Types of Public Relations Tools Tutorial

As we noted in the Public Relations tutorial, the challenges faced in doing PR will lead many marketers to hire professionals to handle these activities. 

Whether marketers do their own PR or seek outside help, it is important they be familiar with the tools available for public relations. The types of key tools available to carryout the public relations function include:

  • Media Relations
  • Media Tours
  • Newsletters
  • Special Events
  • Speaking Engagements
  • Sponsorships
  • Employee Relations
  • Community Relations and Philanthropy

Each of these PR tools is discussed in detail below.

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Historically the core of public relations, media relations, includes all efforts to publicize products or the company to members of the press — TV and Radio, newspaper, magazine, newsletter and Internet. In garnering media coverage, PR professionals work with the media to place stories about products, companies and company spokespeople. This is done by developing interesting and relevant story angles that are pitched to the media. It is important to remember that media placements come with good stories and no payment is made to the media for placements. In fact, in order to maintain the highest level of credibility, many news organizations bar reporters from accepting even the smallest gifts (e.g., free pencils with product logo) from companies.

Key tools used in media relations include:

  • Press Kits - Include written information such as a news release, organization background, key spokesperson biographies and other supporting materials that provide information useful to reporters.
  • Audio or Video News Releases - These are prerecorded features distributed to news media that may be included within media programming. For instance, a local news report about amusement parks may include portions of a video news release from a national amusement park company.
  • Matte Release - Some media, especially small local newspapers, may accept articles written by companies often as filler material when their publication lacks sufficient content. PR professionals submit matte releases through syndicated services (i.e., services that supply content to many media outlets) or directly to targeted media via email, fax or snail mail.
  • Website Press Room - While hard copies of materials are used and preferred by some media, marketers are well served by an online press room that caters to media needs and provides company contact information.

As PR people know, many story ideas for newspapers, magazines and television news often start with a suggestion from a PR person. If things work out, a reporter or editor will, at best, write a positive story with the company as a key feature or, at minimum, include the company’s name somewhere within an industry-focused article.

Marketers who have captured names and addresses of customers and potential customers can use a newsletter for regular contact with their targeted audience. Newsletters can be directed at trade customers, final consumers or business buyers and can be distributed either by regular mail or electronic means (i.e., e-newsletters delivered via email or rss feed). Marketers using newsletters strive to provide content of interest to customers as well as information on products and promotions. A bookstore may include reviews of new books, information on online book chats and information on in-store or online promotions. A food manufacturer may include seasonal recipes, information on new products and coupons. Online newsletters offer the opportunity to link to stores carrying the marketer's products. Effective newsletters are sought out by and well received by interested audiences.

Some new products can be successfully publicized when launched with a media tour. On a media tour a company spokesperson travels to key cities to introduce a new product by being booked on TV and radio talk shows and conducting interviews with print and Internet reporters or influencers (e.g., bloggers). The spokesperson can be a company employee or someone hired by the company, perhaps a celebrity or "expert" who has credibility with the target audience. One common use of the media tour is the book tour, where an author travels the country to promote a newly released book. A media tour may include other kinds of personal appearances in conjunction with special events, such as public appearances, speaking engagements or autograph signing opportunities.

These run the gamut from receptions to elegant dinners to stunts. Special events can be designed to reach a specific narrow target audience, such as individuals interested in college savings plans to major events like a strawberry festival designed to promote tourism and regional agriculture. Stunts, such as building the world’s largest ice cream sundae during National Ice Cream month captures the attention of an audience in the immediate area, but also attracts the attention of mass media such as TV news and major newspapers, which provide broad reach. The Oscar Mayer Weiner mobile is a classic example, providing a recognizable icon that travels the country garnering attention wherever it visits. As with all PR programs, special event planners must work hard to ensure the program planned conveys the correct message and image to the target audience.