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The 3 Likeliest Reasons Your Company PR Is Going Nowhere

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Andy Warhol, the pop artist, famously predicted, "In the future everybody will be famous for 15 minutes."


Warhol uttered those words back in 1968 and it's most certainly become true nearly five decades later.

Thanks to the Internet and ubiquitous connectivity via mobile devices, coupled with the democratization of content generation, publication and distribution, it's easier than ever for virtually every voice to be heard, if they want to be heard.

Yet despite the ease, access and affordability of presenting a message to a wide audience, a lot of organizations suck at public relations.

Related: The Venerable Press Release Remains the Cornerstone of Public Relations

1. They don't understand PR

Simply, stated most people are confused about PR.

The scary thing is that, during my 15 years as a corporate communications director, I've had to explain the basics of PR to experienced Six Sigma black belts, senior executives with MBA degrees as well as CEOs. The majority of individuals tend to clump the workings of PR with other vaguely defined disciplines such as advertising, marketing or promotion.

At its core, the simple distinction between PR and virtually every other type of marketing activity is captured in two verbal equations:

  • Public Relations = Earned Media Placements
  • Marketing + Advertising + Promotion = Paid Media Placement

Whether broadcast, print or online, every media outlet has to generate revenue to stay in business. The two primary revenue streams for these outlets are either advertising dollars or subscription fees.

People often subscribe to a given media source for certain editorial/entertainment content. However, it's the advertising revenue that usually pays the bulk of bills for the media outlet to remain solvent.

Unique among marketing practices, PR strives to maximize the message of the positive activities an organization wants to share, while minimizing negative issues that every organization ultimately faces.

From that perspective, the whole of public relations can be summarized in two words: Project, Protect.

Related: Why You Need PR

2. They consider PR an afterthought

On several occasions during my career, I've been brought in on a project at the last minute -- literally days before a project launch -- and tasked with putting a comprehensive PR plan together to support the program.

For some reason, when every other organizational function routinely has had months of planning and strategizing to maximize the kick-off, PR frequently seems to be an afterthought.

The frustrating part is that when PR is part of project planning from the start, it tends to be more cost effective than other marketing activities; it's cohesively integrated with the broader marketing plan; and its results are significantly better than when PR is not engaged.

I've been involved in planning at both the front end and back end of projects.

Without question, it only helps improve the end results when organizations engage the PR team on a marketing initiative or product/services launch as early as possible.

3. They don't think like a gatekeeper

Every organization I've ever worked for has suffered from this problem. They look at every announcement, event, launch or external activity from a "me, me, me – how does this help me" or "how does it help our organization" perspective.

That type of focus is wrong.

Great PR always considers its audience first, not the speaker.

Great PR needs to have a "you, you, you – why should you care" perspective.

Great PR is externally, not internally, focused and that focus is "binocular," in that it has to be mindful of two distinct external audiences.

Whatever PR messaging is developed, it has to address the ultimate benefit to the end user or consumer of the information, but it has to be packaged and presented so that it can also meet the coverage threshold of media gatekeepers (e.g. producers, editors, reporters…etc.)

The one question every media outlet demands you and your organization to answer is "why should I care about your message?" Great PR can help them care, by providing the media with the types of relevant, newsworthy elements they need to tell a compelling story to their news consumers.

If you're looking to improve your organization's PR profile, start by helping your leadership better understand PR. Convince them to consider PR earlier in the marketing process and develop a "binocular" focus on messaging.

Related: PR is the Star of Our Integrated Communications Universe

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