What PR Pros Do
First, let’s clear up some misconceptions by listing a few things that PR professionals don’t do:
We don’t call our “connections” at media outlets and influence them to pursue stories just because of our friendly relationship.
We don’t know every journalist in the universe–and it doesn’t matter at all in getting media attention.
We don’t make the editorial decisions on if or when an article will run after an interview has occurred.
We can’t make guarantees of coverage on any level. Anyone who does is NOT a true PR professional.
Ethical PR professionals are not “spin doctors.” We will not lie, “spin” the truth or mislead the media. We don’t make revenue skyrocket from an article or media appearance, and we don’t control what the target audience will do once they go to your website from the article link. That’s because we don’t control the buying decisions that go into whether your target audience purchases your product/service/app/book/etc.
We can’t “make” something go viral. That’s why it’s called “going viral.”
WHAT WE DO
PR professionals and firms promote their clients via editorial coverage. This is known as “earned” or “free” media — stories appearing on websites, newspapers, magazines and TV programs — as compared to “paid media” or advertisements.
PR firms and advertising agencies share similar goals on some level: promoting clients and making them seem as successful, honest, important, exciting or relevant as possible.
But the paths to creating awareness and the business objectives for doing so can be vastly different. A business seeking immediate media coverage will need an angle: something new, timely, unique and newsworthy. Examples include a new service, new product, business launch, book launch, acquisition, release of a study, etc. An advertisement doesn’t necessarily have to feature anything brand new or newsworthy. Since it’s a paid medium, the message is the company’s choice.
Most people understand advertising is paid and therefore they know it is subjective. Coverage in respected media outlets constitutes a third-party endorsement and is viewed more favorably because it is objective–no money changed hands.
THE DEFINITION OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
-“Anticipating, analyzing and interpreting public opinion, attitudes and issues that might impact, for good or ill, the operations and plans of the organization.
–Counseling management at all levels in the organization with regard to policy decisions, courses of action and communication, taking into account their public ramifications and the organization’s social or citizenship responsibilities.
–Researching, conducting and evaluating, on a continuing basis, programs of action and communication to achieve the informed public understanding necessary to the success of an organization’s aims. These may include marketing; financial; fund raising; employee, community or government relations; and other programs.
–Planning and implementing the organization’s efforts to influence or change public policy. Setting objectives, planning, budgeting, recruiting and training staff, developing facilities — in short, managing the resources needed to perform all of the above.”
Public relations strategies might include:
-Creating and executing special events designed for public outreach and media relations
-Conducting market research to best determine messaging
-Copy writing and blogging for the web (internal or external sites)
-Crisis public relations strategies
-Social media promotions and responses to negative opinions online
-Writing press releases for only select, appropriate news events
Note that this list does not predominantly feature “writing press releases.” That’s because few things actually warrant a press release.
PR is a process. You know who hits it big overnight with a story on all the morning news channels? Criminals, naughty celebrities and shark-attack victims. Do you want to be one of them?
WHEN TO HIRE A PR FIRM
Businesses should hire PR firms when they want to protect, enhance or build their reputations through the media. A good PR professional can analyze the organization, find the positive messages and translate those messages into positive media stories. When the news is bad, a professional can formulate the best response and mitigate the damage.
The best PR professionals are often former journalists and know the most effective ways to communicate with editors and reporters.
The relationship between client and PR pro MUST be collaborative. PR professionals cannot work in a vacuum. They must ask questions (and get answers) to develop strategy, dig for story angles and be treated like part of the business management team.
Long term, public relations is an investment in the brand that results in increased recognition and reputation.