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Understanding PR: building trust and reputation

Sven Houston
jan 12
5 min read

We live in a media centric and interconnected world. Information is constantly at our fingertips and for businesses, communicating and sharing information is essential.

A discipline intrinsic to successful communication is PR, or Public Relations. Often a profession which is widely mis-understood, PR plays a pivotal role in shaping public perception, influencing stakeholder attitudes, and establishing strong relationships with key audiences.

But what exactly is PR, and how does it contribute to the growth and sustainability of businesses and individuals? Keep reading and we’ll share how understanding and leveraging PR can help you build trust and reputation.

What is PR?

PR stands for Public Relations and is summarised by the UK’s Chartered Institute of Public Relations as follows:

«Public Relations is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say, and what others say about you. Public Relations is the discipline that looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its public.»

Strategic alignment

It’s important to note that public relations is a strategic communications process. Before we create communication plans for our clients, it’s essential that we understand their wider business strategy. We can then develop clear communication objectives to support those goals. For example, if we know a client is looking to grow within a certain geographical market then we can align PR activity with their sales teams’ efforts and target influential publications and journalists in a specific geographical area. Effective and proactive PR is all centred on helping to deliver business goals.

PR in practice

Proactive PR

Traditional PR activities involve securing media coverage for organisations through press releases and other means. These activities include:

  • Identifying and writing credible, newsworthy press releases
  • Crafting full-length features on topics relevant to an organisation and pitching them to publications.
  • Placing comments on articles and features that are relevant to an organisation.
  • Creating opinion-led thought leadership articles, typically published exclusively in media titles, using the perspective of an individual within the organisation.
  • Building a reputation as an industry or topic matter expert so that media outlets contact you for your opinion when a related situation arises

A skilled PR professional is not only a talented writer who can capture an organisation’s tone and outlook but also can identify emerging news and create engaging press releases to share that news. They cultivate excellent relationships with the media outlets they target, ensuring clients take advantage of every opportunity for coverage.

In some cases, PR professionals may even create newsworthy opportunities as part of their strategy. This could involve curating a notable collaboration, organising an event, conducting industry-specific surveys, or establishing positive corporate social partnerships. The specific story created and conveyed depends on the communication objectives and the desired outcomes for the organisation.

Reactive PR

PR also encompasses crisis communications and the need to respond to a situation. How an organisation communicates in a time of crisis can heavily impact the brand, so PR professionals carefully manage the narrative during challenging situations to help preserve a brand’s reputation.

Most organisations do not leave these situations to chance, and crisis management forms a core aspect of many organisations contingency planning. From a communication perspective, emergency preparedness involves identifying scenarios and planning for the outcome. This can be as simple as developing holding statements for key personnel. The main objective is to give more clarity and confidence if the situation were to arise. This can ultimately help mitigate potentially problematic stories.

Editorial vs Advertorial

In today’s media landscape there are opportunities for paid content placement. A PR professional can identify these opportunities and create the content, but it’s important to note that this differs from earned editorial coverage. Paid content allows organisations to convey a story that may not be picked up editorially and offers greater control over the message. It does not have to be validated by an editor or journalist before being used. Whereas editorial coverage needs to be earned – it needs to be newsworthy and give insight.

PR for building trust

PR plays a crucial role in reputation building and developing trust between a brand and its audience. Through a well-managed PR strategy, trusted third parties endorse a product or business, directly influencing decisions to work with the business or purchase its products. While securing media coverage in print was historically the focus, the growth of the digital world has shifted the emphasis towards establishing an online presence. 

Coverage within online media outlets increases online mentions, and having high-ranking news outlets’ direct links to your website builds trust. This also aids search engine optimisation (SEO) efforts by boosting online visibility and showcasing endorsements from others. Ultimately this can help to boost your websites authority score, as your website is referenced and recognised as a credible source of content. As the worlds of SEO, digital marketing, and PR increasingly converge, it’s increasingly valuable to have knowledge and experience across various communication disciplines to ensure all channels are maximised

By understanding the role of PR in reputation management, targeting the right audiences, and leveraging digital channels effectively, organisations can build trust, enhance their brand image, and drive business growth.

Source: About PR (cipr.co.uk)

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