Six reasons why it’s dumb to do your own PR

Six reasons why it’s dumb to do your own PR

Sometimes what a publicist or PR agency does looks SO easy, especially to an entrepreneur with a naturally outgoing nature. After all, how hard can it be to write and send press releases, or schedule interviews?

In many cases, it’s not that hard. I’ve known several business owners and managers who are very good at maintaining relationships with smaller market journalists, and who know when and how to write a press release.  If you believe PR is just sending out press releases and coordinating interviews go for it. BUT – and this is a very big BUT – if you really want to use public relations for the right reasons, I believe you have to hire a professional publicist.  And by professional, I mean GOOD. I wrote about ways to find a good PR firm in February. I’m going to write next on how to create room in your marketing budget to hire one.

But first, here are six reasons it might be smart to hire a public relations professional:

  1. You’re not on the radar screen of your local media – or the national beat reporters for that matter. I often get calls from potential clients because their competitor has been included in a story on their industry. Sorry…but at that point the story has already been done. Good PR’s know how to keep you and your company, product or service top of mind with journalists. This is one of our lesser known skills  and it can pay off BIG in the long run.  A few months worth of work now can put you in a journalist’s or news organization’s database of experts for a long, long time. For major pubs and outlets, most people have no idea how to do that effectively.
  2. You don’t have the right sense of urgency or you’re too busy to respond right away. Journalists work on a deadline. In fact, some of the longest lead publications will call a few days before they go to print to add a quick sidebar, box note or get a quote. I’ve known people who take a week to call back a writer. If you can’t respond  ASAP you don’t get the mention, plain and simple. If it’s TV it’s often an even shorter cycle – and there is often a long line of folks waiting to pounce on a chance for some publicity.  Side note: This is the big problem I have with many agencies and PR people…they also don’t have a sense of urgency in responding. I don’t get that, but it’s a problem with us as well. If your prospective PR person doesn’t respond to you quickly 90% of the time, don’t use them. It’s a sign.
  3. You don’t understand how a journalist works and neither does your marketing person. You may land on an opportunity but if you try to give a reporter a bunch of marketing bullets you’re not going to be included. A good PR finds out what the journalist is after, in terms of angles, experts, etc and then helps position you, your product or service within those story guidelines. You can’t do this unless you get how a reporter works and what they’re after. And that includes daily beat reporters, editors, radio program managers, producers and others work. My MS is from the J-School at WVU for a reason. I wanted that journalism credential and I also have a brother and numerous friends who have beaten things into me over the years. I know how to run a ground crew for a national broadcast magazine show and I know how to write a story for a magazine or a newspaper.
  4. On the flip side you may not be good at selling your story. This is where former journalists who become PR’s often fail. They assume the media may or may not cover something because when THEY were in the media, they would have made a certain decision one way or another. They’re not always willing or able to fit a square peg into a round hole. Face it, rarely does our pitch match perfectly to the story. We have to MAKE it work. Working daily on the “other side” of the media in PR, you learn how to do that. And the media learns to trust that you can do that.
  5. You don’t know how to translate your message to fit the particular medium. (Again, this is a problem with many traditional publicists and agencies as well, I’ll grant you that) You write a great press release and send it out to blogs, print, TV, radio, etc. You don’t know that each pitch has to be created for that particular medium. TV pitches need to highlight the visuals that are available. Radio loves short bulleted pitches. Print reporters just want the backstory and the 5W’s to start. Good publicists know how pitch each area of the media and it’s complicated.
  6. You don’t understand exclusives or some of the courtesies involved with journalists. I can’t tell you how many times an excited business owner is about to post an embargo’d release on their website in advance of a promised exclusive story. If you don’t understand how things like embargos and exclusives work (not to mention who honors them and who doesn’t) you could have a great story and really blow it by pissing off a writer because a more popular publication just called. In every market and especially in the national market there’s a pecking order. Being on one show may exclude you from being on another, bigger show. You don’t know those competitive unwritten rules and you might get yourself on the Early Show – but you’ll rarely EVER get on the Today Show after that.

There is so much that a good publicist does that I could literally go on and on. I think all the “do it yourself PR” workshops and forums are great and you should educate yourself on how public relations really works. And what it can and cannot do. But don’t ever think that you can pick it up and run with it long term. It’s really not that simple and if you have a good story that could play at a national level…it’s worth the investment.

On Monday, I’ll show you how to change up your budget so you can afford a publicist. And I’m going to tell you how much you should be paying, based on rates across the country.

11 Comments
  • Business Directory
    Posted at 02:55h, 29 April Reply

    Very Helpful blog……………

  • Rufus Dogg
    Posted at 06:49h, 29 April Reply

    I think we’ve taken DIY to levels of dumb all over the place. I see folks DIYing their logo, their website, their marketing, social media and it all shows. Like being in a room with a bunch of know-it-all kindergarteners with the big box of 256 crayons! Sure, they have all the tools but the output still looks like a kindergartener drew the picture.

    I often wonder how much money I am REALLY saving booking my own travel now that my really talented and skilled travel agent has been put out of business. Or how much time I am really saving answering my own email or responding to queries (secretary’s day this week always makes me pine for the old days) I suspect most of the time it just doesn’t get done.. ok, for a FACT it doesn’t get done. I wonder how much opportunity cost is in that pile?

    Just because we have Google to find the answer doesn’t make us instant experts at stuff. The 10,000 hr rules still applies. It amazes me how many marketing and customer service “experts” have popped up in the past couple years that are graduates of the “I read a book by Seth Godin University.” Or the number of “writers” that have flooded the twitter and blog world that all want to be the next Amanda Hocking. She self-published, so can I. The main problem these folks have is that their family and friends will never say “YOU CAN’T WRITE!” So, I suspect most literary agents put up thicker walls to keep this group out, making it harder for legit writers to reach them. Probably the same with PR folks…

    I often wonder how much easier business would be if we all didn’t have to fight past the arrogance and hubris of DIYism.

  • Chris Williams
    Posted at 12:33h, 01 May Reply

    I couldn’t agree more, especially for freelancers like me. Thanks for the post.

  • Mia
    Posted at 04:29h, 02 May Reply

    If you have the necessary resources than it’s ok to outsource this kind of task to professionals, but if you don’t then it’s better that you become one of those professionals.

  • Alex Aguilar
    Posted at 11:57h, 02 May Reply

    I agree with this blog post. The DIY ethos, although commendable, has no place in a large business. The best approach is to focus on your core business and hire people to do all the secondary stuff like PR, web-design, marketing and so on.

    There is nothing wrong with being details-oriented and taking the hands-on approach to business. There is, however, something seriously wrong with thinking you can do everything to perfection on your own.

  • Lee Pinsanetti
    Posted at 13:45h, 02 May Reply

    Google is your friend. You can search and pretty much learn everything you need to know about online internet marketing by searching online and doing some research. Yes, doing it all yourself can be a daunting task, but it has been done.

  • DrawBloodPoker
    Posted at 00:19h, 04 May Reply

    I know the real way is to have the article written by the PR site about my site.When I get some money I will do it.

  • Pingback:What should you pay for PR | Wax Blog
    Posted at 06:16h, 09 May Reply

    […] to my RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!I hear those who commented on last week’s post on reasons NOT to do your own PR – it CAN be really expensive to hire a PR person.   If you’re not living in NYC or LA […]

  • TashWord
    Posted at 05:23h, 14 June Reply

    I wholeheartedly agree that too many people think they are experts now because they have the tools and some reading under their belt (and I love the 256 crayon analogy, Rufus!)
    The number of writers I see who can’t write is painful, and ditto for so many other industries.

    Having said that, I think PR is a little different as not all businesses need full PR at any given time. I know I have clients who just want media releases to reach specific industry players so I write media releases for them (I would never presume to do other PR tasks, though).

  • Paula Gardner
    Posted at 10:28h, 28 July Reply

    I take your point that a professional is often the best bet, but some businesses just don’t have the money to afford to pay for PR…whether it’s a full blown agency or just a freelancer. These are the businesses that will someday be the clients of PR companies, but, for now, need some help in understanding how to raise their profile and think like a PR person.

    I also find that once my clients know something about PR and how it works, they are less likely to fall prey to some of the dodgier PR practitioners out there. And, at the same time, they also get a glimpse into everything that is involved in the process and when they take a PR company on, have much more realistic expectations.

    For many it’s not a case of choosing to go DIY…it’s do it to survive.

  • more info
    Posted at 04:14h, 19 April Reply

    After I originally left a comment I appear to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now each time a comment is added I receive four emails with the same comment. Is there a means you can remove me from that service? Appreciate it!

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