The classic portrayal of PR in film or TV is that of the frantic publicist running around juggling 10 different crises on 10 different phone calls, trying their best to hold it all together for themselves and their clients.
To be honest, those moments aren’t that uncommon in this industry, but there are countless other aspects of the job that don’t get seen quite as often. Let’s look at why public relations is one of the most misunderstood professions.
It’s Primarily About Relationships
If I had to come up with one word to describe all the activities falling the umbrella of “public relations,” it would be relationships. There are two different types of relationships that propel a PR campaign.
The first is the relationship between a PR firm and its client. For publicists to perform their job well, they need to be on the exact same page as their client in terms of messaging, game plan and goals. Just like any relationship, this means constant communication, transparency, and relaying of expectations. An unreliable PR firm is one that keeps its client in the dark and tells them only what they want to hear.
The other core relationship is between the publicist and the press. These relationships can take years to blossom, with a journalist only learning to trust a certain publicist or firm after regularly receiving great news items, interview offers or exclusive bylines from them. Or sometimes, a business card or random email from three years earlier can pay dividends down the road. Organizations should ask prospective PR firms about their media relations philosophy to confirm they take a personal approach vs. blindly blasting out press releases to a mostly irrelevant list – because many do!
Success Takes Time
While some campaigns are blessed with good luck and instant success, it is more common for successful publicity campaigns to require weeks, or more commonly, months of development, relationship-building and follow-up to ensure results.
Throughout that period, it’s understandable why companies might get antsy or impatient, but a PR campaign takes a whole lot of thoughtful work and development. Just to get it off the ground, this can include initial discovery meetings and negotiations, creating core press materials like individual bios or client photos, marketing and branding efforts like new logos and website redesigns, SEO campaigns and general social media promotion, introductory briefings to press – the list goes on.
A great PR firm will be able to demonstrate the valuable impact it’s having, even if it’s in the preliminary stages.
Rejection Is Part Of The Gig
Rejection can be all too common in PR for the publicist and the client.
You’d be astounded by how many pitches go unanswered in PR. Journalists receive hundreds of emails each day and simply don’t have time to respond to every pitch; a publicist who takes a lack of response personally will not make it far in the industry, especially those working with clients who aren’t household names.
Companies working with a PR firm should be sure not put all their eggs in one basket (or one story/outlet). Some CEOs or CMOs may go into a PR campaign dreaming of that one shining media hit – an NPR Morning Edition interview, a Wall Street Journal profile with that famous hedcut, etc. – but with opportunities like these often reliant on the whims of a single editor or producer, it’s better to not set yourself up for disappointment.
But rest easy: for every dashed PR dream placement, there is often an even better one that you would’ve never even thought possible. And 5 medium-sized hits will often have more of a net positive effect than the one you may have been resting all your hopes and dreams on.
Believe It Or Not, Most Journalists Actually Like PR People
Despite the frustrated tweeted complaints of journalists concerning errant PR pitching or incessant follow-up, most journalists respect and appreciate a smart PR person. After all, publicists feed many of them the news they run, clear up outstanding questions about the subject of a piece, and are able to recommend other possible sources, statistics or story ideas.
As I explained, it’s all about the relationship between the journalist and publicist. If a publicist does his or her job well, then they won’t be sending irrelevant pitches that will annoy a journalist, but instead a valuable suggestion for an interview subject, story idea or piece of content.
Publicists Are Some Of The Smartest and Savviest People Out There
While this may sound like I’m tooting my own horn, after 8 years in PR I’ve learned that my fellow publicists are some of the smartest and savviest people out there.
Publicists must get to intimately know each of their clients, which in turn can mean they’re becoming mini-experts on various industries – each one’s background, trends, most trusted media outlets, etc. They also must get to know a lot about media markets and the audiences they serve; is it scary that I can still name the music writers at most of the country’s daily newspapers from a job I had 7 years ago?
And more than anything else, PR professionals tend to be some of the smartest (and nerdiest) in the media landscape. They read the news, they think about the stories behind the news, and they have more professional connections than just about anyone, from CEOs and event organizers to photographers and designers.
While this is only scratching the surface, hopefully you now have a clearer indication of what goes in in the PR world.
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