The Biggest PR Myth is That PR Doesn’t Matter

by Linda Pophal

A journalist asked me recently, “What is the one biggest PR myth that you hear over and over?” Here’s my answer:

I think the biggest myth about public relations that I continue to hear is that PR is becoming less valuable, or valued, in this social media era, and that social media will eventually take the place of PR. That sentiment, I believe, is patently untrue. In fact, I think the situation is exactly the opposite. Why? Because there will always be a demand (and a need) for content curators—gatekeepers who determine what is valuable to a particular audience. In fact, as social media becomes more prevalent, I believe that the demand for these gatekeepers—and the need for more traditional PR activities among those looking to build credibility and thought leadership—will continue to grow.

I write and speak frequently on marketing communication-related topics, and I generally explain this by outlining the four ways in which consumers are influenced about a company, product or service:

  1. Through their own experiences
  2. Through recommendations from others (word-of-mouth)
  3. Through what they read or hear about companies, products, services and service providers via various trusted media channels (e.g. PR)
  4. Through these organizations’ and individuals’ own advertising, which includes both traditional (paid) advertising and, increasingly these days, content marketing

Consumers are understandably a little skeptical about what businesses, or service providers, say about themselves. Consumers are more likely to believe third-party coverage of a company or its products/services (PR), the recommendations of others, or their own experiences. For example, I can say that I’m really good at content marketing, but that doesn’t mean as much as someone else saying that I’m good at content marketing. And if that someone else writes or reports for a highly-regarded media outlet, his or her opinion is even more influential. The same is true of my clients’ positive experiences with Strategic Communications; word-of-mouth referrals drive a great deal of our work.

While all of this may seem logical to those of us “in the field,” I recognize that it’s not always easy to convince organizational leaders, or clients, of the value of various communication channels, especially PR. If you’re trying to convince someone of the benefit of PR, do so in the same manner that you might demonstrate the value of paid advertising or social media efforts: point to real, relevant results.

That doesn’t mean the number of news releases sent, contacts made with reporters, or even media placements generated. It means real, bottom-line results. Demonstrate to your clients or your company that the PR activities you’ve undertaken have generated some desired outcome (inquiries, leads, sales, etc.). Pointing out its power is best way to help squash the myth that PR is going away, or diminishing in value. It’s not.


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