Why You Should Rethink Using a PR Firm Budding startups often look to PR to get the instant exposure and traction they need to succeed. But the truth is that traditional PR alone is rarely the golden ticket.

By Kelsey Raymond

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

After entrepreneurs sink thousands of dollars into a PR campaign with no thought, execution strategy or results, they may want to jump ship -- fast. These budding startups often look to PR to get the instant exposure and traction they need to succeed. But the truth is that traditional PR, or the act of just pitching stories to journalists, alone is rarely the golden ticket.

This strategy is fundamentally flawed because companies don't control the message or the audience it's reaching. You rely on someone else to tell your story, and it's nearly impossible to predict the results. Many entrepreneurs don't realize that they can direct the media conversation using a different type of strategy: thought leadership. By becoming a thought leader, an entrepreneur, CEO or executive can become the go-to resource for information on history, news, trends and the future of an industry. Also, it can help build your influence with potential customers, partners, investors, reporters, peers and others.

For those thinking about implementing thought leadership into their media strategy, here are three distinct advantages over traditional PR:

Related: The 7 Real Reasons You Need to Be an Expert at Something

You control the message.

Media exposure is important, but using a PR firm and journalists to communicate your message to the public can quickly become a game of telephone. As your message passes through each person and organization, it can get convoluted or simplified.

If you've ever been interviewed by a journalist, seen the final piece and said, "That's out of context," then you can relate. In a situation where the press is positive, you still run the risk of revealing information that's not relevant or important to your specific audience.

Although thought leadership allows you to control the message, some companies can also misinterpret what this means. It doesn't give you free rein to brag on your company. Self-promotion will immediately devalue your message, decrease your chances of getting published and turn readers away. Thought leadership is about writing what you know, sharing your expertise and addressing potential customer pain points.

You can humanize your brand.

Consumers want to engage with the faces behind a brand. When you implement a thought-leadership strategy, you're putting the people in your company at the forefront and educating your audience. Potential customers can interact directly with executives at your company and learn more about their experiences and industry expertise. This will position you as a trusted source for information, and when people from your audience are ready to purchase, they'll feel confident in choosing your company.

Related: The Wonders a Successful Influencer Program Can Work for Your Business

Education and engagement build trust.

When a reporter writes an insightful, in-depth analysis of industry trends, he's educating an audience and building a community of loyal followers. If your company simply gets name-dropped, there's a slim chance the feelings of trust and loyalty will pass on to you.

When you author the educational content, trust, engagement and a sense of community form around you, your content and brand. It's difficult to build a following if you're relying on journalists to pick up the message you want to convey. And with 78 percent of consumers thinking companies that provide custom content have a vested interest in building meaningful relationships, it's the perfect segue to brand trust and loyalty.

Calculating the ROI of both PR and content marketing is difficult -- unless you have a snazzy algorithm like SeatGeek. But marketers who emphasize blogging are 13 times more likely to drive ROI. HubSpot also deems content the lifeblood of inbound, which produces a 300 percent ROI for companies that incorporate it versus those that don't.

If you're a CEO, a CMO or an extremely passionate employee, dig into the results you're getting from your PR firm. Make sure nothing is standing in the way of humanizing your brand, controlling the message and engaging your audience to build trust.

Some PR firms get it right by combining thought leadership and traditional PR methods or working with a thought leadership firm. Together, these complementary ingredients can make a recipe for brand success.

Related: Are You the Next Great Thought Leader of Your Industry?

Wavy Line
Kelsey Raymond

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

CEO of Influence & Co.

Kelsey Raymond is CEO of Influence & Co., a content-marketing firm specializing in helping companies showcase their expertise through thought leadership. Influence & Co.’s clients range from venture-backed startups to Fortune 500 brands.

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