PR Is More Than Just Media Placements

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I read this article recently about how companies shouldn’t waste their money on a PR firm and this was like straw that broke the camel’s back for me. Here’s a newsflash: PR is not easy. It takes more than just media placements to create a positive brand image and attract new customers.

Perhaps I’m letting my emotions get the best of me, but I’m tired of hearing about CEOs being disappointed with the lack of media coverage as a reason for pulling the plug on an outside agency. Getting an article in The Wall Street Journal doesn’t happen overnight and just because you know how to create a Twitter handle or Facebook page doesn’t mean that you are going to attract hundreds or thousands of fans within the first few weeks. But before you decide not to waste your money on a PR agency, consider just a few of the things we offer on a daily basis:

  1. Provide counsel on issues from when to distribute a press release to how to integrate social media into the overall PR program
  2. Form and maintain relationships with media, which can sometimes take months or even years before a reporter/producer reaches a certain comfort level with you
  3. Offer insight into the changing trends in the media
  4. Write plans that outline the goals for the company and how to achieve them
  5. Use our creativity to bring ideas to the table that may not necessarily come up in an internal company brainstorm

More than anything, we are experts at what we do and the majority of PR firms take-on assignments because we can help, not because we want to cash-in checks for a few months and then see a client walk away. Just like what we work towards with the media, we want long-term relationships with clients, and believe it or not, we want results as much as clients do. However, both sides need to work together and understand that building a successful PR program is a process that takes serious commitments.

More than anything, this is a tough job that’s become even harder with the changing media landscape, and I hope prospective clients (and current ones for that matter) understand that we do this work because we love it and not just for a quick fee.

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19 comments on “PR Is More Than Just Media Placements

  1. A good defense of PR that should probably get printed and handed out at new business meetings. It would probably do PR detractors a lot of good to sit down at our desks for a day and try to pitch someone at the New York Times, let alone everything else we do.

    I think that PR has ended up the Cinderella of the communications industry. Our stepsisters advertising and marketing get all the attention and money, while we’re more likely to live up to the nickname of “flack” until that one perfect hit comes along that makes our clients swoon… until midnight, anyway.

    • Thanks, Ronald. I’m not sure that we’re the Cinderella of the industry, and I’m not looking to get sympathy from anyone, I just wish some companies judged PR agencies on more than just media impressions.

  2. I feel your pain and completely agree with your frustration. I know there isn’t a quick fix but I think part of our challenge as pr professionals is that most people, and often times that includes our clients, don’t know exactly what we do. We are often retained by the communications team but the C-suite team sometimes doesn’t have a break-down like you described above of exactly what pr is or does to positively impact their business. They are only shown the media coverage and very little else, so when the budget needs to be cut they look to the pr line item.

    More regular education and sometimes weekly updates if necessary on what we have done for a client can sometimes go a very long way. The other thing I have employed in the past is to try to bring my firm in whenever allowed, as much as possible, for a face-to-face with senior level team. Even if it’s a brief presentation where my client has some expertise. Every little bit of face time has helped for me.

    Thanks for venting for us all!

    • You make some good points – I especially agree on having more face-to-face meetings. I think we all understand that clients have budgets and want ROI, but they need to understand that you can’t just spend X dollars and expect X number of articles. PR doesn’t work that way and your program can’t be focused only on media opps.

  3. PR is SO much more than media placement. It is, of course, building relationships with the public. The media is a great tool for that, but it is just one of many, many, MANY ways to reach audiences. Great post

  4. Here! Here! If I had a nickel for everytime I’ve heard…”can you get me in the (fill in name of daily)?”

    The point you make about relationship building is especially key. This is a seemingly lost art among many people. Those of us PR pros who understand its value are keenly aware of the future dividends it will pay. Clients – and internal stakeholders – need to better understand this.

    • A major misconception is that just because we may have a good contact at (name your top-tier outlet), doesn’t mean we can get anyone an opportunity much less a story.

      • I find it hysterical when clients think just because you have a contact, that it automatically means you can guarantee them coverage. More often than not, I get bookings from complete strangers who I have never even met in person. Its A LOT of communication, brand management and marketing work that is certainly helped by existing media relationships, but PR is more than that. Clients should not rely solely on media impressions to determine the success on a PR investment, and certainly not in this recession climate.

  5. You are so right. Social media can’t replace good Pr and professionals. Without a strategy and plan a business will not have an effective marketing, Pr or promotional program.

  6. 2nd to last paragraph:

    Should be (I think): “Just like [what] we work towards…”

    Also, commitments –> not committments.

    Sorry to nitpick but we’re in the field of communication, we need to be sticklers. Overall, I think it’s a good essay. You clearly have a lot of passion for the profession and also, I’m guessing, for your clients. You bullet points about creativity, understanding timing, developing relationships with the media and knowing their individual quirks/likes/dislikes, providing outside perspective and social media expertise are all right on the money. I might add crisis communication and event management to that list as well. Good post.

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