PR can deliver fantastic business benefits, but sometimes it is a waste of money. In my 35 years, working in and around PR (both client and agency side) the reasons for that have remained depressingly familiar, but they’re easy to avoid.
- Allow planning time. Powerful PR takes time, yes, we can put a press release out this afternoon, but good planning is the key to delivering the results you need. That planning usually takes around 6 weeks. e. 6 weeks before you should expect your first coverage if you’re new to PR. In that time your PR agency will be working hard, collecting and creating assets, refining your messaging and doing a reputation audit. If you go the press without those things in place you could damage your reputation, rather than enhance it, and you will probably struggle to engage the media.
- Ensure you have a short and fast approval process. The news agenda moves quickly, the spokespeople who are used regularly are those who are available and briefed within minutes. If you take hours, days or even weeks, to approve the work your PR agency is doing you won’t be able to respond to the news agenda and you will get a tiny fraction of the coverage you would otherwise be getting. Assign and trust two people to approve copy and ensure one of them is always available and gives this appropriate priority. Approval by committee never works.
- Consider what the journalist needs and trust your PR to know better than you do how to get them interested. PR is not advertising. PR has to deliver value to the media in return for (free) publicity. That means that you can’t control the message in the way you can with advertising, and you have to consider how you deliver on journalists’ needs. The media want a topical story of interest to their readers; they have no interest in promoting you or in ensuring that all your features are described in detail. PRs talk to journalists every day, they know what works and what will cause confusion, frustration or will bore them into ignoring you or, worse, writing negatively about you.
- Identify and manage the risks. Contrary to the popular saying, not all publicity is good publicity. Bad publicity can destroy a brand permanently. Even if you never want media coverage you should ensure you’ve undertaken a risk audit to check that the media can’t one day use your failures or embarrassment as clickbait. However, if you’re actively courting the media with PR, then you need to ensure that you have thoroughly reviewed the risks and that usually means testing your messaging with media training. However confident you are as a speaker; it is only during media training that you can really test out where the risks are. I’ve had many clients resist media training before doing it, but every one of them has seen the value once they’ve done it.
Of course, not all PRs are created equal, there are good and bad ones, if you think you’re not guilty of the above, but PR still isn’t working for you, then it’s probably the agency!