PR Principles To Keep In Mind

Veronis Suhler, a private equity firm that invests in buyout and structured capital funds in North American media & communications, recently reported that U.S. spending on PR rose 7.1% in 2008. The WPP Group which consists of world class companies providing advertising, marketing, communication services and activities worldwide, noted PR was the fastest-growing discipline, and the holding company was up 17.3% in the discipline in 2008.

Awesome. Good proof that PR is underutilized and underfunded. There are no doubt a lot of marketers out there who don’t understand the principles or ethics of PR, so here is a refresher course.

Earned media isn’t paid media. Anyone that’ll take cash for editorial credit isn’t worth your time and isn’t credible. Consumers will soon call you out for hitting the headlines in an effort to deceive the public. Paid media builds a brand’s identity; earned media builds a brand’s character.

Earned media requires being interesting and open. You have to have a good story to tell.  The story has to be meaningful and honest. As a reader, ask yourself what you think personally is worth listening to and sharing? I think a lot of newcomers don’t always get that PR is really about building relationships with the media. A common mistake I see in unsuccessful PR campaigns is promoting rather than educating. The media aren’t looking for products and services to promote– they’re looking for people who can educate their audience.

Listen to the people you paid to help you. Make sure your PR person or agency is honest in their feedback and listen to them.  That is what you’re paying them for. If you’re wanting to pitch stories that are boring, inaccurate, or can result in readers finding out the story is inaccurate, you’re wasting your money. Your PR person is there to help protect your credibility and earn media when you have something valuable to say.

You can’t control the message. You can’t control how the message will look when it is shared with the public.  If this is your goal….better stick to ad placements. When a story comes out and it isn’t quite what you had envisioned, don’t get upset with your PR person or the journalist or blogger. A good journalist always puts their own spin on a story and even more so by the social media players, or those of us who choose to comment on a story, forward it on, etc. You can only control your outgoing message.

PR isn’t cheaper than advertising, or more expensive, just different. Sometimes you need advertising, sometimes you need PR. Best bet is to have both operating together with the same coach managing both. You need advertising to have editorial publicity.

Make sure your PR professional is engaged with social media. Be wary of PR professionals that only seem to be concerned with getting “earned media” in traditional sources. A good PR professional is knowledgeable and focused on social media tactics as another way to connect with key audiences. Social media, as a media isn’t cheaper than advertising, or more expensive, just different. And, it takes a commitment of time before you might see an impact with a social media program. It also requires a structured process to be successful, particularly at a corporate level.

Author: Jess Held

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