28 Apr 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.