via Milford : Public relations is a misunderstood profession. It doesn’t help that no one, including experts in the field, can precisely define what it is.
When I asked for a three-word definition in a LinkedIn discussion group, more than 250 people responded. Some of the responses were helpful (“Telling our story.” “Inform, persuade, motivate.” “Managing public opinion.”). Some were funny (“Adam needed it.” “Believing our bull***t.”). And some were cynical (“Hyperbole in bucketloads.” “Patronizing the client.” “Missing the point.” “Misunderstanding the journalist.”).
In the real world, though, public relations practitioners typically spend most of their time generating publicity for their clients in an effort to generate business.
It’s ironic that communications professionals have done such a poor job defining what they do, but that may be why many of the myths that existed when I entered the profession many years ago still linger.
You need a big agency to get results. Some of my best clients have retained Kowal Communications after spending a great deal of money on big agencies and having little to show for it. They have typically been the clients who are most appreciative of our work.
Big companies work with big agencies. Getting publicity when your client is Apple or Tesla is easy. If you’re a media relations manager for companies like theirs, you have the luxury of shaping the message, determining who will interview your CEO and even deciding whether an interview will be allowed. Questions asked will usually be soft, because the reporter will likely want to interview your CEO again in the future.
If you’re at a small or even middle-market company, the rules are different. You need someone who can identify potential news your company is generating, who can identify media that will be interested in it and who knows how it should be pitched.
Even if you’re willing to spend megabucks on a large agency and are willing to commit to a long-term contract, you’re still going to be the small guy. You’ll get a fresh college grad on your account and you’ll be paying for the newbie to learn how to do the job.
If you own a small company, you probably wouldn’t use a Big 4 accounting firm. So why would you consider using a big agency?
It’s all about press releases. Many people think that public relations practitioners send out press releases and their news appears online, in print and on the air.
While press releases are still needed to announce breaking news, such as an expansion or acquisition, they are practically worthless today. Media receive hundreds of them every day. Unless your news is from a Fortune 500 company, don’t expect much pickup.
Press releases are also a great way to turn off top-tier media. The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and other media that people still read want exclusives. Press releases are sent to many people and reporters know it, so they will ignore your press release.
It’s all about relationships. It helps to know reporters and editors who will at least read your emails or take your calls, but it’s more important to have a good story to pitch and to follow up consistently.
Having a compelling subject line in an email and an equally compelling pitch to back it up is more important than having a good relationship with a reporter or editor.
The best way to get results in top-tier media is to research and identify the best reporter to pitch, and to draft an email that’s designed to personally appeal to that person. Follow-up, usually by phone, is also necessary, whether or not the reporter or editor knows you.
Wire services are important. Wire services such as BusinessWire and PR Newswire are generally a waste of money. Yes, links to your press release will appear online in dozens of places – along with links to hundreds of other press releases from other companies that waste money using wire services.
If you monitor the results, you’ll likely find that only a few people have looked at your press release. And most of them are from other wire service companies that want to sell you their services, since they know you’re a prime target.
Social media is all you need. Social media can play an important role in marketing, but it’s only one tactic and it’s not appropriate for every company.
Since social media depends on “content,” which includes everything from written blog posts to video, it’s complementary to public relations. A published article, for example, can be referenced in a blog post and shared via social media. Used together, publicity and social media are a powerful combination.
You can control what reporters write. Clients often ask to have reporters share what they’re writing before it’s published, so that they can make changes. They seem to understand that broadcast journalists are on deadline and won’t have time to share what they’ve produced, but they often ask to review articles before they appear online or in print.
Reporters are on deadline and don’t usually have time to comply with such requests. More important, though, when you make such requests, you’re questioning the reporter’s credibility. You can’t tell the reporter what to write and it’s unprofessional to try.
Some reporters check facts before publishing, which provides an opportunity to ensure accurate, but most don’t.
Media and public relations are changing rapidly, but these myths remain and probably will for years to come.