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Public relations at its basis is communicating with an audience without paying for that communication. On the other hand, advertising, by definition, involves some form of feet. If you buy a print ad in your local newspaper, you are advertising. If you convince a reporter to write about your company in the local newspaper, that's public relations.
That said, modern public relations have a far broader context. Companies and organizations also can communicate directly with customers through websites, blogs and social media. Public relations is any means you communicate with your audience, whether on your own or through another outlet.
In fact, many experts consider public relations to be much more effective than traditional advertising. The reasoning is simple: If you run an advertisement describing your product, your audience may be less than impressed. After all, don't you have a vested interest in saying how great your product is? But if a third party reviews your product, that reference carries much greater weight.
Good public relations can:
A number of outlets can advance your PR campaign. These include:
Given the wealth of resources, it’s difficult to know where to start. For almost any business, the first step in building effective public relations is to provide a comprehensive website.
On that site, don't just sell products or services. Answer questions. Provide content about your company, your employees, your products, your charitable efforts. Let your customers develop a real sense of the company. Announce new products. Announce new services. Provide maintenance, warranty, and repair information. Instead of simply focusing on what you want people to purchase, focus on what your customers want to know about your company, your products, and your services.
Next, embrace different communication tools. Create a company blog, but not simply for self-promotion. Provide information your customers can use. Comment on news that relates to your industry. Leave comments on other industry blogs. Use blogs to put a "face" on your company.
Don’t forget about social media outlets such as Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. You can use a social media tools such as Instagram to alert customers of special deals. For example, a San Francisco bakery lets customers know what items are hot and fresh that morning. Other companies post their one-day-only sales to their Instagram followers. Is that advertising? In a way, but it's also free.
Public relations is, at its core, simply a marketing tool: take control of your own message and use a variety of tools to get the word out about your business.