What is PR and what is its use in crisis comms?

April 14, 2020

What is PR and what is its use in crisis comms?

As we navigate through these uncertain times, creative businesses must remain diligent to unprecedented change and keep abreast of the new challenges they face. The dependence on digital marketing is more visible than ever but it’s important not to lose sight of PR and the role it can play during a crisis.

PR and marketing – what’s the difference?

The PR industry lacks the ability to PR itself – the irony! With a vast skillset falling under the PR job description and the constant need to adapt to changing client requirements, creative professionals, often find themselves questioning what PR actually does and most importantly, why their work is so beneficial.

By definition, Public Relations (PR) is about raising the profile of your client, (brand or organisation or individual), in a positive manner to ultimately build the strongest possible reputation, and maintain it.

Managing this reputation is key to driving sales and gaining new customers, whilst the aim of PR should be informing your consumer base (including prospective partners) through the nurturing of long-term relationships.

To the creative professional the difference between PR and marketing is clear but it might not be for somebody that is not. As PR focuses on managing brand reputation through media coverage and stakeholder communications over a period of time (long-term), marketing is communicated directly to the consumer using a more immediate and systematic approach(short-term).

The two are clearly different in practice but both PR and marketing strive for the same goals for a business. They’re both there to generate stronger sales and enhance profitability of the brand - ultimately selling a product or service.  

Why is PR a niche skillset?

Those working as PRs require a pretty robust skillset. As the landscape continues to change, PRs must be equipped to move from one task to the next seamlessly and juggle a multitude of responsibilities. Within the one role, a PR can transition from a writer, to an events planner, a coordinator, financial counsel, creative ideation, product specialist and marketeer. Most importantly, a PR must know the media - inside and out - understanding each publication and the news it delivers. Media relationships are the bread and butter of the PR industry and are the backbone to any successful campaign. Recognising the needs of journalists and building relationships is the difference between knowing what makes a good story and landing successful results.


What benefit does PR bring?

The end goal of any PR journey is to drive sales. Research shows, the consumer doesn’t purchase until the seventh exposure. With this in mind, PRs need to deliver recurrent brand news to its target demographic to drive long-term interaction, in turn, gaining consumer trust.


How PR works in a crisis?

COVID-19 has impacted the industry and put a strain on communicating brand messages with key stakeholders and consumers. Where work may have hit pause, budgets are cut or services put on hold, creative thinkers need to continue to process next steps and suggest solutions for when normality resumes. The strongest businesses will be forward-thinking using this quieter time to strategise how to move through and out the other side with bright and exciting ideas.

Brands and businesses alike should be transparent during this period. As with any crisis, acknowledgement of the matter is important to minimise the impact of negative publicity. Delivering reassuring guidance to how the brand is coping in the current climate and any steps in place to carry the brand through are key to keeping target audiences informed.



The PR industry is always prepared and set to lead the revolution on change. It is adaptable, efficient and durable and will withstand the current uncertainties by looking ahead. It is as important as it ever was and should complement digital marketing as we steer through these difficult times.

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