I start getting the heebie jeebies when potential new clients ask questions like ‘why do PR results take so long?’ Rome wasn’t built in a day couldn’t be more appropriate when turning your attention to PR.

PR is made of tough stuff. Things like building your brand, refining your brand position, identifying your target audience, developing your key messages, unearthing news, securing coverage influencing perception and behaviour…that all takes time.

These are just some of the questions I’ve had this week alone…

How fast will I see PR results?
Can you achieve media coverage in two months? Why not?
Do you pay for media coverage on my behalf?
Should I buy advertising or PR?
How many coverage hits will I get in 6 months of PR?
Will my sales uplift during the PR campaign?
Can you guarantee placement in these publications?
If I don’t see coverage will you compensate me?
Can you get me on the front cover of Ragtrader?

There are a multitude of reasons why such questions make me a tad ‘boggle-eyed’. Isn’t it ironic that the PR industry, which is one centred around communication has done such a poor job of communicating exactly what PR is.

It’s quite baffling that so many clever marketing managers or entrepreneurs who have nailed product, team-building, customer experience, social media and digital marketing have absolutely no idea how PR works, how long it takes, why they need it, how to value it and what to expect and so on.

These however are very common questions. So as a community and PR industry service, I’m going to answer the above questions as best possible, one by one. Because at the core of most PR people I’ve met, we care. So much. We want to win for you but that’s hard if you have no idea what it is we do.

How fast will I see PR results?
Your PR agency plant seeds that need time to grow. The best PR results come from an always active and proactive PR function in or for your business. Companies that don’t stick with PR for the long game are making a mistake.

PR reinforcement is an important strength to all businesses that need support in sharing the reason they exist, the problems they solve and for the great work that they do.

PR results and the time it takes to get them depend on the quality of the story, the news value and its interest to the media and your target audience. Sometimes what you think is news in your own business, isn’t.

If the sentiment behind your news is more about selling and less about legitimate value and industry insights, then it’s going to take longer.

If a celebrity hooks up with another celebrity, or there’s a natural disaster, or a politician has a public meltdown, or an AFL footy player gets caught partying during footy season; that’ll all make news very quickly. What type of news do you really want? The best stories take time to build.

Can you achieve media coverage in two months? Why not?
Hmm refer to above answer. If it’s not scandalous then probably not.

There seems to be quite a lot of confusion about the difference between PR and advertising (…still). Advertising is when you buy placement in the media. You set a budget. You design the placement. You write the copy. You set the date. You pay to place it. It’s a sure thing. If you want a sure thing for social proof, buy an ad.

The PR function requires time for on-boarding, getting to know your business, developing strategies, getting tooled up and executing. The biggest and best media results often take the most amount of time.

And sometimes the foundations placed by PR will surface media coverage for you past the end of your official PR campaign.

Do you pay for media coverage on my behalf?
No. Paid media space is either an ad or advertorial. Advertorial is designed to look like editorial and usually has a notation somewhere that says ‘sponsored’ or ‘in partnership with’. Ads and advertorials are ads. Not PR.

The only time a PR person would pay for such spaces on your behalf is if they are wearing two hats and also managing an advertising budget for you too. This does happen from time to time (we are very good at multi-tasking), but you would know about it. PRs are definitely not using precious consulting fees that pay for their time and IP to pay for your ads.

Should I buy advertising or PR?
This depends on your budget, your timing expectations, and the news value of your business. PR is when you pay for a media expert to inform the media about something and then the media decide if it’s worth writing about.

PR consultants are skilled in providing context, navigating the complex media world, finding and unearthing news (re-angling it if needed), writing about it which together gives your brand, business, product or service the best chance of editorial coverage. It is not guaranteed.

As a consumer what do you pay attention to more? Ads or editorial articles? Ideally your brand has both. But if I were to choose one, I’d go with third party endorsement via information as education almost always. Unless your business is not newsworthy and you’re just trying to sell stuff in a very crowded market.

How many coverage HITS will I get in 6 months of PR?
I mean this is in the nicest possible way…HITS is also an industry acronym for How Idiots Track Success. Quality over quantity, always. It is far better to have a feature story about a business that took 24 months to develop than a listing, or multiple listings with very little context.

Will my sales uplift during the PR campaign?
While good PR will contribute to sales over time it is not a sales function.

There are so many factors which influence a sale and which are outside of PR control. For example – the product itself, service it comes with, price, point-of-sale and customer experience, product availability, location, competition in the market, and of course branding and brand position are all factors, which will influence sales.

What we know for sure is that if you’re not executing a thoughtful PR strategy alongside your business, you’re not optimising sales in the long term.

Can you guarantee I will be in these publications?
No. Getting a story in a publication because you want it there, or a boss demands it has no influence on media.

The things journalists, speakers, bloggers, influencers and freelance writers care about is – What is the story? Why should I care? Does my audience care? Why should I care now?

We can certainly target publications, and naturally you should be drawn to PR agencies that have solid relationships with the publications you want to appear in; but nothing is guaranteed.

Try and put yourself in this common scenario…

A friend tells you about an awesome new café you need to check out. You trust her opinion. She’s effortlessly cool, a real foodie and knows all the best places that pop up around town.

You mull the idea of going out for brunch. Life takes over. You’re running a business. You live in the suburbs these days. You have kids (or a busy travel and hobby life), but in about six months, maybe a year, maybe even two years you remember the recommendation and try it out. It was an incredible experience. You will definitely go back. You tell three friends.

Media are people. And people don’t write or talk about things instantly because it was suggested. They too will mull and then consider what they do with that information when it suits them.

You have the best possible chance of your news opportunities being placed when they are pitched by someone who has a strong network of contacts, has a proven track record and long term relationships with media and influencers.

If I don’t see coverage will you compensate me?
When you pay for PR, you pay for access to the agency or PR consultant’s industry network and ability to communicate to your audience on your behalf.

Sometimes the result will be getting clarity on your key messages, refining your internal and external communications, managing an issue so that media coverage doesn’t appear, changing opinion, influencing behaviours, building awareness and generating positive word-of-mouth.

None of these things are media coverage. Media coverage is only one facet of a multitude of positive results and value that come out of working with a PR agency. (refer to blog post here on the value of PR).

PR is an investment that is woven into your business which develops steadily to ensure maximum benefit and outcome over time. Sometimes the coverage will fall outside of the campaign tenure.

I can’t more highly recommend that you stick with a PR agency for the long term or create a PR function in your business that is skilled up and sustainable.

Definitely get clear on the service outputs, deliverables, likely outcomes and value provided before you kick-off with a PR agency. And be sure to remember that relationships aren’t grown overnight. And neither are PR results.

Words by Jade Roberts
raraPR Founder and Director.

raraPR is above all the sum of people who together help build brands and share stories. We are present in our determination to make a positive difference to the world by representing individuals and businesses that are doing good. We are an extension of the personal stories within us, those that we exist for and those within you that need to be heard.

About raraPR

raraPR is an Australian public relations, digital marketing and branding agency. We are PR mentors, brand boosters and community creators for business owners, industry leaders and entrepreneurs. What we do goes far beyond the typical PR agency.

Our Ethos
We’re a passionate team who thrive on creating content that works. Or in other words, tasteful brand assets that build equity for a business.
We’re driven by the purpose, the meaning and the stories behind why a business exists as much as the quality of the product or service.
We’re inspired by being around the start-up community, entrepreneurs, intrepreneurs, solopreneurs, creators, makers, thought-leaders, dreamers and seekers willing to go beyond the good for the truly great.
The desire to help people take their business to the next level and reach their potential drives everything we do.
We get excited about producing innovative and thoughtful PR, digital, social media and design outcomes.
We’re at our natural best when we’re connecting talent and bringing communities together inside and outside the company.
We collaborate and become a seamless extension of our clients’ team.
We see, listen, mentor, educate, inspire, support, direct, provide clarity and instil confidence within our team andour community.
We care about providing value, which is the fundamental centrepiece of what we do.
We’re all about honesty and integrity, authenticity and transparency. That’s how we roll.