The top three PR & IR misconceptions

Photo courtesy of LollyKnit on Flickr

Photo courtesy of LollyKnit on Flickr

Rob Swystun, Pristine Avdisers

I was talking a while back with a lady who does some pretty elaborate crafts. I can’t actually remember what she makes, but I remember it has to do with knitting … or maybe it was crocheting.

Anyway, she makes these crafts and sells them at Farmer’s Markets and other such places. One particular piece she created was an elaborate angel. It took her ages to complete. She didn’t sell this particular creation, she just displayed it on her table as a way to draw in potential customers.

But one man did offer $200 for it. When she replied that it wasn’t for sale, he pressed on, asking how much she’d be willing to sell it for. Her answer of maybe letting it go for about $1,000 noticeably startled the man.

All he saw was some ornament that the woman worked on as a hobby. What he didn’t realize was that the woman didn’t just use cheap yarn for it, she used high quality yarn and other materials. Even more importantly, he didn’t realize the amount of time she had invested into that angel. The paltry $200 that he offered would barely have covered the materials, she said, never mind getting into the time it took her. He had a misconception that this ornament was just something the woman knocked out as a hobby in no time and that she’d jump at what he probably saw as a generous offer.

To transfer this to the world of PR and marketing, that’s similar to people’s reaction when they look into getting one of those trendy animated explainer videos made. You know the ones. They’re everywhere nowadays. Many people balk at the price tags, which can easily creep up to $15,000 for a jaunty little two-minute video. However, what they don’t realize is that those videos take an entire team to put together and it takes them weeks to do it. They have a misconception that those cutesy animated videos must be a breeze to make. They probably picture one person sitting at a desk knocking it out in an afternoon with some near-magical animating software.

But this post isn’t about those animated videos and it’s not about crafts, either (although if you have any you’d like to share in the comments below, please do). This post is about misconceptions. In particular, it’s about misconceptions in PR and IR, things people think they know but which aren’t actually true. Starting with …

1. Shortcuts

Most people believe the shortcuts in IR and PR are really difficult to find. But, they’re not. If you know the right people, you can get your brand positive news coverage and exposure to millions of people in the snap of a finger.

I’m lying. There are no shortcuts.

Here, have another anecdote: I had a vegetarian friend once who decided he wanted to pack on some muscle so he decided to start eating meat. Much to his chagrin, though, rather than turning into muscle, all the extra calories and protein he was taking in just turned into fat around his waistline.

This happened because he didn’t bother pairing any exercise with those increased calories. He believed if he just started eating meat that it would magically turn into muscle without having to put any effort in aside from masticating and swallowing.

Good PR and IR is like exercise. It takes a lot of effort and a lot of repetition and you have to do the right moves and use the right tools/equipment to get the results you want.

However, the belief in some kind of secret code persists and people will put way too much effort into PR and IR techniques that are easy but are bound to fail rather than ones that have been proven to work but which take the requisite time and effort.

2. Self-Promotional Rhetoric

Unless you’re a pugilist or a rapper, excessively self-promotional rhetoric isn’t particularly useful to you or your company.

Think of it this way, nobody likes listening to a narcissistic individual, so why would anyone want to listen to a narcissistic company?

Members of the media and investors especially don’t want to read any self-congratulatory press releases, over-the-top Facebook posts, smug tweets and arrogant blog posts. They want truth. They want to know how things are really going and they want that information in a straightforward, no-frills manner. (Okay, maybe a tiny bit of frill just so it’s not completely dull.)

And this leads perfectly into the last misconception …

3. Non-Newsworthy Content

Even brand loyalists want to hear news from a brand, and not just fluff. If sales are up, that’s news; if sales are down, that’s news; if your company is opening a new plant, that’s news; if you’re switching cloud computing services … that’s not news. If it’s going to save you some cash or make things better for your customers, maybe put it in your newsletter or post something on social media, but don’t send a press release out thinking any (competent) reporters are going to jump all over that to cover it.

News is pretty easy to discern. Before you send something out that you believe to be news, ask yourself if it affects people. If it affects customers, employees, investors or other stakeholders — either positively or negatively — then there’s a good chance that it’s news and people will want to hear about it. But, if it doesn’t really affect anyone, why would they be interested in hearing about it?

So, to reiterate, three common misconceptions about PR and IR include:

  • believing there are shortcuts to successful PR and IR to exploit;
  • believing self-promotional rhetoric equals PR and IR; and
  • believing every piece of information you have to share is newsworthy.

Avoiding misconceptions about PR and IR is mostly a matter of common sense and accepting that it’s going to take a lot of effort. Go into it with that in mind and you will be on your way to having a successful communications strategy for customers, investors, the media and whoever else your company needs to communicate with.

And if you see that lady with her big, crocheted angel, don’t go offering her a paltry $200 for it, ya cheapskate.

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