Ok, this is a blog dedicated to the most common PR fallacies PR professionals are faced with debunking on the daily.
The scenario is this:
CEO books PR agency for service. But CEO doesn’t know how PR works or how to measure success. CEO decides on its worth and dictates the strategy anyway.
The result of this situation discredits the perception of PR investment, and leaves the consultant and client with all sorts of battle scars because it was a square peg, round hole scenario.
CEOs with limited PR knowledge spend a substantial portion of the marketing budget on PR because they know they need it but don’t have a very evolved perception of how it works – stuck in ‘a dollar in a dollar out’ mentality.
So this is the “refer here” blog any PR Pro can send clients who are still living in the 80s version of what PR is. Or who are finding it hard to hear you explain the machinations of an industry they’ve had little exposure to but know they need.
It’s a blog for people deciding upon what PR success looks like when a) they still don’t know what PR is and how it works b) didn’t listen when the real life PR objectives were outlined at sign-up stage, or c) don’t have time to put their PR knowledge back-on course.
Unlike most things you buy, PR is not buy now see now. This leaves wearisome PR Pros around the world in a position of not just getting the job done; but reporting back on results the CEO has requested that don’t determine what PR success looks like or even accurately indicate how PR has added value to the business.
We hope to help you put a stop to this heartache so that PR consultants and clients can live happily ever after.
Because PR is happening in and around a business whether that business is wrangling it strategically or not. Yes, indeed, PR exists for as long as that business is operating and thereafter. PR lives in the hearts and minds of customers who decide what that business means to them. So it’s important that business owners know what PR is and how it works if they’re investing it, as well as building a business with good PR culture and determining the success of its very function.
PR is a guaranteed media result
The PR consultant’s role is to create worthwhile, well-positioned stories that bring value to the target audience. But we can only ask media to consider our ideas.
At the end of the day it’s up to the journalist to decide what gets a run or not.
For controlled media placements; CEOs need to pay for advertising.
The PR role is to compel. Not sell. Or tell.
We seed story ideas for potential take-up. The value is in building media awareness for that brand in a meaningful and positive way. Coverage is the cherry on top but it’s never guaranteed.
We repeat, if the CEO wants guaranteed messaging with guaranteed placement; then they are getting PR confused with advertising.
PR is a cheap form of advertising
Refer again to Myth 01. PR is not advertising, ever.
Nor is PR publicity. So we’re debunking two myths in one here. Publicity is one potential result of PR efforts.
While traditional, above-the-line advertising en-masse is expensive; advertising and PR are apples and oranges. Advertising is in the paid media space and PR is in the earned media space – this means that we pitch ideas to media for their consideration.
So when the CEO invests in PR thinking it’s a cheap way to get out of advertising; it puts pressure on the PR function to operate in the place of advertising which it simply can’t.
PR as an investment is more accessible to more businesses than traditional advertising; but the lower the budget the longer impact takes to get, given PR is a fee for service industry and not a fee for result.
PR success is counted in clippings
Counting PR success by the number of media clippings secured undermines the PR function entirely. Again, this is post-war PR thinking. Dare we mention the acronym *HITS (How Idiots Track Success). We know it’s a bit harsh. It’s not ours, promise.
Public Relations is an integrated communications functioned aligned with the business outcomes as a whole. Publicity pursuits might not even be on the ideal outcomes agenda since media coverage is one of a myriad of potential PR outcomes we goal for.
And if publicity is on the list of things to do for a project; it might be that the success was secured in the clarity of messaging, ability to advance the brand’s position in the minds of the media, or put forward an industry talking head for future possibilities. Often media take-up can happen long after the tenure; especially if it’s less than 12-months.
PR results are immediate
Just like any employee joining a business; there is an element of time spent in on-boarding. Once an agreement to work together is in place PR Pros need time to get perspective on the current position of that business in the market.
We consider its position against competitors, seek out communication opportunities, further develop the strategic approach that’s been agreed and move it to a working strategy with tactics, timelines and a budget. None of this is done before engagement. We then develop the bespoke tools we need to get the job done for that business and that strategy.
The investment determines the resourcing and how quickly we can move through this pathway before implementation and in-market stage.
Proper lead-time and PR planning prevents poor PR performance. Strategic PR efforts are evergreen; rarely if ever are they immediate.
PR results are high impact
PR can absolutely be high impact but not always or often. PR could manifest itself as a large scale and impressive event that generates a heap of user generated social media content and engagement. This would be high impact. Or a feature story for a business might be secured in business media; a media outlet category not yet secured that results in a visible uptick in enquiries.
But it also must be said, that it might’ve taken months, or more than a year to generate these type of results; and so the ‘high impact’ perception must be put to the side and replaced for a slow, steady and sustainable perception of what PR is and how it works. It’s a forever function that works side by side a business cheering it on like a good friend. PR is more about enduring stability rather than immediate and high impact.
PR is marketing
Marketing is to sell. PR is to compel. Marketing is sales, spreadsheet and stats focused. PR is connection, community relationship and reputation focused. While marketers are doing PR things and PR professionals are doing marketing things and the lines are blurred more than ever across both, PR is what drives connection through content centred in story to a brand. Marketing tries to measure it.
PR increases sales
PR can and does influence sales over time. A long time. But PR is not a sales function. PR is a communications function. Without strategic PR it is usually a race to the bottom for a business eventually. So yes, PR does impact sales but despite efforts to (and validate worth) PR can’t be measured in sales. Just like you can’t put a dollar figure on a friend, you can’t put a dollar figure on changing someone’s opinion about your business.
You also can’t track how many people a single person influences with a story they share about your business. Or the impact on take-up which is often well-after the exposure to a strategic PR effort. Sometimes the PR purchase cycle is years, even decades long.
The only way to truly know the impact of PR is to compare two businesses over a lifetime; one with and one without. But since there aren’t two business exactly the same; it’s not really an option.
Media coverage or a special event (whatever the PR tactic is) often does result in an up-tick of visibility, web traffic, and enquiries for that business; but short term impact and sales spikes wont sustain a business or create an ensuring brand long term unless the PR efforts are sustained across that businesses lifetime.
PR is a ‘dollar out dollar in’ scenario
Nope, PR is not a dollar in dollar out scenario.
Again this is expecting PR to function like marketing or sales when it is neither. PR needs to be a long term, sustainable investment. It can be dialled up or down at peak periods or for special projects but in between that it needs to be active and strategic even at an entry level investment in-house or vi an agency.
PR is like giving a voice to a business so that it can be heard, seen and remembered for all the right reasons by the right people in the right ways. It is not a dollar in dollar out scenario; rather a necessary cost of operating a business. PR is reputation management.
PR investment can be measured with AVEs
Oh dear lord, this still happens. And is still requested. Make it stop. We simply won’t do them. Even uni students were dedicating their research and persuasion assignments to the un-suitability of Advertising Value Equivalents as a PR success yard stick two decades ago.
AVEs are subjective, mean nothing to the outcomes of a business and belong back in the land of time with the dinosaurs. Put your rulers away! Yes, AVEs used to be done with a ruler. Believe it. Just for the record AVEs are a value figure given to a piece of editorial based on it being 5 – 10 more the cost of that placement if it was a paid ad.
Multiplied by five or ten who’s watching?! And that piece of coverage wasn’t an ad, nor could it ever have been because it was placed on a non-ad position in that publication with non-ad messaging, opinions, impartial facts, non-campaign imagery and various industry talking heads (or whatever the case may be). AVEs take time away from the PR budget that could be spent on securing real results, and again they mean nothing.
The more media releases the more news secured
Oh no, please don’t measure PR worth by the number of media releases you can request of your PR consultant to syndicate. We know that some CEOs like to measure PR worth by the number of documents they can physically touch; but this is a little circa early 2000s PR.
The media landscape has changed (more micro niched and fragmented than ever before) and the way in which we reach media has also changed.
The best approach to media releases is to use them sparingly. Quality over quantity and on an ‘as need’ basis. Media Kits and Media Releases are for basic facts and foundational information from which to back-up an existing pitch or plant the idea of a potential story.
Most media cut-through happens via personalised conversations; not a media release with a token quote that’s been sent far and wide around the land to whom it may concern.