The Worst Advice You Could Ever Get About Public Relations

This article was published on Medium’s PRontheGo, and was republished with their permission. Pietra Communications CEO, Olga Gonzalez, contributed to the article below. Click here to read the original article on Medium.

We asked PR and Growth Experts about The Worst Advice They Could Ever Get About Public Relations. How did bad consultancy affect you or your clients in the past? What was The Worst Advice You Ever Received Or Heard About Public Relations? How did it affect your PR campaign? Here are their insights:

FAIL: PR as a sales tool.
“The worst advice that I have ever heard is sending a news release to increase sales.
PR isn’t an immediate boost to your company’s bottom line. It’s not direct marketing, and you shouldn’t measure it by a goal of immediate sales.
If you are asked to send a news release to boost your company’s sales, push back. Explain that if they are looking for a direct sales tactic, you can help them with a drip email campaign, but putting out a news release isn’t going to accomplish that goal.
Similarly, a news release isn’t going to bolster your stock price. It is your job, as a communications professional, to push back when you are given unrealistic goals for your PR tactics.” — Caroline Lee, Growth Marketer and Co-Founder at CocoSign

FAIL: Ignore negative comments on social media.
“A few years ago, I received advice that it’s better to ignore single negative comments on social media. I quickly realized that one negative comment could snowball into a vivid discussion of many unsatisfied customers. Thinking that the voice of one unhappy customer will go unnoticed was a major mistake. Now I know that every complaint expressed publicly should be handled separately to prevent negative word-of-mouth from going viral.” EJ Mitchell, Senior Director Head of Content at LiveCareer

FAIL: PR as a Quick Fix.
“Any PR person who says they can get you coverage tomorrow leaves me feeling uneasy. PR is not a quick fix. There are so many factors at play. First, research is key. From there you don’t know if the perfect writer for your story just wrote a similar story, just changed beats, has a personal friend at a competitor’s company, etc. Then, long-lead publications such as Southern Living, Inc. Magazine and others tend to work on stories 9 to 12 months out from print date. PR should be part of a long-term earned marketing strategy that complements advertising, social media and content creation to ensure impactful results.” — Krystin Olinski, Director at PRESS PR + Marketing

FAIL: Paid articles instead of earned media.
“The worst campaigns and a mistake that many business owners make who are truly looking for PR is to hire a company that can guarantee placements. Even with personal connections, any publicist cannot guarantee coverage, but works with the goal of organic coverage turning into ROI for clients. Certain PR agencies will guarantee coverage with paid articles, which looks great on paper, but at the end of the day Forbes India for example, is not exactly Forbes in the U.S. And, it is important for business owners to know that most of these are not organic therefore not result in any results — branding, sales or otherwise, but do not realize this until the 11th hour and their budget is blown.” — Michele Smith, CEO at M Communications Inc.

FAIL: PR is not worth the investment.
“The worst advice about public relations that a startup company could receive is that public relations is not worth investing in. Oftentimes companies are told that PR is not worth the cost. However, public relations is essential to launch and retain long-term brand awareness. How the public perceives or hears about a brand upon its first interaction with it is pivotal to the brand’s relationship with its target audiences. A common misconception about public relations is that if public relations efforts are in fact effective there will be a direct, and rapid display of correlation between customer base growth and/or revenue and media relations efforts. While there are times where a media yield instantaneously brings in new business, more commonly public relations efforts reap a return long term. The longer the public image is cultivated and maintained in a constant push of media hits, social media efforts, events etc. the better positioning of the company. The more reputable perception of a brand, the better. Utilize the media as an advocate and an education tool when launching your business. Get the public to learn more about your company, what you’re about, how you started and what you’re out to prove. It’s these valuable education opportunities that can make all the difference in your relationship with your potential client base.” — Grace D’Errico, Account Executive at Baker Public Relations

FAIL: Larger PR agencies perform better for you.
“A lot of our clients have worked with us, gotten lots of brand exposure and grown their businesses, then left us to work with a larger PR agency, only to return to work with our firm a year or two later. Why? Because bigger isn’t necessarily better. It is bad advice to work with a large, well-known agency, just because of the name. Sometimes when you work with a larger agency, you get lost, especially if your company isn’t a priority compared to their other clients. When you work with a smaller agency that has a niche in your field or product, you often get better customer service and results, and it is simultaneously more affordable. This cycle has a negative affect on our clients because they lose a lot of the money from their growth by investing in a large agency, but eventually when they circle back there is a greater appreciation to what a niche agency brings to the table, and then there is a partnership for the long-haul.” — Olga Gonzalez, CEO at Pietra Communications

FAIL: There is no bad PR.
“I think “there is no such thing as bad PR” is bad advice because there are a lot of ways you can dilute or damage your brand equity. Stay on message and on strategy for best results. It can take a lot of time, effort and money to try to course correct after the fact but once things are released/posted online, social media can take on a life of its own and the information can live on the web forever.” — Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder & CEO at Mavens & Moguls

FAIL: PR to “get some press”.
“The worst advise a start-up can get is two-pronged, first that they should take advantage of PR because it is free and second that to gain visibility, they should do a press release.
PR is component of an integrated communications and marketing plan and is an important line item on any launch budget. With that said, many start-ups have come to us to “get some press” and when we did our homework, we found the company didn’t have a full website yet, their messaging was non-existent, social channels disjointed and sales plan non-existent. Having PR at the table when developing your launch plan is vital, but you must consider the right order of things. You don’t want a reporter researching a company that doesn’t have great website or has a weak brand.” Linda Varrell, APR President/CEO at Broadreach Public Relations

FAIL: “No comment” to the media.
“In times of crisis, the counsel and actions of a Public Relations professional can keep a business out of harm’s way, or they can result in the company’s ruin. Therefore, the worst Public Relations advice you can receive during a time of crisis is to provide a “No comment” to media. One thing about crises… they tend to attract lots of media attention. Be prepared. You’d normally be willing to pay a lot of money for media coverage, so use this opportunity to make sure that your company’s interests are represented and your customers are retained.” — Greg Wilfahrt, Chief Mobility and Marketing Officer at AP Technology

FAIL: Talk about the product.
“Some of the worst advice you can receive is to form your message around the “bells and whistles” of the product. Manufacturers and creators usually think this way, so the client may talk about what they want to emphasize how amazing the product is. This is bad advice.
Instead, form your message around how your product changes user’s lives and solves their day-to-day problems.” — Jeremy Yeager L., Copywriting Consultant at How to Do the Write Thing

FAIL: Try to be funny.
“The worst advice i got about public relations was to try to be funny. Perhaps you have a spokesperson that is naturally charming and funny (in an appropriate way) and you want to use their personality to pull the admiration of journalists and customers. You are lucky and in the minority. If your company spokesperson is not naturally funny please do not take PR advice that tries to force the funny. If you do, people will be laughing for completely the wrong reason.” — Lucas Robinson, CMO at Crediful

FAIL: Entrepreneurs need a PR firm.
“The worst advice you can ever get about public relations — is that it isn’t possible for entrepreneurs to do it yourself when necessary. If you are determined, willing to learn and willing to allot the time and effort, you can absolutely find success with your own PR. I would know, as I’ve tried working with several PR firms over the years, which resulted in almost no appearances. Since I started taking care of my own PR, I have secured over 200 appearances for myself and my company, including The New York Times, CNN, Bloomberg, Harvard Business Review and Fast Company.” — Steve Waters, Founder & CEO of CONTRACE

FAIL: You can “wing” a tv interview.
“The worst advice is to have a client “wing it” or to do little to no media training before they are interviewed — particularly for broadcast TV or radio. Often times, many CEO’s or business owners have little experience with interviews and are unaware of many things: facial cues, non-verbal communication, tone of voice, rambling and more. It is best to truly invest the time and resources for media training, so that the client is reflected in the best light as an authoritative source or expert, and so that the interview can be used as further leverage to secure more interviews in the future. If the client is “winging it” off the advice of their publicist OR if the publicist is telling them that media training is unnecessary, then this is truly a disservice and could cost future media opportunities. Additionally, at times the CEO or the Founder may not be the best representative to take on the interviews. So advising people who are not particularly relatable via media to “be the face of the brand”, may not be good advice, when in fact a spokesperson for the business or brand may be the better avenue. I’ve seen this bad consultancy affect some of my clients as it has prohibited them from future interviews and cast them in the light of being “unprepared” or not TV or Radio ready.” — Leah Frazier, President at Think Three Media

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