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6 Things Every Brand Should Understand About PR Public relations is an important part of business success, but brands don't always know what they're looking for. Here's what your publicist won't tell you about PR.

By Lena Grundhoefer Edited by Micah Zimmerman

Key Takeaways

  • Public relations requires a solid plan and staff with specialized skills to be effective.
  • When executed with intention, PR can build a legacy for your lifetime and beyond.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Public relations is vital for business, but it can be expensive. An estimated $16 billion is spent on PR agencies each year. It's hard to quantify exactly what value you're getting for that money, and top agencies like Edelman and 5WPR aren't exactly forthcoming about pricing.

I'm not slamming any of these agencies. They aren't purposely hiding their pricing – PR is a specialized service, and the cost depends entirely on what customized plan your brand requires.

In fact, brands often have many misconceptions about PR and what agencies are capable of. We often hear the same PR myths during client onboarding calls, and it can take some time to get used to how the process works, whether it's an internal team or an external agency.

Here are six things every brand should understand about PR.

Related: Modern vs Traditional PR - Here's What You Need to Know

1. Your release isn't always newsworthy

Perhaps the biggest PR myth brands have when approaching us is that they have a truly newsworthy campaign. They think they'll hire a PR rep and immediately get the front page of the New York Times and a guest spot on the Today Show. Unfortunately, this isn't realistic unless you're someone like Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg, who is already a known public figure.

The reality is that everybody wants these slots, and no PR agency can guarantee placement, as they're brutally competitive. The first questions we ask any potential client are for their funding, revenue, user counts and/or any buzzworthy partnerships. If you aren't an ace in one of these factors, you won't land media coverage, especially when it comes to mainstream media outlets.

Related: 6 Tips for Choosing the Best PR Agency for Your Company

2. Media isn't a quick fix

It's also very common for people to bet their entire business on a big media push. They believe that the media coverage will lead to more customers and profits, but that's not a sustainable business model. You can't depend on media as one marketing vertical to grow your business. However, it requires great products, services and media buzz to indeed help spread the word about your brand and gain some business. Still, it's a temporary boost that gets harder to replicate each successive time you try after the first story breaks. Media is meant to showcase what you're already doing, and it should supplement your brand initiatives rather than drive them.

Related: Debunking 5 Common Misconceptions About Public Relations

3. PR involves more than news

Although we often think of PR to get on the news, it's a lot more than that. Media is just one piece of the PR puzzle, and events, influencers and social media are often part of the job, along with content marketing, SEO and more. In fact, many of our biggest PR wins came from securing speaking gigs at high-profile conferences like SXSW and GDC.

For public relations to work effectively, it should be integrated into all of your outbound communications to ensure messages are both synced and legally compliant. This is especially important in highly regulated industries like finance, crypto, professional services and healthcare. The more access PR has to your content funnels, the better off you'll be in the long run.

4. Great PR takes time

Speaking of the long run, I often have to remind clients that PR is a marathon, not a sprint. Brands typically think of hiring a PR agency right around the time when they have their first press release and aren't sure how to get any traction. A decent press push should have at least a 30-day lead time, and some connections and placements can take months or even years to achieve.

Because of the highly visible public statements, PR helps build a legacy that will outlive you as an entrepreneur. Historical entrepreneurs, from Andrew Carnegie to Steve Jobs, are remembered today through media headlines more than anything else, and the stories you spread will set the tone for your business for generations to come.

Related: 5 Reasons Your Startup Isn't Getting the PR You Need

5. Everyone has reporter friends

It's always interesting to me when clients ask about reporter friends because it's such a double-edged sword. PR agents love to brag that they are friends with journalists, but those friendships don't really help you get a client booked as much as you think. Consider the scandal at CNN over host Chris Cuomo giving preferential treatment to his brother Andrew while he served as governor of New York.

At the end of the day, a great story is better than a personal relationship with reporters. Everybody has a friend in the media, and they're typically very accessible to the public. If you have truly valuable information to present to them, you don't need to have any media connections.

6. Both paid and earned media are needed

A lot of clients want to stick to purely organic PR, and if you choose that route, be prepared to lower your expectations. It takes a lot of work to get the gears moving, and there are a lot of opportunities you won't get unless you pay for them. It's always worth pitching a release, but they don't always get picked up, especially when your brand is still small.

This is especially true of industry awards. From an Oscar or Grammy to CES and AdAge innovation, nearly every major trophy you've heard of has a fee attached. This doesn't mean you can pay to win, but it does mean every nominee you see listed paid the entry fee, even if it was just a favor. If you want to be listed with them, you'll have to pay for your chance to win.

Conclusion

Public relations is an important part of business that shouldn't be skipped. It requires a solid plan and staff with specialized skills to be effective. It also takes time, so prepare for it as early as possible to give your team the runway to launch effectively.

Immediate wins are great, but they should act as steps toward a holistic, long-term plan. When executed with intention, PR can build a legacy for your lifetime and beyond.

Lena Grundhoefer

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Founder & Consultant of ZEIGEIST Labs

Lena Grundhoefer is the Founder and Consultant behind ZEITGEIST Labs, a NY-based digital marketing and strategy consultancy. Her consultancy advises Fortune 500 companies and VC-backed startups across entertainment, emerging tech, B2B SaaS, professional services and culture.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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