by Charles McAteer
86% of news articles started life in a PR professional’s hands, yet many people don’t really understand what it is that PR professionals actually do. When telling a new acquaintance that I work in the industry I am often met with a slightly confused look, followed by a somewhat sensationalist account of what it is I apparently do.
From eternally swanning around London attending extravagant drink dos (I wish) to outright lying to the media to make “bad” people look good, there are many misconceptions... and several myths. Here I will debunk a few of the most common myths.
“We are all liars”
The art of influence does not include lying. Despite what some believe, most PR practitioners have a moral code. This code was clearly demonstrated last month when a leading City PR firm, Bell Pottinger, was expelled from the Public Relations and Communications Agency (PRCA) for its misconduct. The PRCA announced that Bell Pottinger’s campaign for Oakbay Capital was “likely to inflame racial discord in South Africa” and banned them for five years, regardless of whether they change their name or sell.
Dishonesty and malpractice gets PRs nowhere. We have relationships with a range of people including journalists, clients and stakeholders, which would all break down if we lied. Put simply: lying would tarnish our name in the industry and ruin relationships vital to our work, ultimately rendering us ineffective and therefore unemployable.
“All publicity is good publicity”
This by far has to be the most perpetuated myth about PR: it rolls off people’s tongues as if it were some sort of 21st century proverb. Admittedly I had uttered it a few times before I stepped into this industry.
At times bad publicity has propelled minor celebrities into the limelight and in some unique cases a certain climate has allowed them to stay in that limelight. However, beyond the world of reality TV it is a very different situation: bad publicity is almost always bad and is in fact extremely damaging. If you still think otherwise then maybe have a word with Volkswagen about their emissions scandal. After that particular publicity, the Harris Poll of Americans’ attitudes toward the 100 most visible companies ranked Volkswagen as dead last.
Have a look at Some PR Disasters from 2017
“PR is easy, just do it yourself!”
PR is more than penning a press release. Crafting the right messaging, formulating the correct strategy, and then successfully pitching it to the media to ensure the desired business outcomes is something of an art, an art that we PRs specialise in.
Engaging an agency can provide an outsiders perspective on how you are communicating your message. Often organisations have started to develop their own way of thinking and this “language” will start to creep out to the outside world. Investing in an agency is investing in a pool of diverse creative brain power that you can tap into at any time, ensuring that your organisation can think outside of the box in an agile way.