There are many myths and misconceptions about PR. Here we debunk the top five PR myths and give you some PR tips to let you know how it really is.
What are the top five PR myths?
ONE: Any publicity is good publicity
The belief that any press and media coverage, including negative coverage, is a good thing is very naïve, and many established companies who should know better have fallen foul of this misconception.
Remember Gerald Ratner?! He’s great example of how negative publicity can bring you down. The owner of the Ratners jewellery chain carelessly commented that his jewellery was ‘crap’, the press and media leaped on it, and the result was the collapse of his business as customers and shareholders walked away.
Ask yourself, what do you think of a business after you hear a negative story about their products or services? Does it make you want to rush out and snap up one of their widgets or invest in them in any way? No, of course not.
Mr Ratner clearly believed in the ‘any PR is good PR’ myth, and suffered the result. Remember, the press loves a ‘bad behaviour’ or ‘scandal’ news story as well as good news, so think carefully before you say anything publicly – it could do you more harm than good!
TWO: PR equals press releases
The press release is the traditional big hitter in a PR toolkit – the most common way to communicate a story to media. It can be very effective, but it must be used properly.
Journalists today receive thousands of press releases every day, so standing out in that massive crowd is very difficult and requires strategy and careful thought.
Most press releases simply state news, rather than considering what is actually newsworthy to the general public or a media outlet about the news. This will not be of interest to a journalist and will be considered as a conspicuous ploy to sell product, or just irrelevant. Always try to see the bigger picture; your press release should tell a reporter what implication your news will have – its impact.
Rather than issuing your press release PR to every single media outlet in an untargeted way, it’s much more effective to email a pitch letter. This outlines the newsworthy story behind your news – why this story should matter to the media outlet’s audience.
Ask yourself how your news will effect the local or national economy; how will it change your industry in a positive way through experience or innovation. Try and put yourself in the journalists mind and think like they do.
THREE: Effective PR can replace the efforts of a sales team
This is a very common one. Let us put this in simple terms – PR is not sales! It will not directly generate sales! It has a very different purpose; to create brand awareness, credibility and good reputation, so that when your sales team knocks on doors, those potential clients will be familiar with your name or product and already trust your brand.
This will provide a nice warm base on which to start the sales conversation and will, over time, improve your sales team’s results.
FOUR: PR will make my company famous overnight
Many companies believe that once the PR machine springs into action, fame and fortune will swiftly follow. It can happen, of course, but in general terms building a strong, reputable brand, creating awareness and forging good relationships with the press takes time.
Most PR campaigns can expect to see regular media coverage around 3 months into a campaign, but of course this can vary depending on the market you are in. The key is to keep doing it regularly and strategically, and as long as the campaign continues, the number of PR placements will increase exponentially so you can anticipate steady growth over time.
The ‘drip drip’ concept of PR is a sound one – a one-off PR release is wholly ineffective, because unless your story is world-changing, it will soon be forgotten. PR is a basic necessity for marketing your business and should continue on a regular basis, as long as your company is trading.
FIVE: PR is about schmoozing the press
This is 2015, not 1914! Gone are the days of taking a journalist out for a boozy lunch in return for a front-page news story. These days, journalist have ethics, and thank the Lord for that! They get rather peevish if you produce a credit card in return for PR, because they want to be impartial and if word gets out they can be bought, their reputation will be shot.
Aside from that, journalists are far too busy to waste time eating and chatting with you in trendy bistros. If you want turn a journalist’s head, give them a great 5-minute news pitch – it will set you apart as a serious player and won’t stick you with an expensive restaurant bill!
SIX: PR is easy, I’ll just do it myself
This is another huge myth about PR. Business owners often think that PR is easy and they can do it themselves to save money. They believe that all they need to do is knock together a press release once a month and journalists will be beating a path to their door desperate for an interview.
If only it were that simple! PR is not just about press releases, or even about pitches. PR is about creating a consistent brand, writing well, communicating effectively, acting strategically, creating relationships with media, having extensive knowledge about your industry and the media outlets that you are pitching.
As we’ve said in Myth 3, PR is an essential part of your overall marketing strategy and must not be relegated to ‘anyone can do it’. Of course you want to minimise your overall marketing spend, but don’t fall into this trap. You can’t do it all – and if you try, something has to give.
Let your PR professional or communications agency to do what they do best – they really do know PR better than you. This will enable you to focus your energy on what you do best – running your business.