5 common myths about public relations that you need to stop believing
Bill Gates once said: “If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on public relations.” This quote is a great testament to the power of PR.
That said, there are still many misconceptions about this underutilised and undervalued marketing tool. This is possibly due to the fact that PR ironically, hasn’t had such good PR over the years. Its strategic and long-term benefit isn’t always understood. People struggle to understand that it’s more of an art than a science, that it looks different for every brand and that it isn’t easy to quantify its impact.
In this post, my mission is to debunk the five most common myths about PR.
Myth #1: PR is the same as advertising
The key distinguishing factor here, is that advertising is ‘paid for’ exposure, while PR is ‘earned’ exposure. PR is usually publicised by a third (neutral) party - be it negative or positive. The customer views the company that advertises very differently to the one that gets endorsed by a publication. PR coverage is by far more credible in the mind of the consumer than advertising - and so consequently enhances the reputation of the company.
In my mind, both advertising and PR have their place in a holistic marketing plan. However, the latter should set the course and lead the way, with advertising simply securing visibility to reinforce an already positive image created by PR.
Myth #2: PR drives sales
Most businesses only have the bottom line in mind when they plan their marketing efforts. Rightfully so. However, PR is different to other marketing tools. It should not, and cannot replace a sales team! This is a very common misconception about PR. The truth: PR is not sales and it will not directly generate sales.
What it will do however, is create brand awareness and credibility so that when your sales team approaches potential leads, they are already familiar with your company and they trust your brand. There is a positive, open relationship in place. This turns cold leads into warm leads, and will drastically increase your sales team’s effectiveness over time.
Myth #3: PR is easy and I can do it myself
This is one of the biggest myths about PR and often attributes to people believing that PR doesn’t work. It doesn’t work if you think it is just about appearing in the newspaper every now and again. PR is highly strategic and cannot only be done on an ad hoc basis. It is about developing strategy and key messages for your company, constantly generating ideas, identifying your audience and leveraging your communication channels - and these are just the basic elements of PR.
There is much more work required behind the scenes than most people realise. PR is a relationship, and as with any relationship, it doesn’t keep office hours. It requires of you to constantly be aware of how people are thinking about, interacting with and talking about your brand. It is a full-time job. It takes a lot of hard work and time to build a positive company reputation, yet it takes only one mistake to destroy it.
Myth #4: I only need PR when things go wrong
Although PR is important when things go wrong, it cannot be the only time you are implementing it. PR is as important when things are going ‘better than ever’. Market research shows that a customer needs to know, trust and believe in your product or service before they will buy it. This takes time and involves telling your story consistently, making sure your audience knows your values and trusts your brand.
If you’re only communicating to them in tough times, it’s unlikely to achieve anything. Continuously build a strong foundation with your audience and the media, so that when the tough times come, you are ready. And what is more, they have a bank of ‘positive perceptions’ about you, which really helps to put whatever is happening into perspective.
Myth #5: PR is cheap
Yes, PR is often cheaper and more effective than advertising. Yet, as mentioned above, it is a full time job. A company therefore either should hire a full-time in-house PR team, or outsource it to an agency.
When it comes to PR, you definitely get what you pay for. Unlike advertising that stops, when you stop paying for an advertising space, PR’s reach continues to grow exponentially over time as more and more media publications get to know your company, product and brand. This is even more so with the social media wave at an all time high; the right social media influencers are now key ‘audiences’ and a potential source of exponential growth that companies have to carefully communicate with.
In summary, PR is an exciting and incredibly effective marketing tool that can take a business to great heights, if it is understood and embraced by the whole team.
And for the record, this is what PR is:
PR is the management, through communication, of perceptions and strategic relationships between an organisation and its internal and external stakeholders (PRISA). It is about building a consistent brand, writing well, communicating effectively, acting strategically, creating relationships with media, and having extensive knowledge about your industry and the media publications that you are engaging with.
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