How often have you heard business leaders say, “PR is a waste of money” or “PR is dead?” It’s odd that PR still attracts such forceful disdain, especially because it’s a marketing channel that’s stood the test of time.
PR looks a lot different than it did even 15 years ago — but if it didn’t evolve to keep pace with technology or how we create, share and consume content, it wouldn’t be very useful, would it? If we asked the movers and shakers from the early 2000s to tell us what public relations meant to them, they’d probably define PR as:
- Product reviews
- Press tours
- Fancy dinners with editors
- Social media use
Ask today’s PR professional what PR means to them, and you’ll hear robust answers justifying why PR — especially media relations — must remain an integral part of your marketing strategy. To professionals, PR now means creating authority through thought leadership, shared via contributed content, Q&As, outlets like Forbes Tech Council, podcasts and webinars, and where PR professionals leverage clients’ customers, data and other proof points to build and tell a consistent narrative.
When used effectively, PR drives perceptions, increases trust and brand recognition, and creates separation in crowded categories. The thing is, it’s something company leadership and marketing teams do value — even if they don’t recognize it.
There are a lot of inaccuracies, misconceptions and myths floating around about PR — you’ve probably heard as many as I have. Here are some of my favorite lies it’s time to kick to the curb.
Lie #1: You can’t measure PR.
Really? I wish I could float a blinking sign above my head with my marketing mantra: “Scaling revenue wins quarters. A strong brand wins categories.”
If a company implements PR as part of its brand marketing strategy knowing its PR is responsible for shaping how people feel about the company and its products, what’s the cost of not doing PR?
Consider product, marketing budget and revenue — you and your competitors probably have similar goals. Think about what sets you apart:
- How people experience your brand.
- Emotional connections formed from the first touchpoint through the whole funnel to renewal.
What happens when you focus entirely on selling more stuff? Sure, you’ll increase revenue, but not as fast as your viral, beloved competitor (often, not coincidentally, a favorite with the media). Why? Partly because of public relations.
We also live in a data-driven marketing era, and platforms and tools abound to measure PR’s more significant impact. For example, use the data PR generates to inform and influence SEO efforts via keyword pull-through and backlinks. It can support ABM strategies through vertical press strategies. You absolutely can (and should) tie PR to reaching your company’s sales and marketing objectives.
Lie #2: In PR, relationships are all that matters.
Not any longer. A couple of decades ago when I pitched to physical newsrooms and editors, few reporters or outlets had ventured into the tech/SaaS world. I needed to get my contact info into people’s hands.
Have times changed! A near-infinite amount of media lives online. Newsrooms have shrunk, and the number of folks writing in the SaaS and tech space has exploded. In such a vast range of media, you simply can’t form or rely on relationships like “the good old days.” And that’s okay.
Today, what sets a good PR firm above the rest is the ability to suss out and bring reporters a good story, those who know how to ferret out exciting angles and make unique connections. It’s a valuable, rare skillset that pays in spades when you’ve got a compelling story to share with your media buddy.
Now, that’s not to say relationships don’t matter anymore — they’re just not king. PR pros value our media friends, and we do build relationships with them over time. It’s worth cultivating those relationships when you can, and I’ve seen proof of that when the media contacts me proactively with a request: “I’m writing a story on ABM, and I know you have clients playing in that space. Can you assist?” A great PR agency with solid media relationships will attract media inbounds and media will share and request information about their upcoming projects.
Lie #3: Companies only need PR when making an announcement.
Sigh. We are much more than the “PR equals press release” approach. True, you need press releases to show growth, share momentum and update folks on change. But press releases don’t tell a story.
They don’t solve problems, inspire or educate because that’s not their purpose. They’re designed to communicate the facts that journalists and editors need to write about your announcement.
Here’s the “problem” with press releases: they rarely reach the intended audience, and it’s too easy for the next day’s news cycle to bury them entirely. Companies hoping to influence investors, prospects or talent with PR may find press releases don’t offer the consistent messaging or frequency of exposure they need. Companies have much better PR options than a press release if they want to increase their influence, add value to a conversation, educate the market, or offer a unique perspective.
Lie #4: Small companies shouldn’t bother competing with behemoth competitors.
In PR, size doesn’t matter. PR offers one of the only marketing strategies that empowers smaller companies to compete against larger ones. It’s an equalizer if you can’t match other organizations’ logos, revenue or employees. But when you get your company’s name out there — and current and potential clients see it — the recognition pays off. For example:
- Several respected, high-tier publications quote your CEO.
- Your product wins a well-known industry award.
- One of your industry-recognized customers sings your praises in a press opportunity.
Smaller companies can (and should) use PR to level up thought leadership against other industry giants. Over time, your thought leaders will take the lead as experts in your space with more contributed content, participation in podcasts and quoted opportunities — that’s huge. There’s no question in my mind that when it’s done well, PR delivers a significant impact on your marketing dollars.
So, where do we go from here? The debate about PR’s worth and its measurement will continue in board rooms, executive meetings and marketing teams. And we’ll continue evangelizing its value and changing business leaders’ mindsets around the necessity of treating their brand as their company’s greatest asset.
Have questions or want to learn more? I’d love to hear from you.