February 2024

Why Does an Organization Hire a PR Firm

If you’re not familiar with South Shore PR, chances are you’ve googled why companies hire a PR firm and stumbled upon this blog post. This is a relatively common question followed by how is a PR firm is different from a marketing company, and what should I look for in hiring a PR firm. Today, we’d like to share some information to answer these common questions. We’ll discuss some of the most common reasons why an organization hires a PR firm or firm, how a PR firm is different from a marketing firm, and what you should look for before you hire a PR firm.

Why Hire a PR Firm?

  1. Brand Building: We like to think of branding as your organization’s opportunity to begin, reestablish, or enhance your identity to a new or existing audience. Whether you are opening a brand-new venture or introducing a new product or service to your ideal customer, branding begins and eventually solidifies this relationship. Branding your business is so much more than simply sharing your name and logo; when done correctly, it is what sets your organization apart from others and builds loyalty with your ideal customers.
  2. Media Relations: The function of most public relations work is building strategic relationships with media for your brand. These relationships are working partnerships where your brand is featured in a favorable light organically (non-paid placement), and if need be, these relationships can be leveraged in a moment of reputational crisis. As in any partnership relationship, a public relations professional will be a resource for the media, and in return, the media will be a resource for the PR pro person wanting to share their organization’s story.
  3. Reputation Management: Reputation management is about supporting a brand so that the positive aspects of your organization are shared far and wide to build brand loyalty with your ideal customer. Skilled reputation management can also lessen or avoid reputational damage for a client. PR is most known for crisis management, the reputational repair part of reputation management, when you ask most people what PR pros do. The goal of reputation management is to keep your brand and organization in a positive light and, if needed, repair any damage with critical stakeholders to rebuild trust and regain loyalty.

Marketing is not PR, but when the two practices are combined, magic happens:

The function of public relations is to build relationships for your organization, whether it be with customers, media, or other key stakeholders. These relationships propel your brand forward and ultimately help you achieve your communications, marketing, and branding goals. Public relations is most beneficial when an organization needs to build, maintain, or repair relationships with key stakeholder groups. Common public relations activities would include but not be limited to media relations, branding, brand building, social media management, and content creation.

Meanwhile, marketing is used to drive sales and entice people into buying your product or using your services. Marketing will not typically cover media engagement or relationship building but tactics such as advertising and promotion. Marketing is about proposing a problem and creating a solution for the intended audience. Typical marketing activities might include creating content such as fliers, brochures, or advertisements.

Marketing and public relations can be combined to create integrated marketing; this is an extremely powerful way to launch your business communications goals. An integrated marketing firm will help you sell your product, goods, or services while building and enhancing the key relationships needed to support achieving your strategic goals for your organization. The benefit of an integrated marketing firm is that all of your communications needs can fit cohesively, ensuring the story your organization is telling is seamless and reaches its intended target audience.

What you should look for in hiring a PR Firm:

Hiring a PR firm is just like hiring any other services your organization might need, like a bookkeeper or a vendor that supports the goals of your organization’s objectives. Doing your homework on any potential PR partner is essential; you are, after all, putting your organization’s “voice” in their hands. To tell if a PR firm is a good fit for your organization, be sure to look at a list of the services the firm offers. If, for example, you are launching a brand and you want to throw a party, but the PR firm doesn’t provide this service, then you may want to choose a firm that has more experience in this area. Some PR firms only specialize in one type of PR, such as branding, crisis management, or public affairs.

The second thing we would recommend is to look at the firm’s past and current work. If you see great PR work, this is a great way to find a firm. The beauty of this approach is that you see the results in real time, and you can see the firm in action. An excellent PR firm can take aspects that you like and feel will fit your organization and make it unique to your brand and voice.

Last, ask questions, lots of questions. PR practitioners are communicators by trade, and that is what we do. Asking lots of questions not only helps you assess if the firm is the right fit for the services you need but also allows the PR firm to ensure that they can perform the work you require.

We hope that this post has shed some light on some of the most common reasons why companies hire a PR firm, some of the functions of a PR firm, and what you should look for when hiring a PR firm. There are lots of different types of firms out there, each with its own personality, portfolio, and way of doing business. We suggest that you take your time, if possible, and choose the firm that is the right fit for your brand.

PR Hot Take: Where There is Smoke, There is Fire

Recently, an organization I follow announced made a significant announcement about the staff that would significantly impact their daily operations. I will not be naming the organization or giving any identifiable details in this post. While this announcement may have been in the works for months, the news distributed to the public seemed abrupt and came with very little forewarning that this transition would be happening. To add to the abrupt nature of the announcement, was that this change would occur before the allotted schedule that this organization routinely follows. All in all, the announcement caught me, an invested stakeholder, off guard.

Fast forward ten days later, and I happened to be on social media and read a story about alleged missing funds within the same organization. My PR intuition was initially aroused at the announcement; then, with the following news, I acknowledged I was watching a communications crisis develop in real-time. As a crisis communications professional, I had to know more, so I began digging. What is in the public discourse, social media, and press stories leaves more unanswered questions and severe gaps in communication with general stakeholders. For this organization, where trust is paramount, I am deeply concerned about the reputational damage being done in real time.

I share this PR hot take today because, number one, it interests me, and I am interested to see how these issues will resolve as a whole for the organization. I am also sharing this because it is an excellent case of how not to communicate with stakeholders. Below, you will find my perfect recipe for a full-blown crisis communications episode:

  1. Make a significant announcement with little to no warning to the general public that will profoundly impact your organization forever.
  2. Hold closed-door meetings where stakeholders who are usually involved have been shut out or have the perception that they’ve been shut out.
  3. Do not correct accusations of missing funds and or make any statements to clear the record on this matter.
  4. Do not communicate a plan for transition, stability, and transparency.

When an organization goes through a transition with public stakeholders, communication efforts should be ample and provide transparency. The lack of transparency is not good. I was talking to a friend about this organization and the situation, and they said to me the adage, “Where there is smoke, there’s fire.” My friend’s thoughts on the situation illustrated that with the lack of communication from the organization, there is a vacuum for information where stakeholders will be left to make their own conclusions, and that is not good. Reputational damage is being done in real time.

As a communications professional and an interested stakeholder, I find this painful to watch. The point that I am trying to make is that communication is powerful and, when done strategically, makes the difference in building trust and protecting an organization’s reputation. I understand that this organization may not be able to communicate specific details, but the lack of communication as a whole lends stakeholders to feel that the organization is intentionally vague out of wrongdoing or guilt. In my conversation with my friend, I asked what led them to believe that there was alleged wrong-doing in this situation, and they remarked to me, “They’re just not telling us enough, and the way in which things have been communicated doesn’t help matters, it all just feels like a sloppy mess.” I could not fault my friend’s assessment of the situation; the communication, what has gone out publicly, has been sloppy from a strategic point of view.

Communicating ad-hoc to the general public when your organization is heavily public-facing and requires trust at the highest levels from your stakeholders is a bad situation. I hope that this organization realizes what is happening before the reputational damage gets any worse, and if they don’t know how to communicate what is happening within their organization, they seek help from a communications professional immediately.

Examples such as this one can be found easily in business or anywhere where there is public interest within a community. I also want to make clear that I am not criticizing this organization; I am simply using it as a teachable moment. Reader, if you take only one thing away from this post today, take this: communication is key! Don’t leave your stakeholders to come to their own conclusions about the inner workings of your organization; it never ends well. Trust me on this one!

PR Demystified Examining the Commonalities and Distinctions in PR Campaigns for Businesses and Nonprofits

What do Fortune 500 Companies and the smallest nonprofits have in common? They both focus all their efforts on serving their key stakeholders, whether clients or customers; the goal is the same. For-profit businesses and nonprofit organizations may seem worlds apart in their goals, yet they share fundamental similarities in building trust and credibility. Today, we will delve into the core differences and common ground between for-profit businesses and nonprofits’ PR strategies and tactics. So, let’s look at some similarities and differences between how these two segments of the industry operate their PR strategies.

While businesses and nonprofits pursue different and even, at times, opposite objectives, both share a common pursuit – establishing trust and credibility while serving their stakeholders. Credibility and trust are indispensable for any organization, forming the bedrock upon which successful relationships with stakeholders are built. Transparent communication, community engagement, and a commitment to corporate social responsibility are avenues through which both entities cultivate positive perceptions. Here are five examples of what the for-profit and nonprofits have in common when it comes to PR strategy:

Building Trust: Both nonprofits and businesses prioritize the establishment of trust with their stakeholders to foster positive relationships.

  1. Credibility Matters: The need for credibility is universal, as both organizations recognize the critical importance of maintaining a positive and trustworthy reputation.
  2. Clear Communication: Honest and transparent communication are shared priorities for both nonprofits and businesses to have meaningful interactions with their key stakeholders.
  3. Community Engagement: Both sectors engage with their key stakeholders, whether for customer loyalty in businesses or garnering unwavering support and donations for nonprofits.
  4. Adaptability in Messaging: While goals differ, the ability to tailor messages to resonate with specific audiences is a commonality across industries, allowing both nonprofits and businesses to share their unique value propositions in a way that resonates with their audiences.

Now that we’ve looked at a few similarities, let’s look at the differences in PR objectives and campaigns. Businesses focus on revenue generation and customer acquisition, emphasizing market positioning and financial success. In contrast, nonprofits prioritize the support they provide to their chosen community group, building and maintaining impactful relationships with the communities they serve and the greater community and aiming to attract donors and support for their social impact initiatives. The most successful PR campaigns understand and leverage these nuances through tailoring strategies that align with the unique goals of each entity.

Let’s take a look at five distinct differences between PR campaigns and strategies for the nonprofit and for-profit industries:

  1. Primary Objectives: For-profit business has one primary function, to generate profit and maximize shareholder value, while nonprofits focus on achieving social impact and working towards alleviating societal issues.
  2. Audience Motivation: Businesses traditionally target consumers driven by purchasing decisions, while nonprofits appeal to individuals motivated by a sense of social responsibility and altruism.
  3. Financial Metrics vs. Social Impact Metrics: Businesses measure success through financial metrics such as ROI, sales, and market share, whereas nonprofits gauge success through social impact metrics like lives touched, communities improved, or awareness raised.
  4. Marketing Advocacy: Businesses often engage in marketing to promote products or services, while nonprofits focus on advocacy, championing social change, and raising awareness for their cause.
  5. Funding Sources: Businesses primarily rely on revenue streams from product or service sales, while nonprofits depend on a combination of donations, grants, and fundraising efforts to sustain their operations and achieve their mission.

For local businesses and nonprofits seeking to navigate the intricate landscape of PR, this can be overwhelming, to say the least. South Shore PR, in cooperation with The Duneland Chamber of Commerce, has designed a class to demystify member businesses and organizations’ unique needs through South Shore PR Bootcamp. Participants gain valuable insights into effective campaign strategies tailored to their needs by emphasizing the commonalities and distinctions between business and nonprofit PR. This course provides the tools, case studies, and industry trends necessary for professionals to bridge the gap between organizational objectives and successful PR outcomes.

Selling Points for the South Shore PR Bootcamp with the Duneland Chamber of Commerce:

  1. Practical Insights: The course delivers real-world insights, offering practical tools that professionals can immediately apply to their PR strategies.
  2. Tailored Approach: Participants learn how to customize their PR efforts, ensuring that strategies align seamlessly with the specific goals of businesses or nonprofits.
  3. Industry-Relevant Knowledge: Taught by South Shore PR President Jackie Thomas, she will share the latest industry trends, ensuring that PR efforts remain cutting-edge and effective in an ever-evolving communication landscape. She brings her successful experience in both the nonprofit and for-profit industries to support your PR goals.

Understanding the similarities and differences between business and nonprofit campaigns is paramount when determining how to make the most of your marketing and PR dollars. In partnership with the Duneland Chamber of Commerce, South Shore PR Bootcamp serves as a beacon for local businesses and nonprofits, offering a roadmap to demystify their PR needs and achieve the desired results. Empowered by practical insights and industry knowledge, professionals can bridge the gap between organizational goals and successful PR outcomes, ensuring lasting positive impact within our communities.

Sign up for PR Bootcamp in Partnership with The Duneland Chamber of Commerce by clicking on the image below. Spaces are limited – Register today!

What are the Different Types of PR and How Are They Different?

As the premier PR firm in Northwest Indiana, South Shore PR takes pride in being the torchbearer of effective public relations, mastering the art and science that influences opinions, fosters goodwill, builds relationships, and elevates organizations to new heights. Today we want to share some of the different disciplines of public relations and what they focus on.

Public relations, isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to a client’s needs. We like to use the example of a medical professional. While a doctor has a general understanding of the body, some medical professionals specialize in certain areas of the body, such as a neonatologist, psychiatrist, or gerontologist. A public relations professional works in exactly the same way, there is the general knowledge of public relations, but some PR professionals specialize in an area of PR, thus making them more skilled in a particular area of PR. Today we going to look at the six most common disciplines of PR practiced today.

What is Media Relations or Media Relations PR?

South Shore PR Work Examples
Photo Credits (top to bottom) People Magazine, Eyecare Business Magazine, BBC News, and The Today Show

A skilled media relations professional can transform innovation into a global sensation. By strategically pitching the story to the correct influential journalists and media outlets, PR professionals can ensure that the narrative resonates far beyond, ultimately reaching your intended audience. Media relations specializes in working with the media, and often PR professionals that focus on media relations may do so within an industry, such as tech, healthcare or banking. Knowing how to be a great media partner, while being savvy about the angle of the pitch, and when, where and how, will make all the difference in securing great coverage and reaching your intended audience.

What is Crisis Communication PR?

Photo Credit: Sprout Social

Crisis Communication and or reputation management PR is perhaps the most easily recognized, and the most skilled of all PR disciplines. When an organization or individual has run afoul of stakeholders, resulting in a public and potentially damaging reckoning for the instigating party, this is where crisis communications and reputational management come into play. A skilled public relations professional that specializes in this type of PR will come in and mitigate reputational damage, provide guidance for stakeholders, and eventually begin to repair relationships with the general public and any other wronged parties. You can look at some great examples of crisis management here: https://sproutsocial.com/insights/crisis-communication-examples/

What is Government Relations & Public Affairs?

Photo Credit: The Pan American Health Organization

This discipline of PR focuses on building relationships between an organization and government entities for the goal of strategic communication for the greater good, influence and the ability to make a positive impact on stakeholders. Examples of a public affairs professional would be a communications Director for a local police department. Examples of a government relations expert would be a lobbyist or government liaison within an organization. Examples of a public affairs campaign could be the Covid-19 vaccine campaigns, a local area government communicating an upcoming infrastructure project, or an industry lobbying for policy changes at the highest levels.

What is Product Launch PR and Branding?

Photo Credit: Gizmodo via Warner Bros./ Universal

An agency or in-house person or team that specializes creating interest and generating positive coverage for new products or services works in product launch PR, reputational practice and even branding. These individuals are key in developing strategic communication plans, organizing launch events, and securing media coverage for a product unveiling. A great example is of this type of PR is the phenomena known as Barbenheimer at the box office last summer. The two films combined as two distinct, yet cooperative marketing campaigns created box office gold in the summer of 2023. Read more about this magic here.

What are Consumer Relations?

Photo Credit: Time Magazine via Dove/RaiseTheBeautyBar

This area of public relations is very similar to customer service, however, the focus here is to protect and enhance an organization’s reputation while building a robust and positive relationship with stakeholders to enhance brand loyalty. Examples of this type of PR would be managing customer feedback on public forums, addressing concerns, and promoting positive customer experiences through various communication channels.

One of the most significant examples was Dove’s Real Beauty Campaign. You can read all about it here.  

What is Integrated PR?

Photo Credit: Apple

Integrated is where public relations concepts and tactics are combined with marketing campaigns and exercises. This is the most powerful way for any organization to create their brand, tell their story, and build long-lasting, loyal relationships with their customers. A great, recent example of an integrate PR campaign would be Apple’s Shot on an iPhone Campaign. Apple cleverly shot and advertised that this campaign was shot entirely on an iPhone, then encouraged fans to share their own films shot on iPhones on social media. You can read more about this innovative campaign here.

These are just a few of the most common areas of PR practice. At South Shore we specialize in many of these areas of public relations. We hope that this article is informative and has shared some of the complexities of public relations practice. No matter the discipline of PR, one goal remains the same, to build, and enhance a loyal relationship with key stakeholders.

South Shore PR: A Finalist’s Journey to the 2023 Small Business of the Year Award

This afternoon, February 6, 2024, The Michigan City Chamber of Commerce announced the finalists for its Annual Awards, and among them is South Shore Public Relations, which is making waves in the business community along the South Shore. As the anticipation builds for the Annual Member Dinner on March 15, where winners will be announced, we look closer at what this nomination means for South Shore PR and the journey that brought them to this prestigious position. (You Can read the official announcement here.)

To be named a finalist for the Small Business of the Year Award is a testament to the dedication, hard work, and impact that South Shore PR has had on the Michigan City business landscape beginning in 2023. The acknowledgment from the Chamber of Commerce is not only a validation of their efforts but also a recognition of their exemplary leadership in the field of public relations. When asked about what the nomination means to South Shore PR, Jacqueline replied,

“As the President of South Shore PR, being named a finalist for the Small Business of the Year Award is a humbling honor, highlighting that South Shore PR picked the correct community to call home. I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of our thriving business community, and I am passionate about serving as a committed community partner to meet our business community’s evolving needs. This nomination is a shared celebration of our community, and we look forward to continuing our journey as an engaged and dedicated member of the Michigan City business family.”

Jacqueline Thomas – South Shore PR President

South Shore PR has demonstrated resilience and innovation, leaving an indelible mark on Michigan City over the past year. Through strategic communication, creative campaigns, and a commitment to excellence, South Shore PR has not only elevated our own business but has contributed significantly to the growth and vibrancy of the local business community. Jackie Thomas, South Shore PR President, volunteers as a Chamber ambassador at The Michigan City Chamber of Commerce and the Duneland Chamber of Commerce. She also gives back to the community through her work with the Public Relations Society of America, where she sits on the Board of Directors of the Chicago Chapter. Additionally, Jackie is passionate about PR education, and through South Shore PR, she mentors students at the Brian Lamb School of Communication at Purdue and is a registered member of the Commission on Public Relations Education Research.

The recognition as a finalist in the Small Business of the Year category underscores the exemplary leadership displayed by South Shore PR. In a competitive business environment, we have stood out by showcasing qualities such as innovation, community engagement, and a commitment to positively impacting the local economy.

As a finalist for the Small Business of the Year Award, South Shore PR has demonstrated a solid connection to the community. Their involvement in local events, support for charitable causes, and dedication to fostering positive relationships within Michigan City have not gone unnoticed. This nomination serves as a celebration of their community-centric approach to business.

On March 15, 2024, the Stardust Ballroom at the Blue Chip Casino, Hotel, and Spa will be the stage for the Michigan City Chamber’s Annual Member Dinner. South Shore PR, along with the other finalists, will eagerly await the announcement of the winners. The evening promises a blend of celebration, networking, and updates to the membership, creating an atmosphere of camaraderie among Michigan City’s business leaders.

For South Shore PR, the nomination as a finalist for the Small Business of the Year Award is not just an accolade but a recognition of their impact, leadership, and commitment to the Michigan City business community. As they await the results at the Annual Member Dinner, the acknowledgment from the Chamber of Commerce serves as a catalyst for future endeavors and a source of pride for the South Shore PR.