Today’s Pop Quiz: PR Is ________?

Many, including Mark Cuban, have no clue what PR is


Good morning, class.

I was chatting with a media pal of mine the other day in Dallas and the topic came up of “people who hate public relations.” We’re in North Texas, so my compatriot brought up the most famous hater of our industry: Mr. Mark Cuban.

Whether he’s on the radio talking about the Mavericks or on Shark Tank speaking to a prospect, Cuban is not bashful about his disdain for PR people. In his book How to Win at the Sport of Business, Cuban wrote, “Startups should never hire a PR firm.”

We suspect that he, many of our colleagues in the media, and possibly my mother don’t know what precisely PR is…so here we go.

“While PR people may have great contacts and they can get articles placed, they are not capable of doing a Vulcan mind meld.” ~Mark Cuban

The guy has a basketball team with a few skilled PR folks, but never mind that because sports. In his mind, PR people are vampires looking to suck the funds from any entrepreneur or executive. Wrong! 

Somewhere in this dank, miserable world of commerce and inventing the technology necessary to stream video for that Internet thing, Mark Cuban was burned by a wretch of a PR practitioner. The same is unfortunately true for many clients, journalists, and even some of our colleagues in the field — the many people who stink prevent us from leaving our own lovely scent in any given conference room.

PR-DefinitionPerhaps they all need to learn how to fill in the blank properly: “PR is _______.” 

story telling.

Our paramount job is to discover the client’s message, find what’s newsworthy in that message, and then share the heart of that message with the media and its audience. From the smallest start-up to the largest company in the world, everyone has a story to share — and most of them rely on skilled PR folks to make sure the message gets heard.


Despite what the gaggle of curmudgeons in the corner office believes, public relations is not a separate job from that of all those social media nerds in the other room. The shouldn’t be jamming to Bob and nurturing digital delusions of grandeur about your (shared) client while you sit in your boring cube. The best PR agencies force those two parties to work together; trust the hybrid here.

prearned and paid

For the longest time, PR differentiated itself as “earned media” while insisting that all “paid media” is advertising. But there are paid options in the digital space that still very much qualify as public relations. From blogger tours to content placement, paid options only enhance the story already being told as a result of a good pitch — and a qualified PR practitioner would know the difference. Yes, there are snake oil salespeople in this business. But having access to those funds should make us a bit more mindful about when and where to spend it all. This isn’t just a roll of the dice.


Oddly enough, this is what inspired the aforementioned conversation. Mark Cuban is a savvy business leader and a great owner of my favorite hoops team (#MFFL), but his perception of this great profession is skewed and he’s eager to share it.  Our clients all have an overall impression they want to convey to their target audiences, and our job is to help them do so with precision and skill. What will the perception of PR be after you show up? Better ask somebody.


You can’t assume you have the skills to ever speak on behalf of a brand or a person without a strategy, because acumen without direction is just a big head full of hot air — and no one likes that guy or gal. Understand what needs to be done, the objectives at hand, and the people who need to be pleased before you act. Mark Cuban probably met someone that went into a gameplan without the proper prep work, but no strategy means no results…and no results means no repeat business.

There are many other words to fill in that blank space, but if you had to choose one, which would it be?

Let us know.