Debunking common PR myths
I’m sure many PR professionals will agree; public relations is one of the most misunderstood of industries. When I ask friends and family if they know what I do, I’m usually met with: “You try to convince the public that we should buy things we don’t actually need/believe things that aren’t true/trust organisations that aren’t trustworthy.” We are no strangers to misconceptions and stereotypes.
Some may visualise careers similar to Samantha Jones in Sex and the City, while others seem convinced we are event planners, wicked spin doctors or even celebrity publicists. In fact, Bill Gates once said: “If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on public relations.” This quote clearly highlights the power of PR. However, there are unfortunately still many misconceptions of the industry we work in. Ironically, this could be due to the fact that PR hasn’t had such good PR over the years.
So, in this blog, I’ll aim to debunk some of the most common myths about the industry and show why it’s so much more than Samantha Jones portrays!
Myth 1: PR is easy
One of the biggest myths about PR is that is easy, which usually stems from people’s misunderstanding of what PR is and what a PR campaign comprises. PR isn’t just firing out press releases. It involves crafting messages that will resonate with both your target audience and industry influencers; it requires creativity in aligning your client’s voice with topical issues; and it should always be part of a strategic plan that supports business objectives.
PR requires you to constantly be aware of how people are thinking, interacting and talking about your client and their brand. It takes a lot of hard work, attention to detail and time to build a positive image and reputation, and often the coverage you see is the result of months of effort behind the scenes.
Myth 2: PR is slogans, spin and propaganda
Propaganda has been around for hundreds of years, and is typically used as a form of persuasion to influence people’s attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours. It can be defined as the spreading of ideas, information, or rumour for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person. Spin is inherent in propaganda, but shouldn’t be present in PR. As professionals we hold ourselves to high ethical standards and avoid slogans, buzzwords and propaganda techniques at all costs. In fact, PR practitioners are held to codes of ethical and moral professional conduct.
Audiences today have never been more intuitive or switched on. Thanks to the explosion of social media there are now countless alternative sources for the public to gather information from, meaning they are less easily fooled by biased or ethically questionable content. At Babel, we engage in authentic and honest communication with our clients to achieve their goals through two-way conversations and interactions. Transparency is also key when communicating our clients’ messages, and we work closely with them to make sure content is accurate and effective. In essence, PR is far more than just spin, slogans and publicity stunts.
Myth #3: PR is all boozy lunches and glitz and glamour
Finally, many people think it’s prosecco, canapes and long lunches. I’m sorry if this comes as disappointment, but public relations is a highly strategic profession built on trust, knowledge and relationships.
We see ourselves as an extension of our clients’ business, which means our days are varied. Sometimes we spend our day with our clients to gain first-hand experience of the company and the people that make it a success. Other days we challenge, evaluate, create content, brainstorm, pitch, report and monitor. While there is undoubtedly a social element, and building relationships with journalists is an integral part of our role, PR is so much more than that, and so much more than just smoke, spin and mirrors.
There’s nothing quite like working in public relations. I hope that debunking some of these myths will help you better understand PR and, more importantly, how it can be used as an incredibly effective tool to help your business reach greater levels of success.