Four Common Misconceptions about PR

The year is still young, and you may not have decided what to do to improve your company’s marketing for the coming year. You think PR may be the answer, and no doubt you would benefit from it.  But it’s a good idea to know what you want to accomplish with public relations – one of the most misunderstood of business functions.

Before you call a firm or hire a PR specialist, let’s dispel some common misconceptions about the practice.

  1. PR is about writing and sending news releases.  Think of a news release as the bread and butter that accompanies the meal.  It’s not the whole meal or even the main course.  Every business or nonprofit organization needs to begin any public relations program with a strategic plan – one that incorporates their overall goal, short-term objectives, target audiences, strategy, tactics and how success will be measured.  A news release is one of many tactics that may be used in carrying out the plan.
  2. PR is “free advertising.”  First of all, public relations and advertising messages are entirely different.  You can overtly promote your organization in an ad, while to obtain “earned” media coverage (coverage you don’t have to pay for), you must have a story – one that makes a worthwhile contribution to the editorial content of a media outlet.  Second, public relations work is not free; whether you are using in-house staff or an outside firm, you will pay for the time and talent that it takes to get recognition for your business.
  3. When interviewing a PR specialist, the first thing to ask is how our business would be promoted.   Every business or nonprofit organization is unique in some way, and no one PR plan will be right for each one. Ask that question of a PR firm, and you will probably get a series of questions in return or a request to meet and talk with you in person.  That’s because the answer to your question depends on all of the factors that will go into your company’s strategic PR plan (see #1, above).
  4. We need good PR to quickly counteract recent bad publicity.  Hiring a PR firm to put a positive spin on bad acts by your company is pretty much useless.  The truth has a way of coming out, and in today’s media climate it can be devastating to your business, as online and social media can reach millions of people before you can do anything about it.  The best way – perhaps the only way – to counter negative media coverage is to apologize immediately for any wrongdoing and begin a long-term program to repair the damage to your reputation.  And that PR program has to be based on good acts, or it won’t succeed.

Posted by Margot Dimond

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