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Are You Wasting Your Money on PR? Contrary to what some publicists might tell you, not everyone is a good PR candidate.

By Mark Macias Edited by Russell Sicklick

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Contrary to what some publicists might tell you, not everyone is a good PR candidate. There are some industries that shouldn't waste their money on PR. They will likely achieve more exposure by allocating their budgets to advertising or content marketing.

At the same time, there are industries and businesses that are made for the media. Their expertise is needed in this complicated world and their insider knowledge gives us a deeper view of topics that impact our lives. If positioned correctly, these types of clients can consistently find themselves on the news. These are the best PR candidates.

I frequently hear friends and potential clients say getting a story on the news is a crapshoot. I don't believe that. There is a strategy and approach that can improve your chances for exposure, but only if you have the elements needed for a news story. And what are those elements? They are rooted in the social sciences of journalism.

Related: Public Relations in a Pandemic

Here are a few of the characteristics I like to see when brainstorming over new PR campaigns.

You have compelling data or research

Let me be clear. Data for the sake of data is not valuable. Any data or research must provide context for a news story, and it must be credible.

Years ago, I was consulting a global PR firm when their PR executive said to their client in front of me,"Reporters love data. Tell him Mark how much the media loves data for stories."

That's not completely accurate, especially in today's world where nearly every industry is capable of gathering data. For data to lead to news coverage, it must provide new insight that reinforces or introduces an emerging trend. It should alert the public to something they don't already know. A great data story will also be exclusive to the client.

Here's an example of why that works.

We can all relate to putting on weight during this pandemic. Wouldn't you be interested in learning what the healthiest people did during this pandemic to not only lose weight but also get healthier? What if it was a data analysis involving the behavior patterns of 10 million consumers? My PR agency actually got that story on NBC over the summer. But it wasn't just random data. It was defined data that had a purpose and provided insight to consumers on a topic they could relate to.

You don't need to be a health tech or fintech company to leverage this approach. It's very likely your business has research to support your business decisions. If you're a realtor or investor, you probably have internal research that guides your decision-making. Dig into that research and you just might find a story that positions you for the media.

You have legitimate news updates or expertise

Over the last year, I've worked with a member of Congress who was probably the easiest person to get on the local and national news. Her access to knowledge provided continual updates on timely topics for the media. She was in tune to the news cycle and issues that impacted the public.

But you don't need to be a member of Congress to possess this type of knowledge. Accountants, lawyers, physicians - and similar professions with an in-depth level of expertise, can also be leveraged with the media. These are the types of experts the media gravitates to, and places on their programs.

Here's an example. As we head into the new year, many entrepreneurs and business owners will begin thinking of taxes. The Cares Act introduced many new tax breaks to help businesses during this pandemic. As an entrepreneur or business owner, wouldn't you want to know how to leverage some of those tax incentives? It's a broad appeal topic, yet only a few experts can put it into context. And that's what makes these accountants so valuable to the media. They are a great PR client.

On the other extreme, the worst type of PR client is one who doesn't have any new updates. If you don't have any new updates, you might want to pivot to content marketing for exposure. However, if you dig deep enough, I'm pretty sure you can identify ways your industry has evolved during the pandemic. You might not get on the national shows, but you could get yourself in the trades.

Related: 10 Principles for Creating an Effective Public Relations Plan

You have an interesting story

This approach is a little more subjective but it does have some universal rules. In PR, we have to sell stories to the media. If you don't have an interesting story, the sales pitch gets a lot harder. In some cases, the obstacles are insurmountable. These are the types of industries that are better suited for content marketing or even advertising.

So what makes for a good story? Ideally, it will have a positive impact on the community and will inspire others. In other cases, controversy can drive it home with reporters. Is your story long and complicated? That's not a good sign for any PR campaign because reporters don't have 15 minutes to give. However, the best publicists will know how to nail down the topic and quickly identify the most interesting angle from the story. That's a good test for your potential publicist. Are they able to tell your story quickly and make it interesting? If you fall asleep listening to your own story, you're probably headed down a dark road.

Unfortunately, many agencies are driven by financials. They have sales goals to meet and if you call at an inopportune time, you might be sold into a PR campaign that doesn't have much potential at the onset. But if you reflect on these characteristics and your own business, you might be able to identify whether PR is right for you before a publicist even says a word.

Related: Crafting The Best Public Relations Strategy For Your Business

Mark Macias

Media Insider - Publicity Guru

Mark Macias is a former executive producer with NBC and senior producer with CBS in New York. He now runs his own public relations firm, MACIAS PR, which was named the 2015-2017 Financial PR Firm of the Year and the 2017-2019 Strategic PR Firm of the Year by marketing peers.

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