The Truth About PR: What to Expect and Not ExpectPublished: Rain Today

By: Sharon Berman

Several years ago, I asked a professional services firm about the progress of the public relations (PR) program it had embarked on a year earlier. They told me they had stopped the campaign after only six months because it wasn’t working, adding, “You know. They got us a few quotes.”

Contrary to that firm’s perception, PR (being interviewed by and quoted in the media, profiles about you and/or your firm, and articles that bear your byline) has an integral role in a professional’s marketing program. But it takes time and effort, and there are limits to the extent that PR can move a business forward. Therefore, when evaluating a prospective PR campaign, you should be clear on how the program will work and what it will achieve.

Gaining Visibility

A key reason why most professionals launch a PR program is to increase the firm’s visibility. For example, through a well-executed program, thousands of people may read about your firm or see you quoted in a publication as an expert. The first step in this process is making sure that you and your firm are visible to journalists, editors, producers, and prospects in your target market.

PR confers the all-important power of third-party credibility. A journalist, trusted by a publisher or producer, thinks enough of your expertise to quote you. Someone other than you describes the wonderful things you and your firm have done, which is meaningful to the media outlet’s audience and beneficial for you.

PR contributes to name recognition and familiarity, which also reinforces your credibility. When someone refers a colleague to you, he can say that he read an article you wrote or saw you quoted in industry trade publications.

In many ways, PR is a “packaging” project. It’s about taking the work you are already doing, wrapping it up, and presenting it to target media in a way that is attractive to them and fits with their objectives. Rather than being spin or fluff, PR involves a professional seeing your work and expertise with fresh eyes and knowing how that aligns with what the media are looking for. It is leveraging and amplifying the marketing return on the work you are already doing.

What to Expect from a PR Campaign

The length of your relationship with a PR professional, whether you are working together on a project or on an ongoing basis, will influence what you can expect from a PR campaign. For instance, with an ongoing PR program, over time you can expect that your expert positioning will be heightened and reinforced. Depending on the program that you and your PR partner create, you can also expect to have articles published under your byline, which reinforces your credibility.

Your PR professional will also help you build relationships with key media so that eventually the PR contact can be removed from the equation. Once a journalist knows you are responsive and offer useable sound bites, that person will contact you directly.

Through PR you have the opportunity to promote through press releases a new service offering, an event, a new hire, or another newsworthy item. Note that even if a press release does not get media coverage, the release is always useful for your website, enabling you to tell your story and to enhance the SEO of your site.

PR can also extend the shelf life of your marketing investment in other areas. For example, if you speak at a conference, your PR firm may be able to craft a media pitch and garner interviews. You can also publish an article based on your presentation. All of that reinforces your expertise.

Be Patient

Building visibility and credibility via PR takes time. Unless you have news that journalists need immediately, they may not talk to someone with your expertise today. Three months from now, however, you may be just the person they need. Additionally, it can be months before your article appears in print or online.

It’s also important to understand that you can’t control the final product. During media interviews, you can control only what you communicate at that time. That is why preparation and media training, when necessary, are important. Most media outlets will check facts, but they will not run a quote by you before publishing it.

Because you, or a ghostwriter, write your bylined articles, you have much more—though not complete—control over what you say. Publishers have made changes to my articles without my input that I didn’t like, but usually they will run changes by you first.

PR also will not necessarily generate qualified leads. It’s the contribution to your visibility and familiarity that is important. Similarly, one quote will not make a difference in your expert positioning. It’s being quoted repeatedly in multiple places that reinforces your expertise.

You also cannot expect anyone to see your quote. Consider how many times you have not had a chance to listen to the news, scan a news site, or read a newspaper. Those in your target market have similarly busy schedules, and they could miss your quote or profile.

To make PR work, you need to work it. You need to take the results of your PR initiative—articles, media quotes, and TV interviews, for example—and let your markets know about them. Mention that you were quoted on a topic on your website, in your newsletter, and via social media. Post article reprints (with the outlet’s authorization) on your website, or have the reprints available at a conference. Capture and wring the value from your quotes and articles. If you don’t, their value quickly dissipates.

Overall, the elevation of visibility and credibility that PR provides is what is important and what offers lasting value. It’s critical, therefore, to understand what PR can do for you and your firm and undertake a plan that meets your expectations, needs, and goals.

Increasing Visibility and Reinforcing Credibility

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