PR Myths Busted
Whenever I tell someone that I work as a publicist, they instantly think that I throw fabulous New York Fashion Week ("NYFW") events, am on a first-name basis with countless celebrities, and constantly rub elbows with people in high society. While television shows like “Sex and the City” and “The City” show the glamorous side of the fashion industry, the day-to-day life of a publicist is like any other challenging career - working long hours to come up with the best solutions to help my clients meet their objectives.
Sure, I’ve attended my share of high-profile events for some of today’s most creative fashion brands, but I’ve also spent many sleepless nights organizing those same events and sweating all of the details to make sure the backstage production is seamless, the press and photographers are there to get red carpet photos, and everything else goes off without a hitch. Truth be told, while these events seem glamorous and fun to outsiders, they are actually quite exhausting and stressful for publicists.
Now that you know the truth about my so-called glamorous profession, I’m going to debunk seven other myths that you probably have when it comes to publicity and how the field works in general.
PR Myth 1 - Publicity is all about planning parties and hobnobbing with high society and celebrities.
While planning NYFW events and launch parties are high-profile events, they don't take place 365 days a year. In fact, special events, product launches, runway shows, and movie screenings are only a small fraction of what a PR person does. More common areas involve general media relations, social media management, and influencer marketing. The image of Samantha Jones sipping on a Cosmopolitan six nights a week, meeting a different dashing man each night isn't realistic in the slightest.
Myth 2 - A press release is all you need to get media coverage.
Maybe this was true in 1950's, but not in the 21st century. Unfortunately, most entrepreneurs use the same press release to pitch 1,000 journalists and expect to generate significant media coverage. It's not that easy.
If you want to get media coverage, then you need to come up with a strategic plan outlining your objectives, audiences, messages, and timeline for doing so. You also need to figure out who the right media contacts are for your client, what each editor covers, how they like to be pitched, and then give them something they can use. That's a tall order for the entrepreneur with zero publicity experience.
Myth 3 - Publicity automatically equals sales.
No, it DOES NOT! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard entrepreneurs say that once they get featured in a magazine, an avalanche of sales will inevitably follow. That's a gross oversimplification of how publicity usually works. Sure, if the stars align, publicity can lead to stronger sales - but publicity should never be used in place of sales.
More than anything else, publicity generates brand awareness. In turn, the heightened awareness makes it easier to approach retailers because they are already familiar with your brand name and your product or service. Steady publicity is the best way to transform cold sales leads back into warm ones.
Myth 4 - All press is good press!
There are some people or news stories that are so repugnant or controversial that no brand should seek to associate with them - and I'm not talking about politics. Bad press can cause so much damage to your brand that it can’t survive.
Myth 5 - Journalists expect to be wined and dined.
Today, journalists are just too busy to take an hour out of their hectic days to meet you just so you can go on about your wonderful product or service. Like you, journalists have stressful jobs, deadlines, personal lives, and a finite amount of time to deal with it all. A simple, short, and concise pitch is the way to capture a journalist’s heart.
Myth 6 - Publicity and advertising are the same.
No, no, a thousand times no! Confusing these two concepts is one of my biggest professional pet peeves. Publicity and advertising are very different.
With publicity, there’s no guarantee you will get media coverage. You can’t control when or where your messages will be published. With advertising, you can control the message, placement, and timing. However, advertising comes with a big cost that most small businesses simply can’t afford. That's just one of the reasons why publicity is usually the better option.
Myth 7 - Publicity isn’t measurable.
Not only is publicity is measurable, it's crucial to figure out how to do it if you want to be able to evaluate the effectiveness of your media campaign. However, it's very tough to do without the right tools.
One of the most traditional (and inaccurate) ways to measure publicity is to use the equivalent advertising value. But as we know, publicity and advertising are not the same - publicity is much more valuable because you're essentially getting a third-party endorsement from the media. Smart publicity professionals can use social media and Google Analytics as one of their tools to determine public perception towards your brand and the impact of a given media campaign.
What are some of the biggest myths you've heard about publicity?
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