It’s an industry hiding more mysteries than whatever sauce transforms actors into superhumans on the red carpet. No one really seems to understand every nuance in PR–not even our fellow flacks. Of course, our parents just tell their friends at church group that “my kid gets people on TV”, but that’s another story.
Here’s the aggravating part: many of the most persistent myths in PR still get repeated by people within the industry. These are the folks who make meetings to have meetings, schedule lunches to “network,” and use phrases like “moving the needle” because, as a certain group of cranberries once said, “Everybody else is doing it, so why can’t we?”
Here, dear readers, are five of the myths we need to keep on debunking.
1. Only big business gets big media. Crap. Crap. And more crap. I still hear this and it’s just sad. Some of the best clients to have are small businesses, because they are hungry for success. That hunger makes minds open, mouths shut, and ears perk up. Any good reporter at any outlet of any size could not care less if your client has shareholders or is just learning to hold on. If they have a story — something that makes a difference, a change, or even basic news — you will get it posted. So find the news and learn how to pitch it.
2. This job is all about contacts. Really? Here’s a test: you know that feeling you get when a client sends you a bad idea and demands that you pitch it? Call your contacts and see what happens. One lesson I learned as a hack and still use as a flack is that contacts become contacts when you don’t abuse the privilege of calling them ‘contacts.’ Yes, this job requires great references, but they all have a job to do. If you can’t bring the real news, they will look elsewhere.
3. The client is always right. This might go against the grain among agency principals and other APR bigwigs, but no, they are not. The aphorism is “The customer is always right.” But your client is not the customer — the audience is. And that audience is much smarter than you may realize. They understand purchasing habits, product doublespeak, and controlling impulse. Clients have bad ideas just like anyone else. They want the best for their brand, but when paranoia sets in they could begin grasping at straws. It’s your job to explain what is newsworthy and what is advertising. More importantly, you need to be able to say “No” when it happens to be the right answer. They’ll respect you for it (as long as you’re nice).
4. Small publications don’t matter. Do you talk to the media with that mouth? Tell your local community paper’s publisher that it doesn’t matter; tell your niche industry blog (that gets pick-up) that it doesn’t don’t matter; tell any journalist who doesn’t work in a large media market that his/her work is worthless. You will be blacklisted so fast…and why? Because you might just be a little dense, for starters–but also because you don’t understand that small press grants credibility. It’s bait for the bigger fish–and if you think you can just mosey on down to the lake and catch a Marlin with that little worm on your hook, think again. Little worms catch nothing.
5. Just one story away. Do you really think your client is one story away from global domination because the Poughkeepsie News hasn’t covered you yet? What if Mashable did give you a sniff? Then what? You are never just one story away. PR is a momentum thing, and those who are able to help clients understand that consistency is the key will be the long-term winners. The truth is that you are one story away from being forgotten, which is why you always have to be jonesin’ for the next one.
Oh yeah, and your clients are paying you for that, too.