How do you PR the un-PRable?

What is PR? Working in the industry, it’s a question I hear a lot when I tell people what I do.

“Oh, so like marketing?” comes the response. No. 

They compliment each other of course, but they’re not the same.

It’s an easy mistake to make though as the lines are constantly blurred. Much of our day-to-day work as a PR team is often spent doing jobs technically classed as ‘marketing’. We do it though because we can and, in the long run, it does help us with the PR side of things when we understand a company’s marketing aims and objectives.

The issue comes when we’re asked to PR something that technically is “un-PRable” (hence the title of this blog.) This is where differentiating between marketing and PR and, to add a curveball, advertising, becomes important. 

Telling people about your product and what it does, well, that’s advertising. Telling people how and why they should use it, that’s marketing but telling people about the difference it could make to them? That’s PR. 

The clue is in the name. PR = Public Relations. It’s about forging relationships with people. Marketing is all about your brand and while your brand of course resonates with people – otherwise, why would you create it? PR is what really gets to the heart of the matter, quite literally.

It’s all about reputation. Marketing will build your brand and get people talking about it – to an extent, but if you really want people to talk about you in positive terms, well, that’s reputation – and building reputation? That’s PR. 

When we’re looking for PR angles, we’re looking for stories people will engage with. The things that will really pull on their heartstrings; care home residents forming a choir, case studies about how your product or technology can benefit someone’s health or their personal outcomes by giving them opportunities they might not have had previously etc.

It’s why we always bang on about case studies and testimonials because these are the stories people want to hear. ‘Why?’ You ask? Because there are hundreds, nay thousands, of care homes across the UK. Their branding may be spot on. They might have a huge advertising budget, but still, the question will be “why this care home over all the others?” The answer? Reputation. 

People like people. It’s all well and good talking about how great your product is – how innovative and top-of-the-range it might be, but ultimately, to invest in something, people don’t just want to know what it can do. Specifically, they want to know what it can do for them, their families and their loved ones.

There’s no doubt about it, PR-ing a product or service can be difficult. Numerous times we’ve spoken to journalists and their feedback has always been “sorry, it’s a bit too salesy for us”. We get it. The media has sales teams for this very reason. If you want your product to appear in print, it’s easy enough to arrange. For a fee, you can get a full page spread shouting about your product. 

Think about it – if you see an advert showing a product, let’s say hair tongs, you might think ‘hmm, ok’. It might pique your interest but are you invested yet? Probably not. 

Immediately show someone with that product however and how simple and effective it is to use and that’s a whole different ball game. NOW you’re interested. You might even be picturing yourself using that product. That’s where advertising becomes marketing.

So when does marketing become PR? When that product becomes life-changing for a person. We’re not just talking about it giving them gorgeous curls, but how those curls boosted their previously low self-esteem and how that confidence boost meant they were finally able to put themselves out there and change their lives for the better.

PR is a journey. You have the product or service. People are using it. The questions now are what has it done for them, how and why?

Sometimes a prospective client will come to us for PR and our immediate thought as a team is “how are we going to approach this?” Often we have to dig deep and we encourage you to do the same. 

It’s usually the stories you hear everyday that you might not think of as anything in particular which actually make the most engaging content. 

Yes, sometimes we have to push creative boundaries, but that’s what PR is. And that’s why we do it. 


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