By Claire Cunningham - Director - Rockallwight PR
As the Director of a new PR start up with a mission to support innovative SMEs, I have spent a good deal of time talking to business leaders. Many of these conversations are about the business benefits that PR offers. Some small small business leaders ask, "what is PR and what can it do for me?" They are clear that it is not marketing but often PR can be confused with other similar activity, like being a publicist.
One business owner recently asked me if: “ I was a bit like Max Clifford?” We won't go into the hair-raising detail here of Mr Clifford's eventual demise but, in short, the answer to that question is no. PR is much broader than the work done by publicists and it’s not all about helping people out of difficult situations with the press, although sometimes crisis management does come into play.
There is an ongoing international debate about the nature of PR, accompanied by a wealth of academic theory. I am a member of one of the UK's two main PR industry membership organisations, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR). This is their definition:
“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.”
No matter how small your business is, you ultimately depend on your reputation for survival and success. Your customers, suppliers, employees, can have a powerful impact. Their perceptions will drive their decisions about whether they want to work with you, buy your product and support your business.
Business is competitive but your company’s reputation can be its biggest asset – the thing that makes you stand out from the crowd and gives you a competitive edge. Effective PR can help manage your reputation, by communicating and building good relationships with all of the stakeholders you need to influence, to make your business a success.
For small innovative SMEs, PR is ultimately a business tool. Used properly, it can help businesses to achieve their top-level goals. PR professionals value the business relationships you build, in and of themselves, not just because a new contact might lead to a sale. This is because when you have great relationships with the right stakeholders, you can work with them to achieve your goals.