Eight Myths About PR (Truth or Consequences)


When I was a kid, there was a TV game show called “Truth or Consequences.” The host  asked the guests trivia questions, and if they failed to answer correctly, they would have to pay the consequences, involving embarrassing stunts. In business, as on this old game show, there can be painful consequences for not knowing the truth. Executives at start-ups and from overseas at foreign companies are particularly vulnerable to these myths. So, in an effort to spare some of you from suffering the consequences, just call me Myth-buster, to the rescue, with some important truths about PR.

“Our services/products are so great that we don’t need public relations.”   There are a few situations where a new product is able to generate a huge amount of buzz all by itself.  For example, when your company already has the brand visibility and the market clout of Nintendo, you can launch the Wii and be fairly confident that it will be widely written and talked about. The same goes for Microsoft and a new version of Windows.  But if your company and brand aren’t widely known, you have a big mountain to climb to get the media (traditional and social media) to pay attention.  Success in this area isn’t just a matter of hard work, it requires a good strategy, careful planning and experience.

“PR people are publicists; they manage the media.” To me, the word “publicist” evokes a “Mad Men” image of men in suits smoking cigarettes and drinking martinis while they hang out in bars and restaurants with journalists.  This is so far from the truth it’s laughable, since journalists don’t have time to hang out in bars and restaurants and neither do PR people, and there are more women than men working in PR these days.  PR professionals are consultants (often to senior management) who manage the messages and communicate with (not manage) the media. We also listen to a company’s important constituents to identify key issues and help management communicate constructively with them.

“Any PR is good PR.” Tell that to Tiger Woods, BP and Toyota.  Negative media coverage can cost a company billions of dollars – or even destroy a company.

“Using social media is free.”  It takes many hours to create a social media plan, put it to work for you and build a social media presence. Is your staff’s time free? What are they neglecting so they can spend hours building a social media presence? Some paid help to jumpstart this effort can actually be economical.

“We aren’t ready for PR – our product is many months away from being launched.” Technology start-ups often feel they should work in stealth mode until they’re ready for market. However, it’s likely there are a couple of other start-ups working on the same breakthrough idea.  I’ve seen situations where companies have waited to announce their new technologies and competitors have suddenly and unexpectedly beaten them to market. Even with a better product, they may never catch up if a competitor has already grabbed the limelight. This can be avoided by starting earlier and getting the buzz out that something exciting will soon be unveiled. If you were a buyer, you might not be so ready to jump on the first product to hit the market if you knew that something else is about to come out that could be better.

“Our sales people can reach our target market more cost-efficiently than PR.” PR isn’t a direct sales tool. It’s a tool for building the visibility and the reputation of a product and/or a company (which, over the long term, are prerequisites for sales). Sales people have a lot easier time doing their jobs if their prospects have heard of the company. 

“We don’t have any news, so PR wouldn’t work for us.” Public relations is not just about delivering news.  It can also be used to bring make the senior executives of a company more prominent as thought leaders who will be consulted and quoted by the media.  PR can be used to create news for you, as well, through developing communications programs that will bring attention to your company.  For example, a cause marketing campaign might position your company well for both increased sales and media attention. 

“What happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas.”  With wire services, email, Twitter and YouTube, what happens in Las Vegas can be broadcast around the world in seconds. This obvious fact should (but doesn’t) stop people from doing or saying things publicly in one country that can be damaging to their companies in other countries.  For some reason, business people in countries with languages not widely spoken elsewhere (such as Japan and Korea) often mistakenly believe they’re an exception to this rule. However, news from those countries is translated immediately and distributed to the world at large.

Lucy Siegel

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5 Responses to “Eight Myths About PR (Truth or Consequences)”

  1. Tweets that mention Eight Myths About PR (Truth or Consequences) « BridgeBuzz -- Topsy.com Says:

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