There’s a chunky old answer to this question so let’s break it down a bit. We’ll need to look at what PR is, how it is done, and what PR delivers.
What Does a PR Agency Do?
Going to be a bit formal here for a minute. PR – public relations – is the development, management and protection of the relationship an individual, brand or organisation has with its public. In a word – reputation. A business’ reputation is everything. Without a good one, no one will work there or buy from that business. That would make it impossible to grow.
The deliberate and proactive creation of a reputation over time will shape how stakeholders think and feel about an organisation, and therefore how they behave towards it. PR done well will deliver tangible business benefits. These benefits are vast. The means of achieving them are varied.
It’s worth pointing out the major difference between advertising and PR. Advertising is when an organisation pays for people to hear great things about it – which it tells you itself, directly or indirectly. PR is when an audience hears great things about an organisation from other trusted sources, without that source being paid to share the message.
PR agencies will help you build, develop and manage the relationship with your stakeholders through proactive, positive storytelling, or it can help limit reputational damage when facing crises or issues. And there are loads of different tactics and techniques to do these things.
Building reputations through positive storytelling requires a trusted source to share that story. Often this is the role of the media. This involves the PR agency sharing news that an organisation might have, or by creating news that will communicate the right messages to the audience to shape how the organisation wants to be perceived. You’ll hear this called ‘media relations’.
Other trusted sources include people who influence decisions. These are broader and more varied than just social media influencers. For example, a pet owner would trust a vet as a source of information. So, PR activity that increased positive relationships between a pet insurance company and vets would make it more likely for vets to recommend that insurance company to its clients. This could be done with research-based activity, events, awards, or thought leadership, to name but a few.
A PR agency will also help an organisation be clear on what it wants its messages to its stakeholders to be, and how to deliver them. This includes making sure that everyone across the organisation is saying the same thing. Specialising in this is also known as internal communications.
There’s a long list of techniques that can be deployed but what a PR agency does is dictated by what an organisation is trying to achieve. PR can make the sales process easier by ensuring prospective buyers have a good understanding and opinion of what they’re buying before they get to the point of purchase. PR can make it easier to attract and retain staff by developing and communicating a strong employer brand. PR can change what a business is known for, who knows about it and where it is talked about. It can increase your market share of voice, make a business ‘punch above its weight’, defend against the competition, lobby for industry change, engage new suppliers, and raise brand awareness ahead of investment. Plus more. Impressive, right?