25 Feb Understanding PR series, Part 3: Myths about a public relations strategy
For some businesses, public relations (PR) is a magical machine where your PR agent talks to some media people and suddenly your business is in the spotlight. Unfortunately it isn’t magic, but strategy and process that make things happen.
Myth 1: PR is based on luck
Hands up if you think your PR agent was fortunate to talk to the editor about that issue your organisation was involved in, just before it got big? Great contacts, good timing, having the right journalist answering the phone—achieving these is not the result of a throw of the dice but the hallmarks of a well-honed PR strategy followed through.
Strategy is a huge part of achieving results in PR; if the right process is in place, you increase the likelihood of success ten-fold. The right process should factor in possible challenges and failings and include Plan B, C and D to ensure the sought outcome is achievable.
PR professionals know who to call and when. Of course there are variables that cannot be predicted, for example, an unforeseen news announcement that comes out just before you planned to make your own announcement, but the role of a PR agency is to dedicate their time to knowing journalists and their preferences, knowing what is newsworthy at that time, knowing when is the best time to approach different media and so on. The quality of those relationships is what will get the results.
Myth 2: PR works quickly, and is easy
You helped write a press release yesterday, your PR agent sent an email today and the story will be published tomorrow. Easy, right? Why do you need a PR agency again?
A lot of research goes on behind the scenes in the world of PR. Representing experts across the different industries from which clients come does not come naturally. If you and/or your business are to be represented in the media as an expert or a voice of authority, your PR agent needs to understand everything about your industry—fast. That takes skill and a whole bunch of research. The agency will then work with you to develop a strategy before doing the work to execute that strategy.
When it comes to preparing written materials, a lot of effort goes in. Every sentence has to be perfect—there’s no room for grammatical errors. Additionally, to preserve good relationships with the media, an agent need to be sure s/he offers the right advice and information to the right journalists. A lot of time goes into preparing emails and even phone calls with journalists. So in a world where everything needs to be 100% correct and media-ready, nothing is quick and easy!
Myth 3: If I hire an agency I don’t have to worry about PR
Unfortunately, outsourcing does not mean you drop the task entirely. Not only do you need to be available for interviews and bylined articles, it also helps if you are actively engaged with the strategic direction of your PR activities. You’ll also need to contribute to ongoing PR activity, even if it’s just providing updates and new developments, or information to build case studies to help give your agent newsworthy material.
Far from an easy, autonomous fluke, good PR is about a conscious effort on your part to engage in PR activity by contributing to a strategy and having the right people with the right skills and contacts to execute it.