PR will work for any business – as long as each business owner, director or team understand the parameters, has realistic expectations and understand what a good outcome looks like.
If you always measure ROI in immediate numbers or mistake PR for sales then it’s probably best not to bother.
A lot of confusion surrounds public relations, unsurprisingly. Specifically, the purpose of it and how businesses can best use it.
I so often hear comments like: “He or she is doing so well, I want some of that” with no idea of the investment of time or money a competitor is putting in behind the scenes to achieve that kind of visibility. It rarely ‘just arrives’.
Remember, PR takes time, patience, money and hard work – but boy does it pay off when done well!
Let’s set some expectations. Here’s a list of six ways PR won’t help you:
1. PR will not make an unethical business owner look ethical.
I call this the meringue – where everything looks great and firm from the outside but poke the meringue and it implodes into smithereens. PR is all about creating mutually beneficial relationships, and this requires transparency, not sweeping it under the moral carpet. PR professionals communicate your brand by shedding light on the business’ culture and practices… Not covering up what you may or may not want your customers or clients to know about your brand.
2. PR will not persuade that national journalist who has written about a business like yours one week, to write about your similar business the next week.
A topic or issue that is interesting to the public is something that is newsworthy – and there are many ways to make it relevant to public interests.
That does not mean trying to force a journalist to write about your business, service, experience or view – just because they featured someone similar the week before.
This is a really common theme among business owners. I call it the ‘why not me?’ whinge.
There can be an expectation among business owners that a PR person should be able to read the mind of journalists nationwide and just ‘know’ through psychic ability when your story fits for that journalist.
3. PR is not just about the media – it’s about much more than that.
For many, media relations, talking to journalists and writing and sending press releases is what PR is all about. However, while media relations can be a key part of a campaign, it is not the only tool in the PR box.
Reaching the right people, with the right messages, covers a wide range of tactics outside just talking to the press. For example, there are PR campaigns out there that involve no media content, or they just focus on getting in front of the right customers, employees or influencers directly through other channels outside the press.
Think social media, social influencer campaigns, digital marketing funnels, video channels, podcasts, blogging campaigns….
4. PR will not control the media.
If you think a PR person can control the news agenda of any media outlet you are, quite frankly, deluded. Good PR specialists present stories appropriately and at the correct time, they are not privy to news decisions on a daily basis (would you believe).
Equally, there’s no such thing as guaranteed coverage – there are many external factors that can contribute to this. If you want guarantees buy advertising space, it’s that simple.
A journalist can write a fantastic piece about an awesome story and even then, it might not make it into the paper/onto the website due to circumstances completely out of their hands.
So, look very closely at any promises from PR agencies that they will get you into certain titles – are they actually able to deliver? Have they managed your expectations? Or are they actually buying that ‘space’ out of their fee to you and not sharing that information with you?
5. PR will not make sales if you or your team have no ability to sell.
Ever heard the saying ‘you can’t put lipstick on a pig?’ PR creates opportunity, it doesn’t magically stir up sales skills on a business owner who has a poor website, is never contactable, never responds to emails or consistently turns up late for appointments.
Remember, sales are the end result of marketing, and PR helps that journey by building, protecting and maintaining your reputation. PR is the canopy of the tree, if you like, sales are the roots.
The objective of any PR activity is, once you’ve built the trust and relationship with your audience then some are very likely going to buy your product or services – but it can never be guaranteed.
This will only happen if you or your team have the skills needed to go on that journey from PR opportunity to a physical sale.
If a PR professional isn’t sharing this information with you early doors – move on.
6. PR will not cover up mistakes.
It may help you deal with them honestly, but it often won’t make a crisis go away. PR will be a key to recovery by telling positive stories too.
Despite the talk, businesses using PR to pull the wool over people’s eyes, will only last a certain amount of time and remember, the profession can only do so much to cover mistakes of the business. The public is quite rightly cynical about businesses that have a bad reputation and who fail to own up to past mistakes – it really rubs people up the wrong way and they start talking about this with others. The first step to turning around perceptions, is to be honest, open and transparent. Make a real attempt at changing and evidence this. It has to be genuine, rather than a smokescreen, and that often means cultural change is required.
So there you have it, PR is a very influential and impactful activity, and should be a non-negotiable part of the marketing mix for every business that wants to grow and achieve longevity.
However, it is not a magic wand, it will not create overnight success or drive £100k in a day. It’s a long-term, strategic tool, which when done effectively will help to boost your business, while protecting your reputation.
It’s up to you to make sure the sales, ethics and that very reputation are strong, positive and worthy of protecting in the first instance.
If you want to find out more about how to do your own PR contact me here or drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org