It’s not called earned media for nothing

Public relations or PR has been called many things over the years.

For example, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) defines PR as:

“Public Relations is about reputation - the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you.

“Public Relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.”

A bit boring that one – well done if you managed to read it all without glazing over.

The Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) says:

“Public Relations, or ‘PR’, is all about the way organisations communicate with the public, promote themselves, and build a positive reputation and public image.

“The way an organisation is represented in the media has a huge impact on how people perceive it. PR professionals try to influence the media to represent their organisation positively and communicate key messages.”

Not much better.

Others have referred to it as, rather cheekily and perhaps unkindly: ‘Organised lying’.

At least it’s succinct.

However, the one that is too often used by people outside of the industry and which does the profession the biggest disservice is the description of PR as ‘free publicity’.

While this label is normally delivered gleefully and with a positive intention, it somewhat undermines the time, effort and skill required to deliver good PR.

Having said that, it’s probably our fault. If you are consistently getting good quality PR coverage in the media and, at the same time, you make it look easy, you can’t blame people for thinking it is easy.

It isn’t.

And this is where the earned bit comes in. To be successful at PR you’ve got to earn it.

Think about it. Why would the editor of a publication simply take what you’ve sent it to them and put it straight onto the page? No vetting, no consideration, just cut and paste and the job’s a good ‘un.

The editor’s job is to make their publication as appealing as they can for their audience. The theory goes: The better the content, the bigger the readership, the more attractive it is to advertisers, the greater the revenue. It’s a good theory and it works in practice.

So that means the editor has to include content that is one or more of these:

  • Interesting
  • Entertaining
  • Informative
  • Useful
  • Enlightening
  • Beneficial
  • Educational

The readers (or most of them) have got to get something positive from it.

So, from a PR perspective, we’ve got to make sure our stories have as many of the ingredients from the same list.

And that’s the tricky bit, especially when the thing you are PR-ing has been PR’d before. It’s not new. It’s mature. You’ve told the story numerous times.

How do you make your story different this time? How do you make it stand out - again?

That’s where the value comes in. Finding an angle, crafting the copy, coming up with the right image or video. And making sure that what you do is in tune with the client’s brand and its marketing objectives.

Neither can it be a one off; a great bit of PR that you’re unable to replicate in the future. You need to be able to come up with another angle, then another and another; keeping the story fresh, relevant and newsworthy.

If you can keep doing it, keep the coverage going, then indeed, you have earned it.