Merlthepublicist's Blog

July 10, 2009

The Beginning………

My journey as a Public Relation professional started some 5 year ago. As a journalist, I had watched and dealt scores of PR professionals from the sidelines, often detesting many for their inability to understand the news business and what works.

Often grateful, I was not in their shoes, sandwiched between the client and the media professionals, promising instant fame to one while begging for some attention and mercy from the other.

Despite my apprehensions about this profession, when I decided to quit journalism, Public Relations seemed like the most logical progression career wise. The moment I started tossing the idea in my mind, I started to observe my future colleagues and counterparts a bit more carefully.

What is that they did – if done differently would appeal to me. 5 + years as a journalist both in the print and television media, helped me  view the PR profession more objectively.

In this post I share with you three common practices associated with the PR industry and my personal findings or myth busters …………

Myth#1Most Public Relation professionals and agencies think – ONLY having a good relationship with a journalist will get them a story….

Finding – Media Relationships can help in getting a hearing or on a lucky day help you be a small part of a larger story – if you fall within the circle of a media person’s trusted contacts; but only a good news angle can get you a real PR story in any publication.

Also, if you think you have a great story to tell, don’t stop yourself from approaching the News Editor of a Publication – just because you do not share a rapport with him. He might just remember you for a long time for the wonderful story you gave him.

Relationships with journalists are not built overnight. It is a long drawn process of winning their trust which starts with giving them some good story ideas and leads to work on. Every journalist is on the lookout for a good news story.

The trick for the PR professional lies in answering some critical questions honestly at the onset – What is so newsworthy about your client? Why should he be written about in a publication or share airtime? What is it about your client or his product that will appeal to the masses, to the viewers at large? If you have some convincing answers for these questions then probably you do have something to talk about and should easily be able to convince a journalist to do a story or feature on your client in their publication. If not, then maybe some soul searching is required on how you can create something newsworthy around your client to draw media attention before you decide to go out and pester a journalist for ‘some coverage’.

Myth#2 – Public Relations can turn anyone into a celebrity or a brand overnight……

Finding – Most Companies and Individuals think that PR professionals are magicians or miracle workers who with a swish of their cell phones can turn them into overnight brands or celebrities. Never in the history of this World has a Company or a personality managed to become a brand overnight, just because they hired a PR person or agency.

I do not contest the fact that we have had overnight celebrities. A classic example being Susan Boyle of ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ fame, however in her case the PR professionals only came in later to help her manage her instant popularity better.

Hence, it is essential for any PR professional to be realistic in their approach when analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of their clients. Sometimes, a little education about the how the PR industry works, what it can and cannot do for a company or individual is essential to set the expectations right at the start and would go a long way in building and nurturing the client relationship.

The secret to success for any publicist lies in patience and meticulous planning for the future. While spreading the word today, is much easier and reach much wider when compared to yester years, public memory span is rapidly shrinking; it is important to be honest and understand that only Companies which offer real value to their users become larger than life brands in the long run.

Myth #3The results of Public Relations is directly proportional to the sales generated….

Finding – I don’t mind shouting my guts from the rooftops, if that helps in setting this perception right that the success of Public Relations is directly proportionate to the sales generated.

Somewhere, it is my own colleagues from this field who are to be blamed for letting clients live and harass them with these deliverables.

Often Clients see PR as a lead generation exercise and expect returns in terms of sales. It is a wrong assumption from the start, because Public Relations in its primary role is about building a brand and giving it a character. PR is about building public and investor confidence. It is about supporting the Marketing initiatives of a company. Some returns as a fall out of this brand awareness can be expected, but a PR person however good he is can never guarantee that an article he managed for a client in New York Times will increase the client’s sale by X %.

PR is more about the subtleties of building a brand and should be a definite part of any company’s long term goals. It is a sure shot method of ensuring you always enjoy the goodwill of your investors, consumers and masses in general. Public Relations is about building real brand loyalty over a period of time by informing people how great the company is. It is more about making an emotional impact, so that the consumers identify with a brand and remember what was written about it in a publication long after they read that piece. Public Relations is endorsing a product or services through a credible third party to ensure the consumers place their trust in that brand.

How can you ever measure these things in the sales you garnered the week the article was published. You might see a jump if lucky, but you can never be certain.

Looking within might help, do you go buy the very moment you read about a product in a publication or watch it on television? Or do you store it away in your memory, thinking ‘I will definitely give it a try  sometime since it comes highly recommended from a credible source’.

A publication might have a circulation of one million, but can anyone for sure guarantee that on that particular day how many of that one million readers would read or would have read your article? And how many of these actually decided to try the product or service that very day? If not then how can you measure the effects of a PR activity in numbers? For the results to show, any PR campaign has to be tested for a minimum of 3-4 months. In Public Relations what you do today, may actually reap you benefits months later.

I am sure unless and until we as PR professionals do not stand up and make our clients understand what we can achieve for them, there is no point in blaming them for not being understanding enough.

Moreover, we as publicists try to convince the whole world about how great our clients and their offerings are; And as publicists if we cannot convince those who hire our expertise on what best we can offer, then probably we ain’t good enough!

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