Top PR leaders embrace a simple yet powerful mindset: You shouldn’t always believe what you hear.
For one, the communications field is very crowded. PR pros outnumber journalists at a ratio of 4.6 to 1. When markets get crowded, competition becomes cutthroat. As a result, it’s not unheard of that false signals (read: noise) arise.
Second, relationships, personality and creativity drive PR—your biggest strength is your personality.
With this premise in mind, I asked my community two things: (1) the biggest PR myths they’ve encountered and (2) how to quash them. Out of 73 replies related to SEO, social, analytics, brand-building and integrated marketing, here are my six favorites:
1. The “all fun and no work” attitude
Nominated by Melinda Jackson, publicist at JAG Entertainment
PR requires extensive networking and outreach. Jackson explains that as a result, the industry is perceived as being driven by fancy parties with no real work.
“Sure, there are amazing parties and events, but 95 percent of the time, publicists are locked to a desk, writing, brainstorming, sending emails, and making follow-up calls,” says Jackson. “Being a publicist truly is a 24/7 job. You have to be on at all times.”
Jackson encourages fellow PR leaders to rebut this myth by sharing more stories about their jobs. In addition to sharing the fun stuff, it’s important to highlight the hard work, too.
“I think that we can change the narrative by being very transparent about how hard we all work,” says Jackson. “Publicists are some of the most dedicated, hardworking people I know.”
2. The perspective that summers are slow news seasons
Nominated by Amanda Vega, founder of Amanda Vega Consulting
Word on the street is that summer is the season to set your computer aside, work half days and hit the beach.
“Don’t listen to the myth that the news is slow over the summer,” says Vega. “The news is never slow in the 24/7 world. There isn’t a time that a journalist isn’t hard at work where we can magically email them and they will just pick up a story because they have nothing else to publish.”
PR leaders should be up front that slow news cycles are myths. Journalists invariably have something to write about, and you must always fight to grab their attention. Clarify these expectations for your clients, bosses and team members.
3. The tendency to keep PR in a bubble
Nominated by Meghan Ely, principal at OFD Consulting
One of the biggest misconceptions is that PR is a standalone strategy.
“I have prospective clients, for example, who simply want to hire me for public relations representation, when an integrated approach of marketing, advertising and PR tends to be the better recipe,” says Ely.
PR will always be a part of a larger marketing strategy. You’ll build broad awareness by landing media placements in top publications, for instance, but you’ll also have to convert your newly generated Web visitors into customers.
One way Ely tackles this challenge is by working with a network of partners.
“We have experts on hand who consider all three components to formulate a comprehensive plan that considers each component,” says Ely.
Ely’s team also invests time and resources in enlightening clients.
“Education is the key to dispelling this myth,” Ely says. “It’s important to communicate to prospects, clients and colleagues and acknowledge that public relations works in tandem with other disciplines.”
4. The attitude that connections trump quality
Nominated by Henry Stimpson, owner of Stimpson Communications
There’s a longstanding idea within the PR industry that reporters will write about your company because they like you personally. This is simply untrue-and potentially offensive to quality-minded writers.
“Good stories must stand on their own,” says Stimpson. “Reporters and editors won’t run self-promotional junk because a persuasive PR person asked them to do so. It’s certainly good to have established contacts among the media, but that’s helpful only if you have a usable story or release that their audience will be interested in.”
Stimpson encourages PR leaders to step into the shoes of the journalists they’re trying to reach. Find out what motivates them professionally and personally. Don’t assume that if you’re friends, he or she will write about your organization.
Focus on delivering great value and even better stories. Quality trumps connections.
5. The perception that it is impossible to measure the ROI of PR
Nominated by Jean Serra, partner at Version 2.0
The ability to measure PR’s return on investment is challenging but not impossible. As Serra points out, benchmarks come in many quantitative and qualitative forms.
“We can measure brand awareness and sentiment through surveys, share of voice, Web traffic referrals related back to PR activity and more,” says Serra.
Serra says PR leaders who avoid measuring ROI may be less than confident in their work. An agency that shies away from measurement, she says, probably has reservations regarding its performance.
“PR leaders can make measurement a core piece of any program from the outset of a client relationship,” says Serra. “Setting objectives at the outset of a program or campaign is a collaborative exercise, and the goals should reflect both realistic objectives and a few that are a stretch. Regularly reviewing the results of a program will show you which campaigns and programs are working and which are not, so you can recalibrate as needed.”
6. The stereotype of PR being an easy job
Nominated by Katherine Eller, founder of Roam Communications
For PR outsiders, it can be challenging to see what’s happening behind the scenes-reporter communication, education, and storyline development, for instance. To clients and managers, placements can seem like magic.
As Eller explains, however, coverage doesn’t “just appear.”
“Some scenarios are easier than others, but typically many hours are spent behind the scenes before anything hits online or in print: research, prepping the executive, drafting messaging and ongoing conversations with the reporter to discuss the story angle,” says Eller.
Eller encourages PR leaders to educate people about the PR process. Instead of sharing results, spend time discussing the process “behind the scenes.”
“Educating executives on the entire PR process can not only help alleviate some of the pressure for some communications professionals on timelines associated with coverage but also give executives the opportunity to arm the PR team with the assets they need for stronger campaigns and pitches.”
Best practices are only best practices. You must leverage your best asset-your interpersonal skills-to forge relationships with your target audiences. Be genuine, authentic and always take “words of wisdom” with a grain of salt.
What’s the biggest PR myth you’d like to quash?