To some, second nature. To others a complete enigma. Even for many Marketers, the nuance to managing successful PR activity is often overlooked or even undervalued. Brands look to PRs for many things, but where can PR really make a difference?
A PR’s role is as a guardian, a storyteller, a negotiator and sometimes a magician. In real terms, they are the bridge between a client, brand or product and the end consumer, often leveraging relationships with the media, media outlets, influencers and creators or even other brands to secure prized visibility.
Within its remit, PR can support brands through media outreach, reputation management, influencer activity, social media management, content production, digital PR, and everything in between.
Through these channels and tactics, a PR’s aim is to achieve consistency of messaging, raise awareness, improve credibility and visibility, and generate an ROI. This done so through effective communication with the media that balances the sharing of meaningful news updates with key messaging. Not to forget, all while inspiring the masses to take action through creative storytelling and well-thought-through brand positioning.
We’ve scoured the internet (and our PR team) for the most common PR myths, and bust them to help our industry colleagues maximise their output and streamline efficiency where time is limited, and the news wheel never stops turning…
Myth: You have to call journalists.
Good news phone-shy Millennials (& Gen Z PR prodigies) – most of the time, a journalist does not want you to phone them. Unless it’s breaking news, (and I mean that in the most literal and serious sense) you might be better not picking up the phone more often than you do.
Get a journo on the phone and buckle up to hear the inevitable seven magic words ‘Can you send that over by email?’
Why? Journalists are time poor. By the nature of the job, they are busy people who tend to be pulled in lots of directions or are working to a number of conflicting deadlines.
You may think your phone call is jumping right to the point and cutting unnecessary admin by providing a pitch from the horse’s mouth. But you might be wrong. All you’ve done is interrupt their day with a vague idea and no substance to back it up.
The benefits of pitching by email in the first instance? Its saveable and searchable, meaning even if a pitch doesn’t cut the mustard this time around, there is a chance it might become relevant later down the line.
When emailing, keep it punchy, polite, digestible, and with your hooks clearly defined within the first few lines. If a journalist wants to talk – they’ll tell you.
Myth: You must pitch journalists in the morning, or on certain days.
Morning pitching was always the done thing, but truth be told, things are now a lot more flexible.
Much like our adopted flexible ways of working, a journalist’s schedule is now a lot less rigid, offering more opportunity to get your ideas over the line, even after 11am.
- Take a tailored approach. You know that freelancer only works Mon-Weds, maybe don’t pitch them on a Thursday. Your target publication has two conferences a day, find out when and time your pitch to land accordingly. Some publications will want pitches in before conference, others afterwards, just as Editors are sitting down with a nice cup of tea. It’s all about doing the groundwork.
- Fridays are back on the agenda. With online and weekend publications looking to fill last minute gaps or showcase timely news NIBs, pitching on a Friday might well catch an Editor right as they’re looking ahead at the week or weekend to come.
All in all. Flexibility and agility are key. Each journalist and publication will have their own preferences, and it’s a PR’s job to get to know the quirks and use this knowledge to their advantage.
Myth: Every pitch will result in coverage.
If it was that easy, we’d all be hitting send and taking the rest of the day off. There is an art to pitching, and it takes finesse.
Most pitches will fall on deaf ears. And although frustrating, it might have nothing to do with the quality of your idea, story, or its communication.
The media landscape is a busy place and the ever changing news agenda can often cannibalise the few available slots. It is important for PR’s to be savvy about what’s going on in their niche and in the wider media space too. Seek out opportunities to pitch that don’t clash with big headline-hungry developments in other sectors.
Even on a busy news day, PRs can get their pitches noticed by tailoring a pitch with:
- Topicality: Make sure you are pitching the right angle to the right publication at the right time. Each journalist has a specialist field of interest – leverage that.
- A Hook: Answer both the ‘Why’ and ‘Why Now’ quickly and clearly. And make sure it’s not tenuous! Pitches must be newsworthy in the broadest sense, with your pitch highlighting something new or unique that will interest the end-reader too.
- Images Ready: Think about it, when have you seen a piece go live without at least one cracking image… have your house in order before you hit send.
- Pricing: This crucial piece of information is often overlooked. Make sure it’s within the relevant range for title you’re pitching or risk pricing yourself out!
Myth: PR always has a clear and tangible ROI.
Common ways to measure the impact of PR include quantifiable metrics of success such as number of pieces of coverage, total reach or circulation, number of completed press trips. But be wary of the archaic press releases sent, AVE or the wildly made-up and often over-exaggerated PR value.
As much as we’d all love the impact of PR to be this black-and-white, PR measurement is so much more than the common metrics assigned to it. And ROI determined by published coverage undervalues its true impact. It’s often in the unquantifiable and less tangible that you will see the PR magic happen.
Don’t overlook softer results like brand recognition, message awareness, share of voice, affiliation and advocacy, consistency of visibility and ensuring that visibility is in the right places (it won’t always be the nationals!). All valuable considerations when determining how well PR activity is connecting a brand with the target consumer.
Myth: It must be a press release.
A press release is a very useful PR tool – but not the only tactic a PR has in their arsenal.
While a lot of brands have news to share, a PR knows that it isn’t always newsworthy.
Do your client a favour and stay strong on reserving press releases for the newsworthy and instead trace their steps back to the overarching objectives and stay open to trying different avenues where traditional outreach might not bear the desired fruit.
Start to think bigger about the PR tools available to you. Instead of a press release, have you considered…. direct pitching, a LinkedIn post, on-site content, a themed mailer, paid social, or perhaps a Q&A.
Myth: You can’t pitch to more than one journalist or publication at a time.
No good PR will be sending the same old story to every contact in their address book. Instead, they’ll be tailoring the story and pitching it strategically to a select set of contacts.
This one is all about the framing of the story. Down to its tone, pitches should be tailored to suit the end-reader of the publication they are outreaching to.
While the broader story or key messaging might be the same – the way in which each publication’s audience will interact with or experience your story will be different. Therefore, a PR needs to ensure that they are communicating in the language the very end reading is speaking in.
Myth: Requesting links is a no-go zone.
It’s true that not all Editors respond to link requests well. However, there is no outright ban on asking for links to be included where certain omittances have been made before publication.
While some publications reserve links for paid partners and sponsors, and others opt to remove them to keep users on-site, there are opportunities out there for savvy PRs and Digital PRs alike to up their link building game without driving a wedge between them and their valued contacts.
While homepage links and calls-to-action are all well and good, from a Digital PR perspective there are much more high value links we’d like to see included.
The golden rule – linked content must add value. If it doesn’t, it won’t be linked.
Myth: WeTransfer is okay.
Nothing has the potential to annoy a journalist more than being of the precipice of publication, and falling short of imagery because a link has expired.
While PRs love WeTransfer as it’s a free, quick, and easy way to send files – unless your recipient is using it right away, save yourself a headache and opt for other platforms that don’t put a time limit on the accessibility of your content.
Myth: In person meetings are the only way to cut through with the media.
Er… it’s 2023. And if COVID taught us nothing else, it’s that businesses can pivot to online in the blink of an eye. The beauty of PR is that so much storytelling is done by email.
Yes, putting faces to names, and building relationships with journalists is part of the job, but that doesn’t mean it always needs to be done in person.
With schedules busier than ever, and many journalists (and PRs alike) moving further away from the big cities due to the spiralling cost-of-living and desire for a better work life balance, shifting meetings onto platforms like Zoom, Teams or Google Meet is just as effective at securing column inches, while saving time and money in the process.
Afterall, what difference will a lunch make to a poorly formed pitch without a tangible hook. The only way to cut through is the strength of your story. How it’s delivered often becomes inconsequential.
Myth: Follow ups don’t work.
Now this one is a controversial subject. Every PR will have to master the art of the follow up. But it is in knowing where to draw the line that differentiates a career PR from the rest.
Follow ups can be an effective way to reposition your client, brand, or story in front of key media.
Maybe they genuinely missed it. Perhaps they were on holiday and your pitch got lost amidst the thousands of unwanted emails. Or maybe they just didn’t have the time, resource, or commission to use your story the first time around.
The art of a good follow up comes in reframing your pitch to appear new, or strengthening your hook with extra information that drives home why your story is relevant to them.
Yes follow up by all means, but maybe only once. Much in excess of this could see your emails going straight to trash in the future. No one likes to look too desperate – and if your story doesn’t hit home a second time, maybe its time to go back to the drawing board or find a new recipient.
Myth: I can just do it myself.
It’s not uncommon to think that PR is simply sending the odd press release to hundreds of journalists and hoping something sticks or setting up a handful of influencer trips – easy right? Not always. PR is a skill that needs to be honed over time – and the success of sending out a press release or setting up an influencer trip often rests on the back of a lot of unseen skills and administration.
Doing it yourself may save a little money, but brands risk missing out on the benefits of a well-connected PR or the expertise of an expert in an industry filled with nuance that needs to be navigated seamlessly to generate real, repetitive results.
More than just brand guardians, PRs work tirelessly to craft on-brand messages that get their clients noticed proactively, using exceptional copywriting skills, nurtured connections, sound strategy, and the ability to keep keeping cool in a crisis to bring it all together.
So Why Is Having a PR Pro Valuable?
The PR remit is vast – and so it’s important that brands acknowledge the power of the skillset to move the needle in times where budgets are tight and the news cycle never busier.
To cut through, it is important for PR’s to not get hung-up on the way things ‘used to be’ or ‘should be’ and ensure they are constantly upskilling and adapting their approach to the way things are.
See PR as an essential part of your marketing strategy, rather than removed from it. PR is a valuable discipline that can help change the course of your visibility in the most impactful and importantly authentic ways.
If you’d like a hand developing your Instagram Reels strategy, get in touch at: [email protected]