The Eleven Commandments of PR

13 years ago

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Marcus Brewster, one of the leading lights of the PR industry in South Africa, offers up eleven golden rules for outstanding PR practice.



The inexorable rise of PR has been noted in the marketing industry during the last three years. As the profession has assumed increased gravitas and earned client respect, it’s appropriate to consider the tenets of what makes great PR work so well. Here then are the Eleven Commandments of PR:

One: Thou Shalt Integrate

PR’s proper role in the marketing and communications mix is an integral one. In other words it works extremely well for clients if it’s integrated into an overall communications plan that may involve several marketing services suppliers.

It shouldn’t be a choice between advertising and PR - it should be a given that both will perform optimally if they are given equal head-space in the marketing mix.

Two: Thou Shalt Respect The Power Of The Invisible

Although effective advertising is easily recognised and oft lauded, the hallmark of really great PR is sometimes its invisibility. While advertising shouts in an above the line space, the workings of public relations sometimes occur off-stage.

Even though an exceptional result is achieved, the PR deus ex machina is often hidden and for this reason, the industry often doesn’t get the in-your-face attention that advertising does. PR doesn’t need to shout to get its message across.

Three: PR Buildeth Brands

PR is extremely effective as a brand building tool. This tends to surprise a lot of people. PR activations can make a brand come alive for the experiential audience and they can then be publicised to grow the audience footprint. Thus an unforgettable party for 100 people might be talked about and aspired to by millions of potential consumers once it’s been broadcast and written up.

PR can be very effective in major brand building but it’s one of many communications disciplines that generate heat in this kind of marketing arena. However, there are certain areas where PR alone moves the needle: crisis communication, reputation management, investor relations and these are when PR takes the lead.

Four: PR Beateth The Bottom Line

Historically, PR was seen as the poor cousin of the marketing industry but if there are any marketers left who still think and budget this way, then they are the victims of lazy thinking and have been left behind in the PR-fuelled stampede to the tills.

Clients tend to turn to PR when there is budgetary pressure to deliver exceptional sales results with less resource than the previous fiscal. We have seen many clients turn to PR in hard times to drive the message home and get the marketplace to action. If clients have budget available, I will always endorse that advertising spend be allocated.

Five: Have I Got A Proposition For You!

PR is particularly effective if a brand has a complex proposition. It’s sometimes impossible to convey the advantages of a product through advertising if they are many and various simply because it’s too costly to buy the airtime or page space necessary to extol all its virtues.

On the other hand, editorial publicity for a product’s capabilities can often be achieved and with great credibility.

Six: Get With The Programme

The role of PR has always been communication with stakeholders, however the latter is defined. So although that role hasn’t changed, the practice of PR has been transformed by social and technological developments.

These same shifts in society and the modern age must also prompt advertisers to reinvent their offering. PR has always been about reaching and communicating with an audience and the discipline now has many innovative ways to achieve this outside of formal print and electronic channels.

The explosion of interactive technologies such as MXit, YouTube, MySpace and other social networking sites has turbo boosted the channels available to publicists engaging with the youth market, for instance.

Seven: Thou Shalt Commit

PR is at its most effective when client is committed to the discipline. This entails fast-turnaround, cooperation and chemistry.
Eight: Thou Shalt Measure

For PR to earn its place in the sun, it should be answerable to the same rigours expected of other partners in the marketing supply chain. The best PR campaigns are built on a solid foundation of research, strategy, objective-setting and measurement. All too often, clients see PR agencies as inventory suppliers and only want implementation.

Nine: Failure Is An Option

When does PR fail? It can happen and usually there’s very little to finger blame about afterwards if sound strategy and planning were followed. But PR should only fail if implementation is in the hands of the inexperienced. Logically though, PR may fail if any of the following steps are not accounted for or taken for granted: strategy, setting objectives, planning, execution, measurement and evaluation.
Ten: Sticketh To The Knitting

PR is not such a dark art that it can’t be mastered by anyone with an above average IQ, a tertiary education and 20 years experience. It can be learned but do you really have the time to try and do it better than the professional consultancy you’ve just hired? I’ve been in the business for more than two decades and I’m still learning how to perfect my craft every day.

Eleven: Under-Promise And Over-Deliver.

Sometimes, the most valuable and meaningful aspects of working with a top PR firm are the parts you don’t pay for.


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The Author

Marcus Brewster

Marcus Brewster is the most awarded public relations professional in South Africa. His company Marcus Brewster Publicity earned an unprecedented six wins at the 2007 PRISM Awards for PR Excellence including the overall Gold PRISM for Best PR Campaign of the Year.

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