Public Relations - Building social capital

Public Relations - Building social capital

"If I had one dollar left, I'd spend it on PR" Bill Gates

Public Relations is an often misunderstood concept, with terms such as 'spin doctor' casting a dubious light on what is a serious profession that has evolved over decades through business, government and media. 

In today's world of armchair journalism and viral social media, public relations management is now more than ever an area of expertise that all organisations need.

By definition, public relations is the management of the relationship between an organisation (or a person) and the outside world. It is about reputation management, persuasion, influence and control of a message within a range of markets and audiences and in a range of spheres – internal, external, online and in the digital/social media arena. It is a management function that monitors and evaluates public attitudes and perceptions and builds social capital for the brand/organisation.

Another common misconception is that only large organisations need a public relations strategy and function. This could not be further from the truth. The reality is that a public relations strategy is one of the most important areas of your organisation and should be intrinsically linked to your business and marketing plans. 

What is the difference between PR and marketing?

Many organisations struggle to identify the difference between marketing and public relations and the role of social media in both.   A great way to understand the difference is to consider them in three categories:

OWNED MEDIA is coverage gained through channels that you own. This includes your social media sites, website, blog, apps etc.

EARNED MEDIA is coverage gained through public relations, press coverage, controlled or influenced editorial, influencer relations, reviews, word of mouth, organic publicity etc. This is often seen as the most credible type of media.

PAID MEDIA is coverage gained through paid means. This includes traditional advertisements, brochures, email marketing, sponsored social media posts etc.

Generally speaking, a PR professional looks after the EARNED and content of the OWNED media. A marketing, design and/or advertising agency looks after the PAID media. 

Why do you need a PR strategy?

Social capital is a term that is used to describe an organisation’s reputation (their level of trust and favour) in their external world. When social capital is strong, organisations/brands flourish. It also makes it easier for a brand to recover in the event of a crisis, than if the outside world has a weak perception and low level of trust.

Building social capital through an effective PR strategy will underpin every activity of an organisation from customer service through to product delivery and every written word that is disseminated online and in print.

All organisations, irrespective of their size or geographic location should have a PR strategy  relevant to their needs. A PR strategy scaffolds the marketing and business plan. It is the development of a culture and the careful management of reputation that protects organisations in good times and supports and guides them in times of trouble.

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