Does anyone genuinely understand public relations? Sure, we have all heard of it, but it is unlikely you will understand the ins and outs unless you are in the industry yourself.
Public relations separate into two distinct categories, either reactive PR or proactive PR. The style that an organization chooses to champion largely depends on its circumstances and aims. For instance, reactive PR is more often useful for crisis management and Digital PR for SEO, whereas proactive PR is mainly helpful for company growth.
If you feel a little in the dark about the world of reactive public relations, you are in the right place. This guide will take you through everything you need to know about reactive PR, including how it differs from proactive PR. By the end, you will be a bona fide expert.
Let's jump in, shall we?
Table of Contents
What Is PR?
First, let's start with the basics. Feel free to skip this section if you are solely here to understand reactive PR. For those who are newer to public relations, this is for you.
Public relations are complex and utilize a variety of methods to achieve their aims. However, in its simplest form, PR refers to how an organization shares itself with the public. This can be through press releases, advertising, and branding. It can also relate to how a company builds relationships with other relevant organizations for mutual benefit.
When we say advertising, we aren't talking about billboards and commercials. Public relations are subtler than that, which is likely why so many people don't know what it is.
The goal of effective public relations management is for the public to be your advertisement. Through word of mouth and personal recommendations, your organization gains a favorable reputation.
Why Is PR so Important?
Public opinion can make or break a company. Mass boycotts could drive an organization into the ground within a matter of months. That may sound dramatic to some, but the introduction of social media in the past decade has significantly altered how careful organizations need to be.
These user-generated content platforms are more accessible than ever, which means varying opinions are everywhere. Staying on the right side of these opinions should be a company's utmost priority.
PR agencies use social media to curate a specific view of the organizations they represent. The reason is that, unlike paid forms of advertisement, most people consider social media to be pretty trustworthy. The role influencers and celebrities play in shaping public opinion is enormous.
PR specialists know this all too well, so they use it accordingly. Public relations are in the business of persuasion. People are far more likely to be persuaded by people they can relate to rather than a random brand on a billboard.
All PR is different, however, both in its aims and its execution. This area is where the difference between reactive PR and proactive PR comes into play.
Proactive vs. Reactive PR
The fundamental difference between proactive PR vs. reactive PR is right there in the name. Reactive approaches act in response to something, whereas proactive strategies create a response. To look at this in further detail, we have compiled some examples for you to review.
Reactive PR Examples
The first thing that comes to mind for most people when thinking of reactive PR examples is crisis management. Minimizing a potentially harmful story before it gets out of control can be an integral part of reactive PR, but it isn't all there is to it. Preparation is key here. Some ways you can prepare include the following:
Staying in Touch with Old Media Contacts
One of the best ways to maintain a positive reputation is to stay up-to-date with old media contacts. Having a consistent stream of information published through reliable sources keeps your brand alive in the eyes of the public. It also helps to foster positive professional relationships, which in turn can lead to new contacts. The role of reactive and proactive PR are similar in this way.
Developing and Maintaining New Partnerships
Seeking new partnerships may initially seem proactive to some but can fall into the reactive category. This is because these partnerships don't have to relate to the media or public opinion directly.
For instance, suppose you partner with a large organization operating in the same area as you. It can lead to greater public exposure.
It doesn't directly alter public opinion, as proactive tactics might, but it could potentially open your company up to opportunities they may not have found alone. Remember, a significant aspect of reactive public relations is preparation.
Benefits of Reactive PR
- Keeps organizations prepared for new opportunities
- Maintains positive relationships with contacts for extended periods
- Bad press won't necessarily lead to a bad reputation if handled properly
Proactive PR Examples
Proactive public relations are all about outreach and creating opportunities. Reactive PR sets the scene; proactive PR performs. Put simply, the role of proactive public relations is to share stories and information with the public that demonstrates your organization's values, allowing the public to relate to them. It's all about getting out the word, which you can accomplish in various ways.
As a proactive PR specialist, most of your time will involve reaching out to new opportunities and pitching ideas to them. Your targets will change throughout the year, but the end goal remains the same.
For instance, a travel agency's busiest pitching periods will be throughout the summer months. Depending on the nature of your work, you could be pitching to either social media influencers or more traditional media organizations, or both!
Reaching out to media contacts to share stories is one thing, but content creation is critical in the age of social media. There are numerous ways to apply this concept.
Blog posts are one of the most common ways. Also, case studies demonstrating your organization's success can significantly improve public opinion.
As with pitching ideas, different content is best when you release it at different times of the year. A PR specialist must be mindful of this, so will often use a specific content creation calendar.
Benefits of Proactive PR
- Increases exposure to wider audiences
- Maintains positive brand reputation
- Cultivates significant brand awareness in the public arena
What Are the Key Differences of Proactive vs. Reactive PR?
The main difference between proactive vs. reactive PR is their desired outcome. Reactive public relations management preempts public opinion, negative or positive, and prepares accordingly. Proactive public relations work to build new opportunities and relationships, therefore expanding brand exposure.
They use much of the same tactics in achieving these goals. Press releases, social media, and content creation can both work well in creating reactive or proactive PR. The key difference between the two is their intent and their achieved outcomes. The methodology is much the same.