“If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on public relations”

Ellen Gunning - Public Relations for SMEs

Author: Ellen Gunning. Ellen is director of Irish Academy Training which provides training courses, nationwide, in communications, business, leadership, marketing and social media.

“If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on public relations” Bill Gates.

Does Bill Gates know something that you don’t? If he thinks public relations is so important, isn’t it worth looking at it for your own business?

Competition for peoples attention is intense – and will become even more difficult in 2017 and beyond. We are all time-poor but information hungry. Think about how you consume information yourself. I look for quick soundbytes which can encapsulate complex theories (Twitter). I also want people to show me how to do things – I’m a terrible woman for not reading manuals (YouTube). I adore debate and love to hear people arguing and defending a position – you can’t beat radio for that. I love to actually see how people react when they are put under pressure – and that’s television. I like to know who else agrees with me (that’s why Facebook invented ‘likes’) and I prefer information to come to me either in my inbox or in blogs. I want instant news as it is breaking! I need to keep up to date with so many things for my business that I am constantly monitoring, taking CPD courses, attending conferences, speaking with colleagues and trying to absorb and develop coherent ‘positions’ about industry trends. Add to that the fact that I want to keep up to date with my hobbies, find time for family and friends, eat well, stay healthy, exercise, relax – and you understand why companies need PR to break through all of that noise and communicate with me.

1. What is public relations?

PR, at its simplest, is communication and every business, organisation, charity, sports club or religious body communicates with people. PR is not advertising – the purpose of advertising is to sell product. Nor is it propaganda – that aims to win you over to a position whether it is right or wrong!

PR is about finding ways of telling people about you, your business, your passion, your products, your attitude to the environment, your treatment of staff, the awards that you have won, the other companies who trust your products or services. PR is about two-way communications. It is about speaking and listening. Good listening is a skill that every business needs – you learn a lot from your customers and potential clients. Good speaking is about interacting with those people and responding to what they are saying to you.

2. What investment is needed?

The two things which you need to invest in, to have good PR, are time and skills. Obviously, just like accountancy or IT, you need to learn certain skills and polish the way that you apply them but PR is also very time intensive. Whether you are writing blogs or liaising with media, polishing a presentation or creating a monthly ezine, it all takes time, but if you are willing to invest in PR, the return can be sizeable.

3. What tools should you be using?

PR practitioners use a really wide range of tools: everything from press releases to exhibitions, third-party endorsement, social media, sponsorship, entertainment opportunities, ezines, blogs, conferences and photo-calls.

4. What are you trying to achieve?

If you are going to invest in PR, you need to know what you want to achieve. There are three things that PR is particularly good at. It can create awareness of you and your business. We all accumulate information about companies from a variety of sources, but this information builds into a feeling of familiarity which will allow them to sell to you later. PR also creates a presence. It allows you to constantly remind people that you are still around and providing excellent products or services. Finally, PR is also great at establishing or enhancing your reputation. Reputations take a long time to build. Think about a brand that you trust. It has a good reputation right? Now think about how you know that? Its hard to pin-point isn’t it? That’s PR.

5. Who are you talking to?

PR targets information and interaction like a bow and arrow. One of the first things you need to do is figure out who are you talking to. Is it customers, employees, the money market, suppliers, influencers, government, competitors or peers? Make a long list of each group that you should be communicating with and rank them in order of importance. This will determine how much time you invest in each. Now look at how you reach them. You are highly unlikely to reach customers and government using the same tools – customers might find you on Facebook, government might need one-to-one lobbying. So, list the tools that each of these publics likes to use. You want to communicate with them using the tools which are convenient and appropriate for them!

People buy from people – how often have you heard that?- so you need to let them know about you and your business. Catching and holding people’s attention is difficult, but all of the research shows that people will not buy from a brand that they do not know – so your business needs to be known.

Over the course of the coming year, I will be sharing insights with you and offering hints and tips about how to get the maximum benefit from applying PR techniques to your own business.

About The Author

Ellen Gunning MA, MIAPR, FPRII, NUJ, is a director of the Irish Academy of Public Relations which she formed in 1992. The Academy provides online training, worldwide, in public relations, journalism, event management, marketing, radio journalism and grammar. Academy graduates are based in 50 countries around the world.

The Academy offers Radio Presenting and Television Presenting courses in Dublin. Academy courses are also taught by 40 partner colleges throughout Ireland, by colleges in Greece and Nigeria, and in the Middle East through Orient Planet Academy which is a joint venture with Arab partners. In addition, the college has co-operation agreements with colleges and World Trade Centres in Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay. The Academy’s courses are taught in 6 languages: English, French, Spanish, Russian, Polish and Arabic.

Through Irish Academy Training, Ellen provides SMEs nationwide with courses in communications, leadership, marketing, business and social media.

Ellen has worked in PR and Event Management since the 1980s and has been retained to handle some of the largest PR campaigns in the country, including The Kerrygold Dublin Horse Show, National Energy Awareness Week and a Presidential campaign.

A member of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) for over 20 years, Ellen is also a member of the European Association of Journalists (EAJ). She is a broadcast media journalist and a chairman of the board of directors of Dublin City fm radio station where she presents a weekly programme – Mediascope. This programme puts a spotlight on issues of interest to public relations, journalism and event management practitioners. The show is broadcast on Tuesdays at 1.30pm on 103.2 Dublin City fm.

Ellen is a regular reviewer of newspapers on the national Newstalk radio station, and contributes articles on communications issues to a variety of magazines.

Ellen is author of three books. The first, ‘Public Relations – A practical Approach’ (Gill and Macmillan 2003, 2007), is the core text, nationwide, for all students studying public relations in Ireland.   Her second book – Capital Women of Influence – was published by Liffey Press in 2009. Her third book – Ten Red Hot Tips on How to Promote your Business – was published by Mercier Press in September 2016.

Ellen has served as a Government appointed director to the boards of the National Concert Hall and the Central Council of the Irish Red Cross. She was a Forbairt Mentor for a number of years, and is a former board member of the Public Relations Institute of Ireland. She holds an honours MA in Communications and Cultural Studies from Dublin City University.

In January 2007, the Public Relations Institute of Ireland conferred her with a Fellowship. She served two terms as National Chairperson for Ireland of the International Public Relations Association.  In 2011 she won the European Parliament Broadcast Journalist of the Year award (Ireland). In 2014 she was given an award by the Nigerian Event Management Institute recognising her contribution to international public relations.

Join the conversation


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *