PR 101: What, How, Who, When?

When I started my career in PR more than 20 years ago, most people thought PR was just a new word for advertising.  To this day, people ask if we are responsible for a client’s advertisements and we say “no, we focus on earned media – like stories written by reporters in the newspaper, not paid media like advertisements you hear on the radio or see in print.”

The A quickest way to explain Public Relations: it’s a way to tell your unique story through an influential third party, like media and bloggers, to influence the opinion of your target customer – getting them to dine at your new establishment!

These stories can be about a grand opening, a new menu or chef, an event or special dining experience. They are stories people will want to hear or read about, and the beauty about PR versus advertising is it comes from someone else – a third party – which instantly provides a level of believability and authenticity that paid media, such as advertising does not.

Now that you hopefully have a sense for what PR is – let’s talk about what PR is not.

PR is not…

  • An overnight success
  • Free advertising
  • Guaranteed coverage 
  • 100% controllable

So if any of the aforementioned are important to you, you might consider advertising instead, which will provide the last two bullet items.

Businesses who execute PR are often seeking to build an image or increase awareness about their business to capture more customers and sell more products. They may also want to build loyalty and trust or shape their reputation, for example, “X restaurant has the best brunch in the city!” Unfortunately they may also be responding to a crisis. But largely it’s about motivating an audience to do what they want – in your case, dine at your restaurant.

To get PR to work for you, you’ll need:

  • A unique story that’s interesting and easily understood
  • A product (dish, menu, experience) that people will love
  • A defined audience to share it with – media, bloggers, influencers, customers
  • Who will tell it to your target customers – magazine articles, broadcast stories, word of mouth

And you'll need a toolkit with items like: 

  • Press releases
  • Media pitches
  • Visuals, like photography
  • Social media channels
  • A Website
  • Newsletter
  • And maybe even a postcard or other collateral pieces

Once you activate your PR efforts, you can expect to build relationships with local media and influencers, see your business name and maybe your name in print, hear people talking about an article they read, consistency in the way people talk about your establishment (“the best brunch in town”), and a steady increase in business that is the result of staying top of mind among your customers. 

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