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Public relations (PR) 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 is similar to branding. The main difference is that PR is focused on communication and reputation, whereas branding relies on visual elements like logos, websites, and marketing materials.

To manage your PR, you will use various media channels – owned, paid, earned. So, what are those media channels and what are the differences?

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 is often the go-to strategy for businesses looking to build a PR campaign.

Rightly so, as it is 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

Paid media

It is 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 is 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 most social platforms are reducing organic reach 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 is 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 is “earned”.

Earned media includes:

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

Here are the main things to consider when developing a PR strategy.

  • Objectives: we often ask new clients what success looks like to them to drill down to what their objectives are. An objective could be anything from increasing traffic to the website by x amount, encourage x amount of sign-ups or raise awareness of the brand to a specific audience. Ideally in a PR plan, there should be one to three objectives to ensure priorities do not get watered down and the objectives will dictate what strategy is put into place.
  • Target audience: another key thing to consider is the target audience – a business will need to consider who its key stakeholders are (which aren’t always customers or potential customers but could be specific micro-influencers or a group that needs to be on the receiving end of a message). A strategy must be developed with the target audience(s) in mind otherwise it won’t be relevant or effective.
  • Insights and research: a strong strategy must be based on insights and research – including insights about the business in question, the industry as a whole and the target audience. Research can be done with data/surveys, reports and even SWOT and PEST analysis can help.
  • Tactics: once a strategy has been developed after objectives, target audience and the research has been taken into account, the next stage is to develop communication tactics – the activities and the channels that will be used – that are consistent with the strategy. When planning tactics, usually the public relations professional / agency pulling it together will work it into a calendar, considering any other marketing activities. When considering which channels to use, you should always consider the PASO model.
  • Measurement: during and at the end of any delivery of strategy and tactics, it’s important that it’s measured so that a business can see if the objectives have been fulfilled (e.g. the results and any return on activity it’s invested in).


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