Why is public relations important?

A visual representation of PR.

Whether you run a business or are in charge of a non-profit charity, communicating your key message and managing your reputation is crucially important. This is where public relations (PR) comes in.

Without a good reputation, building a successful business can be very difficult. PR is all about building and maintaining a good reputation. By doing this, you can stay in control of how the rest of the world views your business or charity. Good PR strategies work by sending the right brand messages, at the right time, to the right target audience. Through investing time and money into creating and implementing targeted PR strategies, you can create and maintain a stronger brand reputation.

In this guide we look at why PR is so important for businesses and charities alike. We will define the term, before then looking specifically at some of the major benefits of well-implemented PR strategies, from generating positive media attention to PR crisis management.

What is public relations?

Almost without exception, every organisation in the world operates in an environment that can be impacted by social, political and legal changes. Typically, it is the ways in which an organisation reacts to these changes that form the brand’s reputation.

The term ‘public relations’ refers to the strategic approaches organisations can put in place to help build, maintain, and protect their reputations on a day-to-day basis. As we will explore below, these strategies can take many forms and have to be implemented both proactively and reactively. From so-called ‘goodwill creation’ in the wake of a media crisis to the generation of positive media attention and community trust building, successful PR is all about developing a strong relationship between an organisation and its target audience.

Why is PR important to a business

No matter how small your business or charity, a strong public relations strategy can add to your success. Below we look at four areas in which a solid PR strategy can help build and, often more importantly, preserve your business’ or charity’s reputation.

Generate positive media attention

Media attention has the ability to make or break an organisation. While negative coverage may be something you have to manage, you will have to actively compete for positive attention. However, unlike when attempting to generate attention through often intrusive marketing techniques, generating and harnessing positive coverage through PR allows you to build more natural, unforced relationships with audiences. As the messages you are trying to get across are picked up and presented to the public through third-party media platforms rather than directly from your business, these stories also appear unbiased and more genuine.

A good example of this is IKEA’s #StayHome PR campaign. Launched during the height of COVID-19-induced global lockdowns, this multimedia campaign encouraged customers to stay at home and appreciate homes for what they are. This is in contrast to their usual marketing campaigns aimed at home improvements through the purchase of IKEA products.

Build trust and credibility

A large part of a successful PR strategy revolves around improving the perceived credibility and trustworthiness of an organisation. By doing this through PR campaigns, your business or charity can benefit from ‘real’ positive opinions and not just those more 'artificial’ ones generated through traditional marketing campaigns. When done well, positive PR campaigns can allow you to have a more genuine dialogue with potential customers/stakeholders, helping you to build brand trustworthiness and credibility in the process.

Management crises

A common misconception is that PR is all about generating positive news coverage for your business. In fact, one of the most effective and important roles PR plays happens in times of crisis. This is to say, should disaster strike - be that a faulty product that needs to be recalled, a wrongdoing involving organisation personnel becoming public, or a badly received marketing campaign - a solid PR crisis management plan can help the organisation through it.

By getting ahead of the story and attempting to control the narrative, crisis management PR can stop negative stories from blowing up, limiting any potential damage to the organisation. In this sense, a good PR strategy will allow your organisation to communicate the best response to the public and act quickly, thus manufacturing the best possible outcome for your business or charity in any given crisis. 

It’s also worth noting that, during times of crisis, business and charity insurance policies may be able to provide additional support - both legally and financially. For example, many professional indemnity insurance policies offer access to specialist management of PR and media services to be used in the event of a PR crisis.

Build brand authority

Finally, PR has an important role to play when it comes to successful digital marketing campaigns. By creating online content and publishing articles that are referenced and linked to by other websites that are deemed as authorities in your chosen field, your organisation’s reputation as a credible source of information will improve. By having links to your site placed by well-known authorities, you can not only win more customers/stakeholders and become a more widely-recognised business or charity, you can also generate more leads that help you grow. This can also set you apart from competitors. 

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