When you ask any given person what they think public relations is all about, you can get a myriad of answers. It’s not an industry that the public thinks about very much, as sometimes the very purpose of a public relations professional is to act as the silent advocate of the company that it represents.
Image by Torley https://www.flickr.com/photos/torley/ used under CC license.
However, there are some detrimental myths that we at PAN Communications frequently hear, and we’d like to set the record straight on the most popular ones:
PR Is About Lying, Spin and Slogans
Many people think of Mad Men and Thank You For Smoking when they think of public relations, especially agencies. It’s true that there’s a high concentration of creativity in a small office, a lot of energy, and frequent happy hours. What isn’t true is that agencies lack ethics that they abide by.
Like any profession, public relations has practitioners that break the rules for their own gain, but generally those who perpetuate falsehoods and “spin” are not true public relations professions - they do not have a public relations degree and are not a member of PRSA, and do not feel any obligation to abide by its code of ethics.
PR People Don’t Understand News
A common complaint from journalists is that PR people don’t understand how news is made, and send too many “fluff” pitches. These are pitches that are overly promotional to the client or don’t contain any new thoughts on the topic at hand.
If you want to get the most out of your public relations firm, treat them as a partner, not a vendor. The best results will come after you collaborate with your PR team to find either a great piece of new information that could help a journalist’s story, or an innovative take on a current market trend that could start the conversation with an industry influencer.
PR Is Only About Press Releases and Press Conferences
The reality is that press releases and conferences make up a slim minority of what public relations teams do on a daily basis. Much more time is spent on strategy, media relations, content creation, and securing speaking opportunities for clients at industry events.
Remember that article you read in your favorite magazine or on that great news website that was a guest post by an executive? That article was likely suggested, placed, and brainstormed by a public relations team. Want one for yourself?
PR Replaces Your Sales Team or Marketing Team
One of the most common misconceptions we hear is that public relations and sales are interchangeable – not true at all!
The simplest way to explain the difference is that marketing’s goal is to develop a product that will be the most appealing to the actual customers (generally using the 4 P’s: product, price, promotion and place) as well as providing follow up customer care that promotes further purchases. Public relations affects not only current and future customers, but all stakeholders. The end goal is to bolster the public opinion around the company or brand, instead of around one particular product.
PR People Don’t Care About ROI
It’s true that public relations has traditionally been measured in a qualitative manner. However, as technology increasingly intermingles with the practice, ROI becomes easier to measure on an ongoing basis. Some questions you can ask to determine the ROI of your public relations program are:
- Is our social media engagement on the rise? Are we having more two-way conversations with our targets? Are industry influencers taking note of us?
- Are you keeping your competition out of the media spotlight? Measure your share of editorial coverage benchmarked against your competition, and how it changes over time and with different tactics.
- Are reporters and influencers coming to you for opinions and data?
- How are your page metrics developing? Is your bounce rate dropping while unique visitor rates rise?
The above measurements are only a few examples of the many ways you can evaluate your public relations efforts. Always make sure that you decide upon measurements before entering into a public relations contract – or any contract for that matter! Knowing what’s required will clarify the expectations to both parties and help achieve the goals of the partnership faster.