07 August 2017 Bec Derrington

PR often means different things to different people. Many organisations believe PR is something that needs to be done to manage a crisis and control the way the brand is viewed when something goes wrong. When things are going well, PR is often put on the back burner in favour of other priorities.

While PR is undeniably essential when things go wrong, it doesn’t mean that you should forget about it when the crisis is over. There are a number of positive ways that PR can be useful to brands, especially when if you want to build a strong brand identity and improve your visibility.

The two types of PR

Essentially, there are two main types of PR – 'proactive' and 'reactive' PR. Both have different functions but they are of equal importance if you want to develop a strong PR strategy over time.

Reactive PR

This is the damage control type of PR. If your brand receives negative publicity, or if you have a disaster that affects the wider public, a swift, effective response can go a long way towards managing the situation and reducing any lasting negative impact on your brand.

Unfortunately, reactive PR is often unpredictable, because it’s hard to know why or when you might find yourself the subject of negative attention. This can make it difficult to plan for and means you will need to think on your feet at what is almost certainly going to be a stressful time.

While you may not have that crystal ball handy, you can still prepare by taking some time to consider how you plan to deal with a negative situation ahead of time. If possible, create a written strategy to keep you focused and make sure your message stays on brand.

We have all seen brands savaged in the media because they failed to respond to negative publicity or a major disaster swiftly or appropriately. In this situation it doesn’t matter how much proactive PR they do, once a reputation is tarnished, it is very difficult to recover.

Proactive PR

Proactive PR is what we do when there is no crisis to manage. It’s an ongoing effort to establish strong relationships with journalists and earn positive attention and coverage from mainstream media.

If done well, proactive PR can boost your exposure and create opportunities for your brand on a number of levels. Unlike crisis management, proactive PR lets you convey the message of your choosing to your audience.

Because you’re not on the back foot, you can control and plan the conversation around your organisation, rather than waiting for the conversation to turn negative and then jumping into damage limitation. Proactive PR is now more important than ever. Traditional advertising is losing its impact as audiences have become media savvy and increasingly fed up with a constant influx of commercial brand messages.

PR is different from traditional advertising as it involves a third party in the form of a journalist or blogger who is viewed as impartial. Most consumers these days are going to put more weight on a recommendation from a trusted authority than a paid endorsement.

While it does mean putting time and resources into identifying stories and pitching them to journalists, the payoffs of proactive PR can be huge. Coverage in a major publication can get your brand message in front of millions of people. It allows you to strengthen your brand message and because PR comes from a trusted source (the journalist or publication) it builds your credibility faster than anything else.

Mastering the balancing act

Effective PR takes a two-pronged approach. You need to have a clear reactive PR strategy in place to help you respond to unexpected events and negative publicity. However, it’s equally important to build a strong, positive brand image through proactive PR and building relationships with media organisations. This can be done through tools like SourceBottle.

The perfect PR strategy is never going to be straightforward, but if you can find the balance between a proactive approach and damage limitation you can greatly increase your PR results and build a strong, positive image for your brand.