This is an interesting question to answer and I expect you are thinking I’m going to say there are none – however that’s not true. Public relations has to be done by almost any business to function, except in a very limited number of circumstances.
There are a few businesses which are very closed in the way they operate and public knowledge of them has to be kept to a minimum. In my 13 years of running my own agency, I’ve only come across it twice where I had to turn down working with an organisation because I knew it wouldn’t work.
In one case, their work was interesting and some of it would have made great stories but the reality was this; their biggest customer was the Ministry of Defence and by its nature was extremely sensitive. Even I had to guess exactly what they did, however educated my guess might be. Therefore, even though the business creator wanted to be ‘out there’ I knew there were no stories in that business I could tell without putting the business at risk.
In the second case the business owner was working with very serious offenders. Every story we discussed we came up against the brick wall of ‘confidentiality’ and also the risk to her own person.
Apart from these two cases then here are 13 reasons why PR i.e. media/press relations might not be to your advantage:
- You are a numbers person where you must always be able to attach a price to every activity, which means you will always see PR as a cost centre and never as an investment. With that mindset it will never work for you.
- You cannot separate PR from sales, no matter how hard you try. You are not able to see or compute that reputation takes time to build and the sales come later (if you know how to sell). Depending on how high you want your reputation to be, a good PR strategy will take about two years before that reputation fully develops and starts to bear fruit. As a sales person, you will not see the instant payback you expect from selling.
- You see PR as sales and you are not willing to invest in sales training for yourself or your team. You see it as a ‘cheap’ way of getting sales. It will never live up to your unrealistic and ridiculous expectations. PR will always disappoint you.
- Your business is dubious or slightly dodgy. Have you set up a business which sails close to the wind of legality? Or is opportunistic? Good PR is about authenticity and good ethics, so if you are dodgy in any way, stay away from it.
- You have a poor reputation in your business which you are trying to hide or gloss over in the hope no one will know – stay away from PR. As soon as you start being visible your reputation will come back to haunt you and your PR partner will run a mile.
- You have a string of failed businesses behind you because you are a ‘phoenix’ trader and you get rid of businesses and liabilities by dissolving them and then you are up trading the next day under a slightly different name. Believe me, PR is definitely not for you.
- It’s not for you if you are not prepared to invest time and money. You have to invest in building visibility and reputation – even if you are starting out in business and you have to do it yourself. The investment will always be in time and money – the only things which change is the amount of time and the amount of investment.
- It’s not for you if you just talk ‘sales talk’ all of the time. PR is largely about stories and finding stories in a business. There’s a time and a place for sales talk. If you just want to sell, sell, sell in all of your ‘stories’ – this is not for you.
- Equally it’s not for you if you only want to talk about your product or service. If this is the case, you’d be better to invest in advertorial or advertising space. People buy from people. so you need to be a person. Yes, it’s important to showcase expertise, however be a person (or group of people first) and your product or service second.
- It’s not for you if you never want to invest in professional photography or imagery for your business. Professional photography is vital to your business looking the part for two reasons. Firstly, amateur images look poor, and suggest that you don’t want to spend money on your business. Secondly, if you want your business to appear in the media, ie. press, or business magazines, they will only use, professional, colour, full resolution images. Part of PR is to be visible – which, with a set of decent photographs to accompany your stories, you can be.
- It’s not for you if you are a business owner who chews through experts on a weekly basis – always thinking everyone else is a bit ‘crap’ and you know how to do it better. If you are frustrated because this keeps happening to you – believe me the problem is ‘you’. Invest in dealing with that and don’t spend another penny until you face up to that. It will always be money down the drain.
- It’s not for you if you cannot chill around things like ‘compliance’ or ‘legality’ – the world of news and PR moves quickly and you need to be able to react quickly. If you get too bogged down in ‘I’ve got to get it checked by this committee or that person’ you could be wasting your money. Everything will take longer and a story washed through committees usually ends up being twisted all out of shape until it’s little more than an advertising puff.
- It’s not for you if you are a franchisee of a franchise which allows you no real freedom. As with point 12, everything takes so long to get approved that a PR plan will often fail through delays caused by you the client. Often the PR company will walk away from you and not the other way around.