How To Build a PR Team: A Step-by-Step Guide

How To Build a PR Team: A Step-by-Step Guide

A company’s reputation is considered very important by 74% of the people who consider working for it, and somewhat important by 25% more, according to a study by the USC Annenberg School in California. Similarly, 62% of consumers consider a company’s brand reputation to be “very important,” and 35% more consider it to be “somewhat important,” when purchasing their products.

The primary objective of a company's public relations (PR) team is to create a positive public perception of the company and enhance brand awareness. These perceptions can have a substantial impact on employment, sales, credibility, and customer loyalty.

This step-by-step guide covers building a strong PR team and the best practices to manage this department effectively.

Table of contents:

What is the role of a PR team?

Your PR team plays an integral role in shaping the public's perception of your company through social media, press conferences, and company events. Key responsibilities of a PR team include:

  • Media relations. Media relations involves building and maintaining relationships with editors, news anchors, journalists, social media influencers, and other media professionals to promote positive coverage for the company.
  • Crisis management. One responsibility of your PR team is to handle and mitigate negative publicity and manage the company's reputation during a crisis. For example, if a company's product has been recalled due to safety concerns, the PR team would issue a statement to the media outlining the steps being taken to address the issue as well as any actions needed by the consumer and compensation being offered.
  • Content marketing. Content marketers create and distribute valuable content to attract and engage your target audience, positioning the company as a thought leader and building brand awareness. For instance, if an organization offers eco-friendly products, the PR team might create a blog or social media post highlighting the benefits of using environmentally friendly products.

If these are skills you know your brand can benefit from, you can find public relations specialists on the world’s work marketplace: Upwork.

If you’d like to first learn the steps to take to build an effective team, keep reading!

Assessing your PR needs

Begin by defining specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) objectives. These goals should align with your business objectives, including increasing brand awareness, driving sales, or improving company reputation.

Next, you'll need to understand who your customers are, what their interests are, and what motivates them to make a purchase. You can analyze demographic information and audience behavior using analytics tools. This information will help you choose the best channels for reaching them.

For example, if your target audience is business professionals, you may want to focus on publishing content in trade journals and on LinkedIn. If your target audience is younger, you may want to focus on TikTok.

In addition, understanding the current state of your company's public image will help you determine whether you need to focus more on rebranding, brand consistency, or generating more positive perception. Use surveys, feedback, and analytics to gauge public sentiment.

Explore PR tools like Google Alerts to monitor brand mentions. Leverage digital marketing strategies such as influencer outreach, captivating PR photographs, engaging social media content, and news conferences for broader reach and real-time engagement with your audience.

5 Steps to building a strong PR team

Building a strong PR team requires a combination of both strategic planning and careful execution. Below are five steps you can take to build a strong PR team.

1. Define the team structure

An in-house PR team is a group of part- and full-time employees who work exclusively for the company. This team is responsible for executing all PR activities of the company. Some pros and cons to consider include:

Pros

  • Alignment with company values. An in-house PR team will have a deep understanding of the company's culture, vision, and goals.
  • Financial savings. If your needs are long-term, an in-house team may be more cost-effective than hiring an external agency.
  • Availability. If you hire staff, they will likely be more readily available and responsive to the company's needs than an external agency.

Cons

  • Less varied experience. Especially if your plan is to promote from within, an in-house team may lack the broader industry experience and insights of external agencies.
  • Limiting bias. A dedicated staff may face challenges in remaining objective and unbiased in their approach.

An external PR agency is a third-party service provider that specializes in PR and communication. Some pros and cons to consider include:

Pros

  • New ideas. An agency can bring a fresh perspective and broader industry experience to the table.
  • Wide network. Agents typically have strong and established professional relationships with media outlets and influencers.
  • Varied skills. Agencies often provide a wide range of services that may be lacking in an in-house team, such as crisis management and media training.

Cons

  • Higher cost. Agencies can be more expensive compared to an in-house team.
  • Differing agendas. There may be a lack of alignment between the agency's goals and the company's objectives.
  • Sharing responsibility. The company may have less control over the PR campaigns and messaging.

Factors to consider when choosing a PR team structure include the size of the company, the scope of PR campaigns, and available resources. For example, larger companies may be able to afford comprehensive in-house teams.

On the other hand, complex, large-scale campaigns may benefit from agency specialization. Your company should also evaluate the need for constant in-house PR support versus project-based assistance with an agency.

Large companies that need to fill a gap in the skillset of their PR team, and smaller companies that need the skills of an agency without the risk of a long-term commitment, can schedule a risk-free consultation with PR specialists.

2. Identify the right team members

Building a robust PR team means hiring different members to handle various PR requirements. You may want to begin with hiring a PR specialist.

Consider using Upwork to find the right PR specialist for your company. This role involves working with the media to create positive company publicity, building relationships with journalists, and monitoring the organization's reputation.

Working with influencers and bloggers can also help your company produce positive video and written content about your brand, which can increase the company's visibility and credibility.

PR professionals, like any specialty, need certain skills and qualities to be successful. For instance, excellent communication skills are essential to convey the company's message clearly and effectively.

A PR professional should also have strong writing skills to produce press releases, social media posts, and other written content that accurately represents the brand.

Additionally, creativity is another important skill that PR professionals should possess to come up with innovative ideas and unique strategies for promoting the brand and capturing the audience’s attention.

Finally, PR professionals should be able to work under pressure. They must be equipped to handle crises effectively and manage the company's reputation during setbacks.

3. Create a collaborative culture

Having clear communication and teamwork within the PR team and the entire organization can maintain a consistent brand strategy, ensure everyone is on board with the brand's vision, and manage your company's online presence more efficiently.

A positive team environment signifies a great workplace and also displays your capability to handle issues with grace, attracting more customers and talent with a positive reputation.

To ensure that everyone has a specific responsibility with clear guidelines, PR specialists, social media managers, influencers, and other members must collaborate for effective campaigns. When team members collaborate, they can share ideas and insights, which could lead to more creative and successful campaigns.

Additionally, collaboration can help check that messaging is consistent across all channels and that campaigns are aligned with the company's goals and values. By working together, PR team members can also ensure that they are targeting the right audience and that their efforts are having a measurable impact on brand awareness and reputation.

4. Develop essential PR skills

Essential PR skills include media relations management, crisis response, and content creation. In terms of media relations, PR teams must establish relationships with media professionals to ensure that the public holds a positive view of the company. This is achieved through outreach to journalists and news outlets. Via email or phone, they pitch stories about the company to promote your business or a new product.

Crisis management involves resolving issues or negative perceptions of the company caused by events such as recalls, product shortages, and similar challenges. In such cases, this involves identifying the root cause of the issue and developing a communication plan that outlines how the organization will respond to its  stakeholders and the media.

Content creation enables companies to create and share compelling stories that can help build their brand and reputation. This can include content formats such as blog posts, articles, infographics, and videos. The skills required for content creation in PR include strong written and verbal communication skills, the ability to record and edit both audio and video content, a thorough understanding of the target audience, and a creative mindset.

To develop these skills, consider attending workshops to gain hands-on experience in PR. Attending press conferences and networking events can also help to expand your knowledge and connect with industry professionals. Additionally, reading industry publications and books can provide valuable insights and tips for improving your skill set.

5. Scale your PR team

When it comes to scaling your business, evaluate workload demands and consider hiring additional team members or outsourcing tasks when:

  • Workload increases. If the existing team is consistently overwhelmed, it may be time to expand.
  • Specialized skills are needed. For specialized projects or unique campaigns, hiring experts with specific skills, including SEO expertise, influencer marketing, and crisis communication, can be beneficial.
  • Global presence. Consider outsourcing for international campaigns to leverage expertise and reach audiences around the world.

To manage an expanding team, consider:

  • Effective communication. Foster open communication channels to maintain team cohesion through regular team meetings, communication platforms, and feedback.
  • Regular training. Equip the team with skills—such as event planning, digital marketing, and crisis management—that are needed for evolving challenges.
  • Outsourcing via platforms like Upwork. Leverage freelance talent to fill specific skill gaps quickly.

Regularly reassess team dynamics and adjust structures as the company evolves, ensuring that the PR team remains agile and aligned with the growing needs of the startup or company.

How to manage and lead your PR team

Below are some key strategies that can help you manage and lead your PR team. We will cover the importance of developing clear goals, managing conflicts, and more.

Set clear goals and expectations

Setting specific goals provides a roadmap, ensuring the team’s efforts are aligned with the company's overall objectives. Measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) offer tangible metrics for assessing progress and impact. For instance, goals may include managing crisis communication effectively or launching successful product campaigns. Corresponding KPIs could involve measuring media coverage or monitoring social media engagement.

You’ll want to clearly articulate expectations, timelines, and success criteria to team members to avoid any misunderstandings about the project goals and objectives. Use visual aids, such as charts or dashboards, to simplify complex topics and make data more accessible. Regularly update the team on progress and celebrate milestones to maintain motivation.

Provide ongoing training and development

To keep up with the changing needs of consumers and employees, you’ll need to ensure that your PR team stays up to date on the latest trends, changing workplace cultures, and emerging products or technologies. To help them stay on top of these changes, you can provide training to your PR team, which might involve:

  • Webinars. PR teams can learn about new communication strategies, social media trends, and emerging technologies that can help them better engage with their audience.
  • Podcasts. From podcasts, PR teams can gain insights from industry experts on a variety of topics. For instance, a podcast episode on crisis communications can help PR teams understand how to respond to negative feedback or a PR crisis.
  • Industry conferences. These conferences can help PR teams network with peers and gain new skills. For example, attending a PR conference focused on diversity and inclusion can help PR teams better understand how to create inclusive messaging.
  • Online courses. For instance, a course on digital marketing from Coursera can help PR teams understand how to leverage digital channels to better engage with their audience and measure the impact of their campaigns.

Motivate your team

Delegating tasks to other team members can be a highly effective PR strategy to ensure that projects are completed efficiently and on time. This approach also ensures that PR responsibilities are assigned to team members with the most specialized skills for that specific task.

For instance, if you have a team member with expertise in SEO, assign them blog posts, while someone with experience managing workplace crises would be best suited to mitigate negative company perceptions.

Motivating team members is equally important to create a positive team environment, encourage workers to do a good job, and improve your company's reputation. Recognizing and rewarding their achievements is an effective way to motivate team members. You could consider organizing team lunches, sending employee-recognition emails, offering extra vacation time, or other incentives that align with your team's preferences and interests.

Finally, retaining talent contributes to the long-term success of your organization. Providing opportunities for professional development is a great way to show your commitment to your team members. Listening to their feedback, offering competitive compensation packages, and creating a positive work culture are some other ways to retain talent.

Manage team dynamics and conflict

Resolving conflicts in the workplace can help your PR team work efficiently, streamline work operations, and ensure everyone enjoys collaborating. Some strategies for resolving conflicts to maintain healthy team dynamics include:

  • Open communication. Encourage team members to express concerns and viewpoints. For example, during a team meeting, ask each member to share feedback on a particular issue to ensure everyone's voice is heard.
  • Strong leadership. Leaders should take a proactive approach to conflict resolution. For instance, a leader might hold a one-on-one meeting with team members to discuss the conflict and work toward a solution.
  • Building relationships. Encourage team members to get to know each other outside of work. For example, organize a team-building event such as a company picnic or outing to help team members build trust with each other.
  • Active listening. Encourage team members to be attentive. For example, a team member might demonstrate active listening by asking questions to clarify the other person's perspective.
  • Finding common ground. Encourage team members to find common ground and work toward a collective solution. For example, team members might brainstorm solutions to a conflict and find a compromise that addresses everyone's needs.

Evaluate the success of your team

Evaluating the success of PR efforts involves leveraging metrics and data analysis to glean insights and inform strategic decisions. Begin by identifying relevant KPIs. For instance, track media mentions, social media engagement, conversion rates, and website traffic.

Use tools like Google Analytics for website metrics, social media analytics platforms, and media monitoring services. You can analyze this data to assess the performance of PR campaigns. For instance, if the goal is to increase brand awareness, measure the growth in media coverage and social media impressions.

Adjust your strategy according to your analysis. If media coverage is lower than anticipated, consider refining the messaging or targeting different media outlets. In the case of negative sentiment on social media, implement crisis communication strategies to address concerns promptly. In addition, use A/B testing for content to identify what works best with the audience.

Find PR specialists on Upwork

If you're looking to implement PR metrics and data analysis to inform strategic decisions, consider hiring a PR professional from Upwork. Upwork is the world’s work marketplace, connecting businesses with expert talent who can help you meet your PR goals.

Find and hire PR professionals on Upwork by posting a job, reviewing proposals, and selecting the best candidate for the job.

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How To Build a PR Team: A Step-by-Step Guide
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