It’s more about storytelling, and that is so important. They’re not just going to regurgitate what you do as a business, the amazing business you are and all the services you provide or products you provide, they want to tell a story and that’s, what’s what we’re here to do, and what all of marketing teams are there to do, is that storytelling element. And of course, what we want is a nice piece in their publication. That just means so much more because it’s a third party endorsing you and your company.

Listeners too will know that if you read something in a publication and on the news pages, you are much more likely to trust and believe that piece of content than you are just an ad, because, it’s just an ad and a company basically shouting about themselves and saying, look how great we are. Whereas you want a third party saying, look at what these guys do, they’re brilliant and you should look into them.

Kate: Yeah, definitely. But then that isn’t say that advertising isn’t effective, because it is, and it’s, but there is research out there that states that PR can be 90% more effective, which I think goes.


Back to what you were about that third party endorsement, I think it’s almost as powerful as word of mouth. If you hear it from somebody that you think is independent and is really talking about your company and the reasons why you should buy from a company, that’s much more effective than the company just saying we’re great, come and buy products from us. We are really savvy these days with this stuff and we can see it.

Advertising used to be really separate, didn’t it? It’s like you’d have your advertising schedule and your media relations and the two wouldn’t really come together. Whereas I think now, particularly with print media where it’s struggling a little bit more, it’s not uncommon, their businesses too, they need they need money to survive and excess. So it’s not uncommon now that if you’re actually wanting to work really closely with a magazine that they will expect some advertising.

But I think top tip for anybody listening is if you are going to put some spend behind any advertising, make sure that you have a really open discussion with the people from the publication that you’re speaking to, because actually you can get a lot of earned content alongside your adverts. So it’s a bit of a win-win situation for both, isn’t it?

Jenny: Yeah. Yeah, no, I think so.

Kate: I think it’s worth saying that like PR is essential for your business. It really is. And. It’s not that difficult. I’d love to say that what we do is rocket science. It isn’t. But what it does take is a bit of knowledge, perseverance, and time. And that’s the one thing that business owners really short of. They just have not got the time. PR then falls to, oh, OK, I can go do all my marketing stuff maybe on a Friday afternoon, because it will be quiet then. And how many of us say that on Fridays and then Friday afternoons and never quiet!

Jenny: Yeah. Nope. The busiest day of the week. Most of the time.

Kate: I think that it has to be something that’s worked out. All the time. It’s not really, it’s not really the sort of thing that you can just plonk on the side and hope that you can get results with. Cause, sorry, it’s just not going to happen.

Jenny: As you say, we will go into that in a bit more detail, because we say it’s simple and we say it’s not rocket science, and it is about starting with a good strategy. Your communication strategy, your PR and marketing should fit so closely into your business strategy and what you’re doing there. All of that should complement it and help you drive your business goals because otherwise, as you mentioned earlier, Kate, just doing bits and bobs of activity that aren’t effective. There’s no point just occasionally thinking you can chuck a press release out, and you’re going to get amazing results and suddenly the sales are going to come pouring in, because it doesn’t work like that.

Unfortunately, it’d be great if it was that easy, but it’s important that you do look at all these different channels, these different communications tactics, that support your business goals. And that is what we will talk about, and we will start off with how we build that strategy. And then. All the tactics that kind of fall under that. So hopefully by the end of the series, you’ve got all the tools, you’ve got the toolkit and go away and create an awesome communications plan that you can implement for your business.

Kate: Yeah. And it doesn’t have to be that difficult. It’s just when you look at anything as a whole, it can be very overwhelming. So hopefully what we’re going to be able to do is break it down into really easy kind of bite sized pieces for people to do step by step.

Don’t ignore your PR because it’s s so important, and actually there are some really easy things that you can do to make a difference, isn’t there? And you really don’t need big Coca-Cola sized budgets, adverts and all the rest of it. Another top tip is don’t get downhearted when you don’t see results straight away, you can’t perform miracles overnight. And again, in other areas of your business, I don’t think you’d expect to – you’d look at it as a long-term thing, but quite often, when it comes to PR people want this instant result.

Jenny: Yeah.

Kate: I’ve put out a press release. Why have my sales not increased? And for us that’s a bit of a head in hands moment for us!

Jenny: Yeah. As we said, it’s a slow build and that’s the point of having a really good PR and marketing strategy. Customers see you in multiple different places, they get all those different touch points and, will think, I did read about that in this publication, and I saw an ad and, I think I did see something come through on my email. And then I do know that my friend has tried it, so I’ll try it. And that doesn’t happen overnight, but it is something that everyone can achieve.

I think, as you said, Kate, particularly at the beginning when you are a smaller business and you’re growing is just making sure that you put the time into it. You don’t have to spend lots and lots of money. As you said, the digital age, there’s so much you can do for free, and it just costs you your time. So if you’re willing to put that time in, you can go really far with your PR and marketing, and hopefully with all the great bits of advice, we’ll be giving as well.

Kate: Definitely. Hopefully. That has helped somewhat.

More resources

Building on your PR strategy doesn’t need to be complicated or costly, but you need to create and deliver a comprehensive plan because it will have a positive impact on the bottom line of your business. Don’t just download our PR For Small Business guide – actively utilise the tools it offers for your business. We guarantee you’ll see results!

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Building on your PR strategy doesn’t need to be complicated or costly, but you need to create and deliver a comprehensive plan because it will have a positive impact on the bottom line of your business. Don’t just download our PR For Small Business guide – actively utilise the tools it offers for your business. We guarantee you’ll see results!