I recently met with a new business prospect who quickly reminded me how blurred the lines have become between marketing and communications: public relations, branding, advertising, etc. Going into the meeting, I thought the prospective client was looking for a public relations partner for his growing company. As the meeting went on, he also discussed branding and advertising needs, desire to build more awareness for his company, develop a logo and signage, and the list went on. While I was intrigued about his passion, I realized that he wasn’t sure about what he needed and how to prioritize those needs.
My colleague recently blogged about How to choose (and work with) a PR firm, which is very helpful in selecting the right PR partner. But what do you do if you don’t know what type of firm your company or organization needs? First and foremost, it’s critical to understand the differences between what the various disciplines do and don’t do, where their core competencies lie and how to select the right partner. The following are some basic explanations of the three primary disciplines to get the wheels turning.
Public Relations Agency:
A public relations (PR) firm, also sometimes referred to as a marketing communications agency, will work with an organization or business to build brand awareness, thought leadership and credibility among target audiences (consumers, employees, shareholders, communities, etc.). One of the key strategies used in PR is media relations, or proactive outreach to reporters, bloggers and other influencers to secure their interest in covering a product, service, trend, industry or person. This is referred to as earned media as opposed to paid media (advertising). While I come from a PR background and am slightly jaded, there have been numerous books and articles written on the added value of third-party credibility that earned media provides (a reporter or blogger covering your company) over paid media (buying an ad to describe your company). Other strategies that fall under PR include employee communications, crisis communication and reputation management, social and digital media engagement, cause marketing and analyst relations, to name a few. PR is about engaging target audiences to develop authentic relationships across various mediums.