What people think PR is, versus what it actually is (or can be)

Public relations is stuck in a time warp of preconceptions. We’ve faced these ill-conceived perceptions throughout our careers, patiently trying to educate people when they tell us our world must just be full of parties and schmoozing, or keeping bad stories out of the press.

People see scandals like the recent ITV / Philip Schofield drama and watch the carefully managed statements read out by Holly on live TV, for example, and think “ah, so that’s what PR is.” But it’s so much more than that!

This post highlights some of the things people think PR is, versus what it actually is. We’re lifting the lid on the covert world of public relations and busting some of those myths that we’re all a bunch of manipulative dark artists. Buckle up.

PR is only for crisis management

Yes, we are up there on the ‘who you gonna call’ list when a crisis hits, but our work extends beyond damage control. PR is about building positive relationships with stakeholders and the public, not just managing negative publicity.

PR is easy

Whatever! Give it a go and then come back to us. It takes years of experience and training to be a successful PR professional. Not only have we spent years developing a deep knowledge of media, communication, and what makes a good story; we've also worked really hard to understand humans and their behaviour, psyching out someone’s decisions to buy a product or service. It’s complex and it’s multi-faceted – do not underestimate our skills.

PR is the same as advertising

No it isn’t. You pay for space with advertising to promote a product or service; it’s obvious to the person who sees the advert that you’ve paid for it. PR is about presenting your business in a positive light through outside sources. That third party credibility can do wonders to improve your brand’s reputation.

PR is only for big companies with big budgets

Yes, big companies often have dedicated PR teams or hire agencies, but how do you think small companies and one man bands get bigger? PR and word of mouth.

PR is spin doctoring

Another common misconception about PR is that it’s all spin doctoring or manipulating the truth. That definitely does go on (COUGH, politics / ITV / Philip Schofield), but the core of PR is about building and maintaining trust with stakeholders and the public. In a world of fake news and misinformation, the role of PR in promoting transparency and accountability has never been more important.

PR is managing social media

Social media is a key platform for PR professionals, but we don’t just manage social media accounts. We strategically manage an organisation’s reputation across multiple channels, both online and offline.

PR is just press releases

Are you stuck in the 1990s? Yes, we write press releases to announce news from our clients and yes, journalists still ask for them to get a full picture of a story we’re pitching, but press releases are just one of the many tactics used by PR professionals to communicate with the media.

PR involves a range of activities, from journalist meetings, newsroom visits (with no agenda), reaching out to the new reporter in town, media pitches, story development and spokesperson training, to just being forever responsive and accessible, providing comment, and piggybacking news opportunities. In today’s digital age, content is king, so we also have to make sure our PR efforts are always backed up with compelling, high quality content that resonates with our target audience.

PR is certainly not about sitting at your desk writing all day – it’s about building real relationships based on trust and empathy with clients, journalists, freelancers, designers, videographers and photographers. Just real people doing real things together.

PR is glamorous

I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve been compared to Patsy and Eddie from Ab Fab because we are a female duo working in PR (and note, we don’t necessarily take that as an insult! They are the life and soul, after all).

Sadly, the reality is far from it. PR is a demanding, challenging and often lonely profession that requires finely tuned strategic comms skills and the ability to work under pressure. You have to put yourself out there constantly and deal with a lot of knock backs. You are deep in the news cycle and have to be on social media all the time. This can all be quite draining.

We wish we could just go to a party, charm some people and sit on a front row of a fashion show, but alas, you’re more likely to find us in a factory wearing a hairnet while we get to grips with what our new client does.

Rant over. We hope that if you’ve got to the end of this post, you can see that a long-term commitment to marketing and PR is absolutely essential if you’re going to build a strong brand. PR is about consistent and meaningful engagement with customers, stakeholders and the broader community in which you operate, and successful PR requires a deep understanding of your target audience and the ability to create tailored messaging that resonates with them.

If you get it, and believe that PR can help amplify your brand message and get your story in front of a wider audience, talk to us! We’d love to help.