PR is a part of the marketing mix that tends to vary in popularity. With the rise of social media, blogging, forums, reviews and other online mechanisms, PR is becoming increasingly difficult to control and respond to. However with some careful planning and common sense, PR can work wonders for your business for little to no cost.

PR used to be about distributing press releases and contacting media representatives when you had something ‘newsworthy’ to say – a new product, a change in ownership, a new logo etc. Generally it comes from a company’s marketing department or dedicated media manager. Today, PR has become a two way process. Companies feed information out via Twitter, Facebook, blogs, forums etc., and consumers feed information in via interactions with the same. PR has, in many ways, become crowdsourced.

Apple makes a very interesting PR case study. Apple’s PR strategy is that they have no PR strategy. They never issue press releases, generate hype, respond to hype, or generally act publicly until the absolute moment of product launch. However, this doesn’t prevent the rumour mill from churning away, months before a product release. Speculated features are discussed and dissected by techs and bloggers, in many cases without any official source of information. Some argue that Apple leaks information to build the buzz which surrounds the launch of their famous products. Whatever the case, the rumour mill is Apple’s most powerful marketing tool, and in some cases their only form of marketing.

Expanding the traditional channels for PR generation has its good and bad sides. Whilst it spreads a message faster than we could ever dream, if that message is negative, it can be a big problem for your business. However, social media provides you the opportunity to react to negative comment then and there, for all your customers to see.

So how can you manage all these tools and their various complications to build good PR for your business? Here are a few tips:

Have a PR strategy and when something is newsworthy, spread the word!!

Make sure your off line PR (press releases, media contacts, interviews) is in total support of your online PR (Twitter, FB, blogs) and vice versa. Ensure the message is consistent across the board.

Ensure you monitor your ‘online profile’ regularly and pick up on any negative chatter. Google your company once a day, and also set up Google Alerts for whenever anything new is published.

Promote and reward good PR – send a gift or a personalised thankyou note to someone who is spreading good news about you (and make this as public as possible – like sending an online voucher and posting it on their FB page).

Promoting sources which are reliable, and those that aren’t. Make it known when information is official and when it is fake or unproven.

React to any bad PR quickly, fairly and sensibly, in support of your brand promise and positioning.

Now to sit back and watch Qantas work it’s way out of a PR disaster…