Earned media has never been more valuable; it's impossible to buy, after all. And while paid media's supporting role is very strong, companies are continuously looking for new ways to distribute authentic messages and engage others in what they do; corporate schtick has no place in that equation. But earned media is just that -- earned. As much as we'd like, we can't make people say great things about us unless they truly value and believe in what we do. So if PR is playing a greater role in achieving that missive, do we (and our clients) really get it?
PR is dead
Wrong. PR is more alive than ever; it's just morphed into something a lot bigger and at times, harder to define because the goalposts have moved so much. What is dead is the type of old-school PR that's practiced by those who believe a double-spaced template is the only way to communicate a company's story. Come on, people!
The press release is the axis of PR sins
Absolutely. I have said it before, and will keep saying it: The press release is a dinosaur. No one reads them. When was the last time you read a press release and reacted positively to it? See, journalists feel that pain, too. We can thank blithely ignorant PR people for that. It's okay -- I was one, too.
PR is about storytelling
Correct. A little creativity goes a very long way, but this isn't reinforced enough in PR school. No one wants to read a bunch of quotes from C-suiters. Whether it's PR through traditional channels or part of a social media campaign, journalists and consumers are looking for interesting stories -- something that adds knowledge and value to their existence, not details of a strategic partnership. Where's the story in that?
Journalists will love your story
Not always. But your mom will. One of the biggest struggles PR agencies face is saying no to clients' demands. We're on the front lines with media outlets daily, so we know that some stories should never see the light of day. Too often, clients confuse PR with marketing messages, not understanding the importance of creating a really great story that's devoid of nonsense such as "synergistic," "ROI," "realign" and "transcend."
PR takes care of itself
Wrong. One pitfall of companies is the mistaken assumption that PR takes care of itself. I liken a PR team to an engine that needs to be lubricated and filled with grade-A fuel regularly. A PR team cannot perform miracles without good substance. Companies that kick back and expect placements to come rolling in without input or extra effort are setting themselves up for dashed expectations, missed opportunities and a begrudging relationship, none of which are fun.
PR is about harnessing relationships
Bingo! PR is absolutely about relationships. It's about the agency-media relationship, and using those relationships to sell our clients. It's about the relationships that we're building on behalf of our clients. It's also about helping brands become stronger and creating awareness of who they are, as well as deflecting in times of crisis. It's about helping sales efforts and generating leads.
Really, the PR machine is a terrific multitasker. But as with any relationship, you have to nurture it, treat it with respect and help it grow. Anything less, and you may find yourself dumped.
So what have we learned?
PR can achieve many different things, but the game is changing quickly. As an industry, we need a firm grasp on what the marketplace demands, and our ability to deliver. We need to get tougher when it comes to expectations: We're being called upon to do a lot more with a lot less. It's time for us to gain more respect in what we do, by communicating exactly what it is that we do.