“PR” is a term we often hear thrown around. There are many common PR misconceptions that we regularly hear, including:
- “PR is only necessary during a public relations crisis”
- “PR is just spin”
- “PR and marketing are the same thing”
- “There’s no such thing as bad publicity”
- “Good brands and products don’t need PR”
- “PR is easy”
However, we can assure you that all of these statements are entirely false.
So, what exactly is PR, and why do individuals and brands need to use it as part of their marketing strategy?
Read on to learn everything you need to know about public relations and how it can benefit your brand.
What exactly is PR?
According to Wikipedia, “public relations is the practice of deliberately managing the release and spread of information between an individual or an organization and the public in order to affect the public perception.”
While this is a pretty good definition of PR, it misses our one key element of the equation: the media. How an organisation or individual is represented in the media has a major impact on public perception. Therefore, traditional PR techniques are concerned with managing the representation of a brand or person in the media.
The information released by a brand or individual’s PR team tends to revolve around who YOU are, what your offering is and your BRAND in general. Public relations spreads the narrative around your purpose and your impact in the world. While this will differ significantly on a case-by-case basis, the information used could range from the products you offer, what you have been up to, any material you have produced, future plans, or new collaborations. PR specialists use this information to develop your story.
PR activities may include:
- Building and maintaining relationships with journalists and media publications
- Reaching out to influencers and bloggers for collaborations
- Pitching stories to reporters and writing press releases
- Providing media training for individuals and spokespeople
- Creating media interaction guidelines
- Handling internal communications and corporate communications
- Securing publication of thought leadership content on websites, print publications, or podcasts
- Crisis communications and damage control
- Organising and promoting events or speaking engagements
- Trend spotting and identifying newsjacking opportunities
So, with that in mind, let’s clear up some of the many misconceptions people have about PR.
Misconception 1: “PR is only necessary during a public relations crisis”
This misconception may have arisen because the main time that the general public hears about PR is when an organisation or individual has a PR crisis.
In reality, PR is necessary all the time. PR professionals work tirelessly on media relations strategies and PR campaigns to maintain a positive brand image and gain the right type of publicity.
And yes, sometimes unseen circumstances occur where an immediate response is required to reduce damage to the brand’s reputation; PR handles these crises by providing relevant, timely and appropriate responses to minimise negative impacts on your overall brand.
Misconception 2: “PR is just spin”
PR and “spin” are different things. Spin is consciously selecting facts to lead to a particular, biassed view of a story — it’s a form of propaganda. You often hear about spin in the context of government politicians and their spin doctors.
PR practitioners couldn’t be more different to spin doctors. Good public relations practices are about truthful communications with the media and the public which is mutually beneficial rather than manipulative. Indeed, the Public Relations Society of America defines public relations as “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
In our view, public relations isn’t spin, it’s storytelling. Storytelling has a natural flow and order to it. We organise and release information so that it maximises the impact of the overall narrative. Different information is more or less appropriate at different times, so we ensure that the correct information is released at the appropriate time. Often, this involves responding to trending and newsworthy topics; these are great opportunities to have your voice heard in engaging conversations.
Misconception 3: “PR and marketing are the same thing”
While PR is often placed under the marketing umbrella, PR is its own distinct discipline. Unlike advertising which is often considered paid media because the brand pays for its advertising materials to be featured, PR is considered earned media.
Securing an article about your brand in an online publication or radio news programme is a great way to promote the brand. Not only is it cost-effective because you do not have to pay for this advertising, but it also tends to influence opinions more than a paid advert. This is because people tend to try to ignore adverts, but trust a magazine story or online news publication article. The way in which information is released to different media channels will impact the credibility and authority of your brand or story.
There are elements of overlap between PR and marketing, however. For example, PRs are often involved in social media marketing. Social media is inextricably linked to Public Relations because of its role in sharing your story and connecting directly to an audience.
Misconception 4: “There’s no such thing as bad publicity”
As public relations specialists, this one really makes us roll our eyes.
For example, think of that infamous Pepsi advert with Kendall Jenner — a major PR failure that caught the attention of many consumers and, according to Wired, ‘united the internet‘ against it. Pepsi’s ‘tone-deaf’ advert that portrayed Kendall Jenner giving a can of Pepsi to a police officer at a protest was pulled after being accused of trivialising the Black Lives Matter movement and police brutality. While Pepsi remains a successful brand to this day, its reputation, credibility, and relationship with the public was clearly damaged by this terrible advertising strategy.
As any good PR officer knows, there absolutely is such a thing as bad publicity. Our job as PR practitioners is to ensure that your brand is being noticed for the right reasons.
Misconception 5: “Good brands and products don’t need PR”
While this misconception may have been true at one point in history, the hyper-competitive nature of the 21st century and our limited attention spans means that PR is essential to any brand today.
Public perception is all about the general opinion or belief that people hold around you, your brand and your story. Do they view you in a positive light and as an authority in an area? The beliefs that people have will have a direct impact on whether they buy into your offering or not. So public relations is all about ensuring that, through sharing information, the public comes to trust and believe in your brand and your story.
No matter how amazing your brand, products, or work is, PR is essential to ensure that this positive image is shared with the world.
Misconception 6: “PR is easy”
Take it from us: being in the public relations business is rewarding, fast-paced, and exciting, but it certainly isn’t easy. PR takes a lot of work: from sending hundreds of press releases, spending hours creating communications for social media, and keeping an eye on trending topics and news to identify PR opportunities, to being ready for crisis management at any time, PR is far from simple.
That’s why nowadays many organisations choose to hire a dedicated PR agency instead of having their own in-house PR department. Besides being a more cost-effective solution than hiring a whole team of PR professionals, a public relations agency can bring wide perspectives and valuable expertise to your marketing efforts. In fact, some experts have commented that the aforementioned Pepsi advert would never have happened if the brand had hired an agency instead of keeping it in-house!
So, while PR certainly isn’t easy, you can make it easier by hiring an expert PR firm to handle it for you.
Whether you’re an individual or an organisation, public relations and its role in sharing your story and building positive public perception is key to your success.
Naked Truth PR Agency utilises the power of PR to maximise your impact. We help our clients get their voices heard and build solid relationships with the media and the public.