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The eleven commandments of public relations

The inexorable rise of public relations has been noted in the marketing industry during the last decade. As the profession has assumed increased gravitas and earned client respect, it's appropriate to consider the tenets of what makes great public relations work so well. Here then are (the eleven commandments of public relations):

ONE: THOU SHALT INTEGRATE
Public relations' proper role in the marketing and communications mix is an integral one. In other words it works extremely well for clients if it's integrated into an overall communication plan that may involve several marketing services suppliers. It shouldn't be a choice between advertising and public relations or social media and traditional publicity - it should be a given that all can perform optimally if given equal head space in the marketing mix.    

TWO: THOU SHALT RESPECT THE POWER OF THE INVISIBLE
Although effective advertising is easily recognised and oft lauded, the hallmark of really great public relations is sometimes its invisibility. While advertising shouts in an above the line space, the workings of public relations sometimes occur off-stage. Even though an exceptional result is achieved, the public relations deus ex machina is often hidden and for this reason, the industry often doesn't get the in-your-face attention that advertising does. Public relations doesn't need to shout to get its message across.

 

THREE: PUBLIC RELATIONS BUILDETH BRANDS
Public relations is extremely effective as a brand building tool. This tends to surprise a lot of people.  Public relations activations can make a brand come alive for the experiential audience and they can then be publicised to grow the audience footprint. Thus an unforgettable party for 100 people might be talked about and aspired to by millions of potential consumers once it's been re-tweeted broadcast and written up.   

Public relations can be very effective in major brand building but it's one of many communication disciplines that generate heat in this kind of marketing arena. However, there are certain areas where public relations alone moves the needle: crisis communication, reputation management, investor relations and these are when public relations takes the lead. 

FOUR: PUBLIC RELATIONS BEATETH THE BOTTOM LINE
Historically, public relations was seen as the poor cousin of the marketing industry but if there are any marketers left who still think and budget this way, then they are the victims of lazy thinking.   

Clients tend to turn to public relations when there is budgetary pressure to deliver exceptional sales results with less resources than the previous fiscal. We have seen many clients turn to public relations in hard times to drive the message home and get the marketplace to action. If clients have budget available, I will always endorse that advertising spend be allocated. 

FIVE: HAVE I GOT A PROPOSITION FOR YOU!
Public relations is particularly effective if a brand has a complex proposition. It's sometimes  impossible to convey the advantages of a product through advertising if they are many and various simply because it's too costly to buy the airtime or page space necessary to extol all its virtues. On the other hand, editorial publicity for a product's capabilities can often be achieved and with great credibility. 

SIX: GET WITH THE PROGRAMME
The role of public relations has always been communication with stakeholders, however the latter is defined. So although that role hasn't changed, the practice of public relations has been transformed by social and technological developments. These same shifts in society and the modern age must also prompt advertisers to reinvent their offering.  

Public relations has always been about reaching and communicating with an audience and the discipline now has many innovative ways to achieve this outside of formal print and electronic platforms. The explosion of interactive technologies has turbo boosted the channels available to publicists engaging with the youth market, for instance.

SEVEN: THOU SHALT COMMIT
Public relations is at its most effective when the client is committed to the discipline. This entails fast-turnaround, cooperation and chemistry.  

EIGHT: THOU SHALT MEASURE
For public relations to earn its place in the sun, it should be answerable to the same rigours expected of other partners in the marketing supply chain. The best public relations campaigns are built on a solid foundation of research, strategy, objective setting and measurement. All too often, clients see public relations agencies as inventory suppliers and only want implementation.  

NINE: FAILURE IS AN OPTION
When does public relations fail?  It can happen and usually there's very little to finger blame about afterwards if sound strategy and planning were followed. But public relations should only fail if implementation is in the hands of the inexperienced. Logically though, public relations may fail if any of the following steps are not accounted for or taken for granted: strategy, setting objectives, planning, execution, measurement and evaluation.  

TEN:  STICKETH TO THE KNITTING
Public relations is not such a dark art that it can't be mastered by anyone with an above average IQ, a tertiary education and 20 years experience. It can be learned but do you really have the time to try and do it better than the professional consultancy you've just hired? I've been in the business for more than two decades and I'm still learning how to perfect my craft every day.  

ELEVEN: UNDER-PROMISE AND OVER-DELIVER
Sometimes, the most valuable and meaningful aspects of working with a top public relations firm are the parts you don't pay for. 

Marcus Brewster - marcusbrewster CC
January 2013

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