Why is PR So Hard To Understand?

Gosh, I get this question almost on a regular basis.  There have been several times that I’ve begun to talk about PR at a networking event or with a potential client and I see their eyes glaze over.  They’re completely lost.  Since then, I’ve refined my definition of PR for those who are brave enough to ask what it is exactly that I do.  I simply say “I generate positive media stories for clients”.  They reply “OH….”, with eyes that are still slightly glazed over.

The trouble that everyday people have in understanding what PR is and why it’s relevant to their business (or more importantly how it works and exactly what it is they’re paying me to do) is that it’s not advertising, direct mail, direct email, cold calling, sponsorship, brand design and a number of other marketing elements where you can see something; feel something in your hands.  There’s an intangible to PR.  That is until you actually get a news story and you not only see the story but also begin to feel the impact of it on your business.

The process of generating PR includes a press kit (a tangible) and then media relations (the intangible).  This is where the professional you hire spends time, which you pay them for, sending emails, making phone calls and pitching your story to the media.  It is the most frustrating part of the process to understand. 

It’s like my cat.  I think she’s precious, great personality, understands certain commands, but if she doesn’t want to do something or simply can’t be bothered with it right now she will ignore it or look over it.  I can’t control her and you can’t control the media.  Because of this, I’d be highly leery of any professional who says that “they can get you this or that” media guaranteed.  There is no guarantee, but PR is one, of not the most, valuable aspect of your marketing plan you can have. 

There’s one reason why PR is so different from other marketing elements and that’s because it’s a journalism-based industry.  Sure advertising degrees and such come from journalism schools, but they aren’t required to take all of the classes that their journalist counterparts are.  In fact, I would say that some of my best media contacts today are also people I graduated journalism school with – they sat next to me in editing and reporting.  That means that a good professional not only understands the media, every kind of media, but, more importantly, they know how to create and write a good newsworthy story. 

I encourage you to become your own journalist and look at your business from a different perspective.  What are your burning questions about PR?  I want to hear how I can help you better understand the process. 

Jennifer Fortney, Cascade Communications

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