PR professionals can spend a good amount of time reading the news and helping correct inaccuracies on behalf of their clients. But quite a bit of inaccuracies are actually related to the job itself and people's misconceptions around what we do for a living.
So we asked top PR pros, "What is the biggest PR myth you've had to fight (or continually fight)?" Here are their responses:
"The biggest myth has always been, and continues to be, that PR happens over night. Or that having a 'relationship' with a particular journalist, blogger or outlet = instant coverage. It doesn't work that way."
"Many people still believe that the purpose of PR is to help increase their bottom line and users/customers. This is slightly true but the real purpose of PR is to reinforce your brand equity and help increase awareness in the marketplace."
"The biggest myth or misconception I see about public relations is that we're here to spin or cover up information when in reality, we push to ensure information is communicated effectively, clearly and at the most opportune time for both our consumers and the companies we represent. Most of the time, we are advocating to communicate information, not the other way around."
"That it's easy to get media coverage in national daily media outlets, such as the NY Times or WSJ. Understandably so, clients often believe their products/services are newsworthy 'just because.' They don't understand that a major news hook is needed to even get the reporter to listen, let alone include them in an article. It's a continuing process to educate clients on how PR and the media work."
"The most insidious PR myth is spin. More specifically, the idea that with the right spin fundamental business or product issues or actual facts already in the public eye can simply be made to disappear."
Should this be a press release or a blog post?
This is a question that executives and communications teams alike ask on a regular if not daily basis. And it can be a highly debated topic depending on a variety of factors.
Historically, press releases were critical to getting any company news out to the public. You issued a standard press release for earnings, mergers & acquisitions, product announcements, customer wins, etc. It went across "the wire" into the hands of key reporters.
But then the blog post was created.
Google was the first major company to truly embrace the blog post. The company deliberately chose to forego press releases (with the exception of where it is required like earnings and mergers & acquisitions) and put all of their effort into blogging. And it has been an extremely successful and cost-effective decision.
There are pros and cons to both methods, and in fact, there are a variety of other newer formats -- like LinkedIn and Medium -- to consider as well. Many companies choose to use a mixture of these platforms and that's probably the right approach. Not all company news requires a press release but some news needs more reach than what your blog may be getting at this point.
Whatever approach your team chooses to take, the key is to be consistent.
The blog post below was written by technical marketing & product leader, Priya Ramamurthi, and was also published on LinkedIn.
Marketing has changed and evolved significantly in the last few years (the rise of content and digital marketing, multi-channel customer targeting and increased focus on analytics) and perceptions of what marketing is and can do for an organization depends on the industry, size of organization and the past experiences, which drive expectations of c-level executives.
In larger consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies, brand marketing often sits at the helm driving strategy - developing long-range plans, creating brand differentiation and positioning while also executing through cooperation with finance, operations, integrated marketing teams.
Larger technology companies are driven by engineering, where even if product marketers are CEOs, they tend to have a very strong engineering background and focus. As a result, roles in product marketing and field marketing focus on product understanding, in addition to pure marketing expertise.
Within these mature organizations, PR or marketing communications is a strong pillar to ensure both brand building and evangelism. A PR program is part of the larger marketing strategy and works in tandem with -- not separately from -- the rest of the marketing team.
For smaller companies, marketing and PR are often perceived as interchangeable. There might be a notion of marketing being equivalent to either a press release or analyst coverage. Additionally, there are views on marketing being purely digital paid marketing through a myriad of channels be it Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, to name a few.
We’ve found that it works better to think of marketing holistically to drive business strategy and decide on the vehicles based on target audience, consumer buyer journey and budget. Developing brand and product positioning is often vital to ensuring the PR strategy or ‘first press release’ is on point.
A piecemeal approach to marketing and PR can lead to confusion or worse lack of product uptick. Marketing and PR working in tandem drive better results for an organization. This does not necessarily mean significantly higher spend.
Here are a few ways to think through this:
Earlier this year, we invited 3 of the top LA-based journalists -- USA Today's Jefferson Graham, Fast Company writer and freelancer Neal Ungerleider Investor's Business Daily's Brian Deagon -- to join us for a candid discussion around a variety of topics ranging from their top pitch tips and their typical work day to the promotional push into social and video.
Below, we've compiled a few of the advice highlights from our hour-long conversation at WeWork Playa Vista below to help us all improve our relations with members of the press.
Stay tuned for more highlights from our Above The Fray event in future posts! In the meantime, are there any topics you'd like to get journalists' perspective on? Let us know as we start pulling together our 2017 events calendar.
,PR teams and agencies fight fires on a daily basis. While we all have grand ideas of proactive programs, most of the time, unless resources are unlimited, we end up focusing the majority of our time on reactive activities.
Particularly when someone new joins the PR team or a new agency is brought on board, it is way too easy to quickly share existing materials and have everyone hit the ground running. Jump into media briefings to build or maintain press relationships from previous roles. Start executing on new campaigns and pitches. All this, possibly, without knowing whether the company or product messaging is finalized, fully understanding the objective of the briefings, and in some cases without taking a step back and making sure the overarching messages and objectives still hold within those new pitch angles.
How often do we really take the time to review, taken inventory and update the fundamental materials needed for a successful PR program? (These are just a few of the typical fundamentals but they are dependent on the company's industry and PR program needs.)
Whether your PR program is brand new, longstanding or somewhere in between, the end of the year is a good time to take inventory of your program. Here are a few key questions to ask when taking stock of your materials:
Does your PR team make the grade with your PR fundamentals? Or you need to take some time to create a stronger foundation for your PR program ahead of 2017?
Today's post comes from ROAM Communications network partner, Dave Yewman. He is co-founder of Elevator Speech and owner of DASH Consulting and a master media trainer.
It’s usually a male executive who says it, and it usually goes something like this:
“Practice for my presentation? Oh, no. I’m good. I really don’t have time and I know the material really well anyway … I like to be in the moment, keep things real … I don’t want to be too rote … it’s basically the same speech I gave at the investor’s conference last month anyway …”
Bullshit. All of it.
Yes, they’re smart guys. Yes, they know their material well. Yes, it probably is a speech they’ve given before. But when you don’t prep for a presentation, a media interview, an important investor briefing or a speech to new hires you put yourself before your audience. And that’s a problem.
Your audience deserves your best effort and if you don’t practice then they’re not getting it.
In no other part of corporate America would such shabby excuses be permitted. Imagine writing a press release without having someone edit it for errors. Imagine letting a CFO “wing” a quarterly earnings announcement. Imagine letting weird Fred in HR write the employee handbook with quality controls.
Brands don’t permit any such nonsense because they know brands are fragile things, subject to much damage from even inadvertent remarks or statements.
Yet when CEOs stand on stage before 500 people at industry events - when they hold their brands in the very palms of their hands - we somehow are okay with a lack of practice beforehand?
There’s a great irony in speaking well - it’s that superb communicators appear to be “winging it” because they’re so in the moment, so confident, comfortable and in control on stage. They possess what’s sometimes called “executive presence,” which simply means they get to the point, they tell good stories to illustrate their messages, they finish on time and they appear as though nothing in the world is bothering them.
It’s not true. It just looks that way. Superb communicators practice like crazy to give the appearance of being calm, cool and collected on stage. Inside, their hearts are racing, adrenaline is surging through their bodies and they’re incredibly nervous. But they control it - because they’ve practiced. And practiced. And practiced.
Steve Jobs was superb because he spent two days practicing in the Moscone Center for those 45-minute Macworld keynotes, most TED speakers go through a rigorous prep process that typically equates to roughly one hour of prep for one minute of stage time. Master communicators practice out loud and often that practice is videotaped - which is equal parts excruciating and useful.
Several years ago I sat in a very nice executive conference room with a very prominent CEO of a major European brand. The company has just signed a deal with another huge brand worth hundreds of millions of Euros. The CEO was charged with delivering the news to 3,000 employees at a big company event one month away.
We sat down and I said, “Okay, what we’re going to do is have you practice the first 3-4 minutes of your speech out loud” and I gestured to the video camera on its tripod sitting next to me. “We’ll record what you say and watch it back to see what worked, and what didn’t.”
The CEO didn’t want to go on camera (no one ever does). He said, “I don’t want to go on camera, let’s just talk about the speech, read through the draft and look at the slides.”
“No,” I said. “Not how this works. Let’s project the slides, have the speech printed out and set in front of you and let’s have you deliver the opening on camera.”
Twenty seconds of uncomfortable silence ensued. For a moment I thought the beefy corporate security guards may come in to the executive suite and escort me from the premises. Then with a heavy sigh, the CEO stood up and delivered the opening 3-4 minutes of his speech out loud. I recorded it and we played it back.
It was awful. But because we had a month to prep and could work on the speech every other day, it got slowly better. If that CEO had “winged” his big speech it would have been a disaster. But he didn’t, he prepped very diligently. And he did a good job on the big day. No one in the audience knew he’d spent weeks rehearsing and making adjustments, they just saw his presentation and enjoyed the news of the multi million Euro deal.
Now that CEO, and pretty much every other C-suite executive I’ve ever coached - male or female - pretty much hated going on camera. But seeing yourself on video is what my business partner Andy calls “truth serum” because you see what the audience sees, and that’s powerful. In some ways, preparing out loud and on camera is like being a basketball or football player whose practice sessions are recorded. When you watch film of a practice - or a game - you can see exactly what went right, and what went wrong. Then you can make adjustments and get better.
But not if you try to wing it, not if you evade practice sessions, not if you yield to the bullshit notion that you, only you, are smart enough to deliver a great message without practicing.
If the first time you say the words out loud are when there’s 500, or 10, people looking at you, or when the press interview begins, or when the investors gather for your update - then heaven help you. Because even you don’t know what’s going to come out of your mouth, because you haven’t practiced.
Don’t be that person.
About Dave Yewman
A friend of Dave’s 11-year-old son Aaron asked, “What does your Dad do?” Aaron thought for a minute, then said, “He teaches people how not to say ‘um.'” That’s a pretty good elevator speech for a presentation coach. Dave likes to think there’s a bit more to presentation coaching than that — but it’s a great place to start. In the past 10+ years Dave’s coached CEOs, professional athletes, tech startup founders, engineers, creative designers and pretty much everyone in between.
Dave Yewman is a strategic communications expert with more than 15 years of experience. A former newspaper reporter and columnist, he speaks regularly to groups about how to use clear, concise, compelling language as a strategic weapon when dealing with reporters, employees, sales prospects, shareholders, and consumers.
Dave lives near Portland, Oregon.
Learn more about Dave and ElevatorSpeech at www.elevatorspeech.com.
Stumbled upon an article this morning about a recent video game launch, where a Sony executive chose to blame PR for the backlash from gamers.
“It wasn’t a great PR strategy, because he didn’t have a PR person helping him, and in the end he is an indie developer."
Now, we weren't involved in this launch and aren't video game PR experts but this pointing of fingers and blaming PR (or the lack thereof) for the issues the company and its developer partner are having with their audience just doesn't add up.
We should all learn from this example of how NOT to communicate and work with our partners, launch products (until they are actually ready for primetime), and be held accountable. The blame game isn't smart.
This morning, Mic published a follow-up article on lack of diversity onstage at last week's Apple iPhone 7 event, resulting from an "off the record" conversation. This article brings up some very interesting debates in the PR world around the whole concept of "off the record" conversations.
Any basic Media Training 101 session should explain the differences between "on the record", "off the record", "on background" and other scenarios related to speaking with members of the press. (also see NYU's Journalist Ethics Handbook, points #4-10) Here are a few key takeaways that everyone should learn from this morning's situation:
In case you were living under a rock yesterday, you probably already know about the Apple event that happened yesterday in San Francisco. A new iPhone and Apple Watch were announced along with AirPods and a new mobile OS and a few other things. But unlike Apple events from years' past, there were no surprises. At all.
In fact, Mashable published a piece this morning about this exact concern: if Apple can't keep secrets, who can?
So many PR programs still rely heavily on pre-briefings, embargoes and keeping the details of the announcement under wraps until the very last minute, when the press release and blog posts go live along with a flood of press stories all publishing at the exact same time. While this tactic should remain in your PR tool belt, it shouldn't necessarily be the only way you approach garnering coverage around a company announcement or product launch.
We live in a "24/7 breaking news-wins and 'normal' business hours don't apply" world where you can keep very few things a secret for long, particularly if it is connected a well-known brand or public company. We need to rethink how we launch products and share news with reporters and the rest of the world.
Launch events, press releases, blog posts, social media, pre-briefings and embargoes still have their place. But we need to find additional avenues. And many of those approaches will be unique to your company, the industry in which you are a part of, your target audiences and the media that play in your world.
Let's start thinking outside the box.
If you’ve been following the Olympics in Rio, and most likely even if you haven’t, you’ve heard about the scandal involving US Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte. Sadly, this story has taken over a news cycle that should be focused on the athletic successes and national pride associated with the Olympics.
Lochte’s scandal provides some solid PR lessons on what to do when managing a brand crisis, whether an individual or company brand.
Welcome to ROAMings, a compilation of thoughts and musings about the PR and media industries. This is an opportunity to discuss the “here and now” of the industry, interesting events or case studies, pivotal moments that affect how we approach PR, etc. It isn’t about brand loyalties or preferences -- and we will not be publishing self-promotional materials or talk about our clients in this setting -- but how those brands, individuals and events are leveraging (or in some cases abandoning) PR.