The Ultimate Guide to Public Relations in 2020

Are you looking to expand your business’s reach? Would you like to expose your brand to new people who’d likely be interested in your product or service?

Welcome to the world of public relations.

Public relations defines how a company communicates with people — customers, partners, journalists, philanthropists, politicians, and the general public. All businesses need public relations, regardless of their size or industry.

Why? Because, nowadays, customers want to trust the brands they do business with — and nothing builds and fosters trust like public relations.

Download Now: Free Press Release Template

What is public relations?

Public relations (PR)[1] is the practice of leveraging media channels to promote your organization and cultivate a positive public perception. PR is also the process of managing your organization’s brand and communications — especially in times of crisis.

PR is how brands manage the spread of their information, so it’s similar to branding[2]. The main difference is that PR is focused on communication and reputation, whereas branding relies on visual elements like logos, websites, and marketing materials.

Brands manage their PR — or communication and reputation — through various media channels.

Media: Owned vs. Paid vs. Earned

The types of public relations, which we’ll review shortly, can be organized into three main categories: owned, paid, and earned media. Each type works towards the same goal of building a positive brand reputation, but they use different strategies to get there.

Your PR strategies should include all three, as they all provide different ways of reaching, engaging, and building trust with your audience.

Owned media

Owned media is defined as any content that your business controls. It’s often the go-to strategy for businesses looking to build a PR campaign[3].

Rightly so, as it’s arguably the most important type of PR-related media that you should be focusing on. This is because you have total control — unlike the other two media tactics.

Owned media includes:

  • Social media posts
  • Blog content
  • Website copy
  • Email newsletters

Owned media acts as a “home base” for your PR activity. When people write about your brand or products, they’ll likely reference (i.e. link to) your owned media in their coverage.

Paid media

It’s not uncommon to pay to promote your content in the marketing world … and it’s no different when it comes to PR.

Paid media refers to paying to make your content visible. It’s standard practice to promote owned media.

Paid media includes:

  • Social media advertising
  • Influencer marketing
  • Pay-per-click (PPC)

Putting some funds toward boosting PR content is becoming increasingly popular. Since the majority of social platforms are reducing organic reach[4] for business accounts, paid media is a fantastic way to make sure your content gets in front of the people you want to see it.

Earned media

Earned media is the tactic used to boost conversation around your brand. It’s essentially word-of-mouth and is arguably the best PR tactic to build your reputation.

Earned media is the hardest type of PR media to obtain. It takes a lot of effort, consistency, and hard work to establish it — hence why it’s “earned”.

Earned media includes:

  • Mentions in industry news and reviews
  • Praise from customers on social media
  • High rankings on search engines

All of these media avenues provide ways to use PR to build brand awareness, generate leads, and convert those leads into paying customers — similar to your marketing. Now, let’s discuss the difference.

Unlike marketing, PR doesn’t always have an impact on sales. It typically indirectly promotes your products or services through activities like press release distribution[5] and speaking at industry events. Alternatively, instead of improving the perception of your business, marketing campaigns focus on driving revenue and boosting profits.

People don’t buy products, they buy brands. For this reason, using PR and marketing in tandem drives the best results: typically, someone connects with your brand as a result of your PR efforts and converts into a customer as a result of your marketing tactics.

Studies show that brand consistency can result in a revenue boost of over 20%[6]. You could be seeing similar results by combining your PR and marketing strategies.

Now, let’s discuss the types of PR you may leverage as you promote your organization and build and manage your reputation.

Business Events

Business events are opportunities to market your products or services and gain exposure for your brand. Whether hosted or attended by your company, events are also important sales opportunities. Events give you a chance to meet prospective customers and delight current ones face-to-face.

Speaking engagements at events are also helpful for boosting brand awareness and sharing unique thought leadership or data-driven information that can help elevate your brand.

Community Relations

Community relations refers to building positive relationships with the local community around your business. This could include charity work, donations, special discounts, or anything that builds a strong relationship with the community and strengthens customer loyalty.

Corporate and Social Responsibility

Corporate and social responsibility is similar to community relations, but it places a greater emphasis on ethical business practices, environmental responsibility, and philanthropy — locally, regionally, and globally. This is a critical area of PR as it directly affects public perception of your brand.

Crisis Management

Crisis management is the practice of acknowledging, managing, and working to reverse negative communication and perception surrounding a business crisis. Anything that could jeopardize or ruin your brand’s reputation should be handled through PR.

Manage, plan for, and communicate during your corporate crises with this free crisis management communication kit.[7]

Crisis management is an important function of PR and should be handled quickly, consistently, and strategically. With certain PR tools[8], crises can be averted through monitoring online chatter and quality-checking any marketing or promotional material that may be misunderstood or misconstrued.

Employee Relations

Employee relations, also known as internal PR, is the practice of communicating with and cultivating a positive employee perception of your company. This process may include dedicated employee newsletters or communications, employee perks and benefits, free training and skill-boosting opportunities, employee appreciation events, and working with unions or employee groups.

Employee relations not only keeps your employees motivated, hard-working, and loyal, but it also encourages them to advocate for your business — which can bring in both customers and more high-quality employees.

Media Relations

Media relations refers to building positive relationships with journalists, publications, and other news outlets. This process typically includes writing press releases[9], organizing press releases, and scheduling interviews. Not only does this gain exposure for your business and products but it also encourages the media to market your brand for free.

Download our free Inbound Press Release Kit to access step-by-step templates to build press releases and a promotion plan.[10]

Social Media

Social media is considered both an earned and paid PR tactic. For most companies, social media can be a helpful PR (and marketing) tool —it’s an effective way to amass followers, convert customers, share your content, and resolve crises.

Whether you’re sharing a post with your audience or interacting with a single customer, your social media activity is open to the public. That’s why it’s critical to have a social media strategy that keeps your communications consistent, positive, and accurate.

Now, let’s talk about the who’s responsible for these different types of PR: your PR manager.

What does a PR manager do?

PR managers are responsible for building, executing, and monitoring your PR strategies and tactics. They typically handle crisis communications, write press releases, and lead a team of other PR professionals who manage your brand’s public presence.

Let’s discuss the skills and tasks your PR manager(s) will master.

PR Manager Skills

Successful PR managers have a particular set of skills — below, I will cover a few important ones.

Great communication

One primary focus of public relations is building your business’s reputation. To do this, PR managers spend a lot of their time speaking about your company at public functions, press conferences, and other events. For this reason, excellent communication is a key skill for PR managers.

Writing skills

PR managers should also be able to communicate well in written form.

Since PR managers are responsible for writing press releases and company-related news, strong writing skills will help convey the appropriate message to promote your company. This is especially useful for online PR where you’ll need to create blog posts, website content, and press releases to gain coverage.


Similar to marketing, creativity goes a long way in the public relations world. Great PR managers are creative and know how to create a strategy that stands out from the crowd, which is important because a unique story or perspective will drive PR coverage.

Strong research skills

Public relations is a social industry, and people might be talking about your brand without directly mentioning it. Good research skills will help PR managers find and leverage these opportunities.

PR managers will also need to do lots of research when planning your PR strategy. Because they might need additional information, statistics, and data points to boost the power of their owned media, strong research skills are essential.

1 2