Often overlooked as a primary marketing tool, positive PR translates into more customers and increased sales. Top PR practitioner Tracy O’Brien provides the low-down on PR in the South African business arena.
What is today’s thinking of the value of PR?
The publicity element of public relations has always been vital to any brand or person as a means of building credibility. In the US, forexample, Hollywood celebrities have used the services of publicists to enhance their reputations and popularity with the public for decades. Up until about 10 years ago, however, it was considered a “nice to have” by most business executives. But today it is rare to find a medium-to-large sized company anywhere in the world that doesn’t have an in-house communications manager or that doesn’t buy the services of a public relations consultant.
What activities fall within the scope of PR?
The range includes things as diverse as publicity, events, functions, promotions, sponsorship and in-house newsletters. The media relations or publicity side of this profession is the mostchallenging. A good PA can organise a function or an event, but building media relations for a client, and writing and successfully obtaining a high percentage of editorial coverage is a specialised skill that is highly valued by companies.
What are the most effective ways in which small and medium sized companies can secure sustained exposure by way of publicity in the market place?
The only way to do this is to buy the services of a publicist who writes professionally, has all the media contacts and is as passionate about your brand as you are.
What are some of the most and least effective publicity generating tactics you have witnessed in your career?
The least effective is “spray and pray” PR which is common practice, even though it has been highly discredited. Public relations practitioners generate a story and send it to every publication in the hope that one editor will run with it. It might have worked in the old days, but savvy journalists and editors will just press the delete button.
The most effective way is to tailor each story to suit a particular publication, or radio or television programme, and sell the story directly to the editor or programme manager. Magazines and newspapers are more likely to publish a story that is of interest to their readers and has been tailored for their target market. There is no value in sending a press release about a major retail giant’s annual financial statements to a magazine that targets the small-to-medium business sector, for example.
For more information, contact Tracy O’Brien Publicity at +27 11 325 5656, firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.obrienpublicity.co.za