I recently ran across the mini survey on Facebook where the CEO of a major corporate communications and PR news outlet asked its readers what one thing they would change about being in PR? I found it interesting and very telling that PR pros have to constantly justify their fees, responsibilities and their role as PR agents to clients and would-be clients, as demonstrated by these responses:
“Having to explain what I do for a living;”
“Having to justify the need for PR;”
“Increase people’s overall awareness of the benefits of PR and understanding of what PR is able (and not able) to accomplish;”
“Constantly explaining what PR and justifying its need.”
There is definitely a lack of knowledge of public relations, and what public relations specialists do.
First, let me share a few definitions of public relations:
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines public relations as, the business of inducing the public to have understanding for and goodwill toward a person, firm, or institution.
BusinessDictionary.com states that it is, the profession or practice and maintaining goodwill of an organization’s various publics (customers, employees, investors, suppliers, etc.), usually through publicity and other non-paid forms of communication.
Entrepreneur.com’s version: Using the news or business press to carry positive stories about your company or your products; cultivating a good relationship with local press representatives.
Public relations is suggest what the words themselves say – relating with the public. Why is this important? As a business or as a leader, having a reputable image and brand is what brings interest, and ultimately clients to your door.
However, most people have a very dim perception or understanding of PR and what it accomplishes.
They believe it is all about landing on the cover of a major print publication such as Time or Newsweek. Others believe it is getting their product highlighted and given away by Ellen on The Ellen Show or showcased by Martha Stewart. Still some believe it is garnering a coveted interview with Barbara Walters, Anderson Cooper or landing on Fox Business. As I mentioned in an earlier post about creating your own publicity, those goals are good, and indeed good for business and your brand. However, in order to land such buzz and acclaim, there is a lot of work and strategy behind the scenes.
Publicity is about getting your business recognized, building a solid reputation, and maintaining it. The road to getting, building and maintaining is one built on consistency and patience in your PR rep or publicist.
The following misconceptions need to be obliterated from a client’s viewpoint:
1) Instant fame – there is no such thing. And we all know that those who get instantly famous, almost always fade quickly in the background. The latest and greatest fad is always replaced by a newer latest and greatest. Think about William Hung of American Idol status whose cringe-inducing audition was catapulted into one of America’s most embarrassing moments turned into a most-watched footage. People were actually snickering behind his back – his “fame” was merely for laughs. I am not stating that becoming famous would be a disaster. For business, however, it should not be the end-goal or final mission. Famous products and businesses such as Apple or Starbucks are not famous just because. They are famed for what they provide: amazing products and customer service. They do and give so well and extravagantly. That deserves true fame.
2) Instant returns – Most PR-seeking clients want guaranteed success for the PR campaign that they have “purchased” from a consultant or agency. Their belief that since they have paid a PR pro to quickly get them on the cover of the WSJ or a month-long press junket thereby getting a million-dollar plus deal inked, the natural outcome should indeed be a guaranteed success. However, that “success” is more likely an inflated expectation of what they think PR does or should do for their business. Those who seek a PR professional must understand that there is a lot of initial research, strategy and footwork involved in the PR process. Simply sending out a press release and Tweeting about your magical company will not propel you to the top of the food chain overnight.
3) Press Releases are not the end-all-be-all! This is not to say that press releases are ineffective – the opposite is true. Press releases are still one of the best ways to get the news out quickly. Even in this age of social media where news is blasted on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, journalists, bloggers, and other media outlets still like the go-to press release format. However, submitting a press release through a newswire does not guarantee that the announcement will be picked up. Notwithstanding the newsworthiness of a press release, the best way to get noticed is a combination of a press release, pitches to the media, social media and follow-ups. I personally do not like to just send out pieces of information and news and just leave it at that. Creating and fostering a relationship with the media and press takes time. This is where the know, like, and trust factor also come into play.
My last thoughts are that PR is something that most businesses need, regardless of size. You need not hire a huge agency or an expensive firm where interns churn out press release after press release. There are ways that a business can handle its own PR. Just make sure that you realize the time, preparation and experience required before handling it in-house. It is do-able, mind you, however be patient!
A sustainable and long-lasting relationship with the public is what is at the heart of public relations. Don’t skimp on that!