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Public Relations

The 4 Myths Of Public Relations: What It Is And What It Is Not

Many entrepreneurs say they need PR help but are not quite sure of the difference between public relations, marketing and advertising. To do it right, you have to understand what it is first. Here are the four myths of public relations.

As a marketing communications professional, who has long specialized in public relations, I’ve heard every question there is about PR. Public relations seems confusing because it operates differently then other forms of marketing. Public relations seeks to achieve the valuable endorsement of a individual with perceived influence. It requires a journalistic point-of-view.

While, today, this concept of influencers appears to be more individuals with YouTube channels than journalists and media, the concept of individuals vs traditional PR works the same. The difference is that most online “influencers” want to be paid to endorse your company, product or service. Where journalists and media outlets want to tell a great story that can create credibility for your business, drive traffic and sales through an “earned” placement.

To fully understand what public relations is, let’s address the 4 Myths of Public Relations:

Myth #1: PR is free advertising

The Truth: This phrase always makes me chuckle because it’s an oxymoron. There is nothing free about advertising.

Advertising is a paid marketing tactic. Traditional paid opportunities through media require a long and consistent campaign that can eat up your marketing budget in order to work. One-time hits with an individual online with perceived influence can cost the same but their reviews often stay online for a long time, helping to increase search visibility for your website.

Moreover, there are several publications, especially hyper-local magazines, that offer what is called an advertorial. You pay for an advertisement that is written to look like a proper news story. The idea is that the combination of these two tactics will drive great results and revenue for the publication. I don’t have any firsthand knowledge that it has an impact, or at least none of my clients have seen any particular boost, but that doesn’t mean it does not work.

Public relations is earned. What does that mean? It means that you work to earn the attention of a journalist for a news story on your business, rather than pay for it. It means that you’ve worked to create a compelling news story around your business to help consumers understand why they should care about your company, how it will make a difference in their lives or in the industry.

Media stories do what no other marketing tactic can – generate credibility in the minds of your customers. This is why you will see logos for media outlets or links to stories the company has been featured in on company websites. The customer may not even click the link, but they will make an instant connection and have a positive impression of the media outlet logos, and perceive your company, product or service as more credible. Subconsciously, it can make them stay on your site longer or even close the deal if they’re considering ordering your product or service. That’s powerful.

Myth #2: PR is not managing social media or content development

The Truth: Social media and blogging are great tactics to include in any public relations or communications strategy, but they alone are not PR.

If you’re in need of content, social media and blogs are fantastic ways to stretch the impact of an earned media story. For instance, after a media outlet has featured, mentioned or included your business in a news story, beyond posting the logo and a link back on your site, you should also write a blog post and share a direct link to the story on social media. These will increase exposure of your “good PR” with those who might not have seen it, as well as helping to increase search.

More importantly, a positive story from a media outlet makes fantastic content to boost on social media through ads. Again, the credibility and perception of your big win can drive more likes, clicks and potential sales. Like all advertising, although less expensive, still requires a long-term commitment.

Myth #3: It is not sending or posting press release after press release

The Truth: This is never, and I mean never, a good strategy. In fact, I call it the “Crying Wolf” syndrome.

Sending press releases out just because you think you should send three or five a month, doesn’t mean that it will increase awareness or opportunities for your business. This is a bad strategy. The ongoing push of information can be perceived as spamming journalists, which means your emails will be promptly blocked and never seen.

Now, I do encourage posting press releases on website distribution sites, however, that is to help increase search visibility, which, ultimately, could lead to a journalist finding you, but more importantly potential customers.

The purpose of a press release is to deliver a newsworthy story in a formal journalistic format. The point of the press release format is to present your story in a limited, concise, to-the-point way that is easy for very busy journalists to understand, see your compelling news story and how it might fit into their media outlet.

You should never send press releases unless you have compelling news to tell. Otherwise, it’s just considered spam. One day when you actually have something to say, no one will be listening.

Myth # 4: It is not just responding to HARO requests

The Truth: Again, Help-A-Reporter-Out (HARO) has been a great tool for journalists to connect with publicists, experts and businesses regarding specific sources for their stories. It is only one of many PR resources one can use to help create an earned media story, however, one query can get thousands of responses, making it tough to break through the clutter, stand out and connect with media.

About the author

Jennifer Fortney

Jennifer Fortney is President of Cascade Communications, a boutique, virtual PR and marketing communications company in Chicago, and author of “Pitched: A Simple DIY Guide to Public Relations for Small Businesses”. In her 20+ year career, she has worked with top Fortune 500 companies and a wide variety of small businesses and startups across the country, generating millions of media impressions. A Journalism major from The University of Kansas, she has written broadcast news, worked in sports, broadcast marketing and corporate agency, was the PR Instructor at SCORE Chicago/Small Business Administration for 5 years and contributed to “Inc. Well” blog, as well as several online blogs and publications.

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