Public Relations, PR, publicity, press coverage; whatever you call it, everyone wants it, but few understand what a public relations campaign is and how it truly works.
After two decades as both a publicist and a member of the media, I can start by telling you what it’s not. Public Relations is not advertising and it’s not sending out a press release and waiting for the phone to ring, (or your inbox to fill up with requests). Most importantly, unless you are already in the public eye, public relations is not a fast track to fame.
To reset some healthy and practical expectations about what a public relations campaign can help you achieve, here are 4 myths about public relations cleared up:
Simply Putting Out A Press Release Will Garner Media Coverage
If I had a dollar for every small business owner who told me they distributed a press release through a wire service and never got any press, I’d be a whole lot richer. A press release is an effective tool for public companies to remain compliant with SEC regulations, for established brands to make major news announcements, or for announcing your news to a population or audience that is already familiar with your brand. If none of the above applies to you, then your best bet is to compose the most compelling media pitch you can; either internally or with the help of a PR professional and pitch it to specific journalists.
A Good Publicist Will Guarantee Media Coverage
In fact, it is just the opposite. An ethical publicist will set realistic expectations by giving you an assessment of what they think can potentially be accomplished, approximately how long it should take to see tangible results and where they think you may fit within the media-landscape. They will also explain that a specific result cannot be guaranteed due to the volatility of media; even at the risk of not landing you as a client.
In PR, Relationships Are Everything
In a perfect world, this is accurate. For example, you forge a relationship with a producer or editor, work together with several of your clients and you’ve cemented a great relationship. That relationship is worth its weight in gold; that is until said Producer or Editor moves on from that position. You now must forge a relationship with their successor. It happens all the time. On the flip side, 90% of the top-tier media coverage I have booked for clients was through journalists and media outlets that I had never worked with before. They loved my pitch and decided to cover my client. One caveat, quid-pro-quo relationships tend to be effective. If a journalist owes a publicist a favor, you better believe it will be called in on behalf of that publicist’s client or clients.
All You Need Is Cision PR Software to Do Your Own PR
I have access to a stethoscope, but I am not qualified to give you a medical exam. It is easy to be seduced by the idea of having thousands of journalists’ contact information at your fingertips. However, if you don’t know who to contact, when, or for what reason, it won’t do you much good. It can also rub journalists the wrong way if you pitch them inappropriately or unprofessionally. Knowing how to structure a media pitch to catch the attention of the right journalist is what separates the layperson from the experienced publicist. Publicists are, in a nutshell, professional communicators.
What are your thoughts about public relations? Do you know any myths that did not get mentioned above? If so, please share them with us in the comments section below!