Guarantees certainly have their place. They provide customers with a sense of comfort around their purchases and choice of vendor. Broken printers get replaced or repaired. Buggy software is updated. Cancelled flights are reimbursed or rescheduled.
But guarantees don’t make sense in PR.
In fact, red flags wave, alarms blare and lights flash when I hear about agencies and PR professionals that guarantee press coverage. That's not PR. That's advertising.
It is important for all players to come into the PR game understanding the difference. PR is also known as earned media. Details, interviews and assets are given to a reporter who then writes and publishes the story from their own point of view in order to share the information they find most relevant to their particular audience. You don’t get to review the article in its entirety prior to publication (although you should most certainly confirm all stats and quotes being used). You don’t get to rewrite their article or headline. If you want to write or edit a piece, you can always author and place a contributed article or advertorial. Those are other complementary channels to consider for your communications program. But that’s another topic for another day.
Even the most well known household brands with the most earth-shattering news could very well get cut out of a news cycle. No one can predict a natural disaster or a political situation that could dominate days of press coverage even though it doesn’t directly touch your industry. In addition, a competitor could steal your thunder by hosting an impromptu press event or a reporter could have sources that leak your news in advance and you need to put your reactive program into effect.
Completing due diligence and creating backup scenarios for your product launch or company announcement can actually only get you so far. You may know when certain industry events are scheduled and when a competitor or a larger brand in your industry may make some news but that doesn’t always give a clear picture of what could end up happening on launch day. There is also the possibility that your target reporters are out of town, on maternity, sick, bogged down with other priorities from their editors or, in some cases, they may just not find the announcement worth covering.
Around all company and product communications, leadership and PR should have a clear communications pathway. PR should provide leadership a clear set of expectations for launch -- messages, strategy, targets, reactions from any pre-briefings/exclusives, etc. -- and keep leadership updated as the program progresses and they receive feedback from reporters.
But know that there are no guarantees in PR.
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.