Why PR doesn’t have to be a dirty word

04.01.2015

Every day when I’m checking my Twitter feed I see a minimum of at least 1-2 negative comments about PR. And I get it. There’s a lot of bad PR people, and a lot of poorly executed, poorly thought through PR. I’d love to say I’m totally desensitized at this point, but that’s not entirely accurate. People love putting PR people into a box, but to me, that’s the same as saying all game developers or entrepreneurs are the same. You can’t characterize an entire group of people. It’s true that there are a lot of PR people who just “don’t get it”, but there’s a lot who do and who are really passionate about helping people succeed.

There’s also a lot of misunderstanding and misrepresentation of what PR actually is, making many scared that a PR person will take their reputation and twist it into something completely inauthentic to them until they don’t recognize it anymore, or that it’s something with a very limited purpose that they don’t really need. People love to give PR a very narrowly defined purpose, but if utilized correctly, it’s anything but.

However, the thing is, whether it seems obvious or not, everyone likely wants good PR. Almost no one creates something they are passionate about, whether it’s a company, an idea, a game, or an app to have it sit in a vacuum and never see the light of day or quickly sink to the bottom of the app store. Most people want to make things that people know about so that it leads to recognition, sales, and longevity. Beyond just financials and business goals, there’s other important factors too, like increasing credibility and extending the long-tail of what you’re doing so you have the ability and freedom to do more of it. And also, it just feels plain awesome to have people acknowledge and validate something that you have worked so hard on.

I’m not here to make you love PR (well, maybe I am,) but I am going to address what I believe are some of the most commonly heard misconceptions:

  • PR is so inauthentic: A good PR person will utilize their skills to try and get you to think about yourself and what you’re doing on a deeper all-encompassing level. They will help you build upon your story that already exists, accentuating what you care about and what makes you authentic and human in the first place. A good PR person will not make things up or spin things to be something completely different than what it actually is in reality. They will work with you in a collaborative partnership to bring out the best in you that already exists and share it with the people you care about (it sounds cheesy, but it’s true.)
  • PR is totally different than marketing: PR fits under the marketing umbrella, and when was the last time you heard someone say that marketing a product is stupid? PR is an important component of marketing and if a PR person is good, they will try to get you to look at the integrated picture beyond just the PR. All facets of marketing, including PR, conventions, social media, and launch strategy, don’t work best in silos; they work well in a thoughtful, cohesive way. A good PR person will be familiar with marketing overall and work to utilize PR as one branch of the marketing tree.
  • A PR person’s only job is to run and tell the press about what I’m doing: True, launching things and talking to press is often a PR person’s job. But simply blasting emails out to press makes us (and you) look bad. These email blasts and silly tactics are what makes press gripe about PR folks all the time. The majority of PR work should take place before an email ever leaves the outbox. The upfront strategy and thought process will help make your chances of success much, much greater than just blasting emails to press the week of your launch.
  • PR should be able to make me go viral: This one actually makes me want to rip my head off. If your product, game, or idea isn’t polished, isn’t innovative, or just sucks, PR can help you, but it can’t fix you. Second of all, reputation and credibility take time to build. Unless you have actually invented the best thing since sliced bread, chances are you aren’t going to go viral on your first try. People often read about success stories and work to emulate that. We should all aspire to greatness, but please don’t assume good PR can automatically grant you crazy overnight success. A good PR person will be results- and goal-oriented, but won’t sell you on lofty or unrealistic expectations. They should be able to honestly tell you the viability of what you are doing and tell you what to reasonably expect. I highly advise against trusting any PR person who promises you media placements to the moon or instant virality (yes, they exist.)
  • I don’t need PR until I’m ready to launch: Please don’t do this. Can PR people operate under short time frames? Sure. Are we good at working under pressure? Yes. It is as effective as it can be in this case? No. The best kind of PR and marketing efforts are done in tandem with your strategy and development along the way. Handing a PR person a finished product or something you have spent years working on and talking about without an ounce of marketing thought is the same as someone trying to get elected for president without campaigning along the way. It might be able to be done, but it’s way less effective and likely to succeed than when working together along the way. You don’t need to engage a PR person the second you think of an idea, but giving them at least a couple months before launch is ideal.
  • I don’t need a PR person, I can do it myself: PR and marketing is one of those things everyone assumes they can do. In some cases, this might be true. Some people are really good at PR and marketing and love doing it for their own products. However, hiring a PR person is really no different than hiring a graphic designer or an accountant; another person hired for their expertise. I also find that the majority of people I encounter love working on what they’re doing, but hate the marketing part of it. Having someone running your PR and marketing helps you spend time continuing to do what you love so you don’t have to worry about the selling. Beyond that, it helps you take a step back and look at things from a more top-line and often truly objective viewpoint.

I will definitely be exploring some of these misconceptions and points in more depth in later blog posts, but I think it’s important to realize that not all PR people are the same, not all PR operates the same way, but all good PR people do bring valuable skills to the table that have your best interests in mind. It’s time to start giving PR a little PR.

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