We love PR as much as the next firm, but we know that using it incorrectly leads to more problems than solutions and everyone has a bad time.
By Karla Jo Helms
Public Relations is one of the most misunderstood mediums and, as a result, many people use PR improperly and then they wonder why the campaign did not produce any results. Unfortunately, the people that have preconceived notions about the purpose of PR are both businesses and PR people. The latter being the most startling because you would think that a PR person would know the ins and outs of the industry, however, this isn’t necessarily so. As a result, PR gets viewed by businesses as something that they must do despite the fact they do not know what they are going to get for their investment.
Before you choose a PR company you should do your homework and make sure they are well versed in how to go about proper PR. To help you along the way here are a few tips on how you can avoid disasters in PR.
Rule #1: Never Use PR for Advertising and Marketing
The most misconstrued notion about PR is that it is solely about advertising and marketing. If you use PR to advertise your product or service, you will most definitely not get the results you hoped for. In fact, you will alienate your target market. This is because you are using PR to peddle your product before people even know who you are or what you are about. Would you buy a product from a stranger on the street over a company that you know and trust? Probably not.
Rule #2: Avoid Making Noise
PR people who do not understand how to create good will for the purpose of generating more business end up making a lot of noise. By noise, we mean PR that has no definite purpose and therefore produces no result. I can refer back to the example of the company CEO that was interested in hiring me. He had one person speaking at six engagements, another person attending four events, another person giving multiple presentations, and the thing about it was nothing correlated to one another. It was a flea market of events on the road to nowhere. Each event was related to something different so although the company had a lot of “PR noise,” the revenues for the company were declining because there was no vision of the end result. (Not to mention that the events did not even include his target market…ouch!)
Rule #3: Avoid Using a Blindfold
If PR is going to work you must do your homework to ensure it produces results. Never say that you are going to launch a company and then simply dive in blindfolded only to find out the water was shallow and you hit rock bottom. 99 percent of your PR efforts take place behind the scenes so you are prepared for whatever comes up. Only one percent of PR is the glamorous “15-minutes-of-fame.” For example, if you go into an interview without preparation, there are a lot of things that can go wrong. The interviewer may turn out to be a jerk and then you are caught off guard and may say something that hurts your company reputation. With PR you have to take the blinders off and look at every situation from every angle you possibly can which leads to rule #4.
Rule #4: Trusting a Journalist to do Your Job for You
One thing you should never do in PR is get lulled into trusting a journalist to say or do what is going to represent your company or client in the best possible light. It simply is not their job. They have a responsibility to communicate the truth to their audience and if you think they will forfeit doing so to be “nice”, you are mistaken. If you’re a lion tamer, and you for one second forget that you are dealing with a wild animal, you could get eaten for lunch. It’s the same thing with a journalist. It’s not that a journalist is a bad person; it’s just that it is NOT their job to sell your company or client’s message. They will publicize news that is valuable to their subscription base or advertising public. And that news is not always necessarily what you want them to say. This can be very hazardous to your company’s reputation if you don’t know how to handle it.
Rule #5: Never Lie in PR
Never use PR to lie or inflate the truth because it will come back to bite you in a big way. If you lie in PR sooner or later the lie will explode and then you will have more work in more damage control than you bargained for by having to run around and pick up the pieces. There are times in PR when information can get misinterpreted, but never intentionally create a lie in an effort to get more customers because it will inevitably backfire on you.
If you are unsure about some of the ways you should not use PR it is a good idea to consult with an experienced PR professional that knows the industry and can create a solid foundation with which to build your reputation, your company’s credibility, and your return on investment.
And just because I am in a generous mood today, here’s a bonus –
Rule #6: Leverage ALL PR Gotten
You’ve already had that 15-minutes-of-fame? Well, now you need to leverage the publicity gotten to get more publicity, more reaches, and more sales. This is where a true PR pro is worth his/her salt. Never consider that once it has been said, it is done. What got you noticed will continue to get you noticed for quite some time if you know how to leverage it right.
PR is highly precise, yet is very misunderstood due to the way it has been used in the past. Don’t make the mistake of hiring a PR company that thinks all PR is, is about communicating “nice things” about you or your company. You need a professional who knows how to use the power of PR generate a great return for your marketing dollars.