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HMC News: A communications dictionary

A communications dictionary

The world of public relations is a world of words. To make things a bit easier, we've sorted through a few commonly used acronyms, words and terms used by PR or communications people so the next time you stumble across them you don’t have to pretend you know they mean.

APR– This is the internationally-recognised Accreditation in Public Relations (APR).  Half of HMC’s team has this accreditation, which takes around six months of study including passing written and oral exams to achieve.  It is a sign of professionalism, knowledge and expertise.

Communications strategy (or plan) – This is a written document that lays out your current situation and company objectives, communications objectives, key messages, target audiences, tactics and communications timeline.  A strategy can be written for your organisation (i.e. your 3-5 year communications strategy) or it can be written in relation to a one-off situation (i.e. product launch or issue to be managed).

Crisis – A situation that normally strikes without warning and requires communications to work hand-in-hand with the operations team to inform all audiences as the situation unfolds.  Think natural disaster affecting operations, staff workplace death or tragedy, urgent product recall, immediate danger to surrounding community from your operations, cybercrime affecting ability to operate or security of information, etc.

Issue – A situation in your organisation which, if it becomes public, could potentially damage your reputation if not managed well.  With issues, you often have time to plan as you are forewarned of their potential.  Issues require a communications strategy and action plan, including an analysis of possible communications risks and mitigations.

Key audiences – People whom the success of your business depends on.  Everyone from your staff, customers, suppliers, distributors, politicians, neighbouring businesses or residents, industry influencers, influential community leaders, detractors and objectors and more.  ‘The public’ is very rarely an audience; your audiences should be well-defined by geography, psychographics, demographics or other common characteristics.

Key messages – These are the messages that you want your key audiences to understand about your business.  If you are a company that sells products, your key messages are NOT your sales messages or unique sales proposition.  You key messages in a PR context are the points of interest about your company and its reputation or the situation at hand.

Media – Journalists working in newsrooms including online news sites, newspapers, radio, TV and bloggers.

Owned vs earned vs paid media – Media you own are those channels you control 100%, such as your website.  Earned media is when third-party media (i.e. journalists) print good news stories about your organisation.  Paid media is most often deemed to be advertising, however the lines are blurring with the rise of paid content appearing on news sites, social influencers being paid to post about a company’s news/products and advertising being placed to magnify public relations messages.

PR – Public relations.  The Public Relations Institute of NZ defines PR as: “The deliberate, planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain mutual understanding and excellent communications between an organisation and its publics.  It builds and sustains the relationships organisations need to keep their licence to operate.”

PRINZ– New Zealand’s membership body for PR professionals.  HMC Communications is an active member.

Social media (or social) – Online communities that allow you the ability to tell your stories proactively and interact with audiences viewing your stories.  Think Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram and more. 

Tactics – The actions you will take in order to achieve your communications strategy.  Tactics might be: build relationships with local MPs, work with media on a series of stories on an issue, develop a video series to educate staff, write a letter to customers, develop a campaign on social media during August, etc.