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  • Writer's pictureSam

PR is useless

“I didn’t see my sales for the month go up, PR is ineffective.”

“Why don’t the media want to write about me?”

Yes, I’ve heard this - fortunately - not too frequently.

PR is in fact useless. As useless as a kitchen tool for an uninterested chef or a swimsuit for someone allergic to water. PR is like your personal dating profile, social media feed, what your friends and acquaintances (even enemies) say about you. All of these elements make up someone’s impression of you, and whether they want to get to know you or just hate you from afar.

It’s the same for businesses, your public perception is built up over time through what you say and do, and who says it about you. Here are some questions that I often think about when working on strategies and stories for clients, and ask them to reflect on as well.

1. Are you able to define yourself or your company in 1-2 sentences?

“How would you describe yourself?”. Perhaps you have been asked this at a job interview or first day at a new job. What you shouldn’t be saying is “I’m a business development manager with over 10 years of experience in the technology sector.” That’s not who you are, that’s what you’ve done. The same applies for a business, people don’t do well retaining the nitty gritty details of your business or service. Rather, they will have an easier time remembering the mission you have, the problem you are solving, and what you stand for. If you can’t do this in a quick minute, chances are you haven’t figured out who you are and what you stand for.

2. Are you speaking about yourself, without thinking about your target audience?

Ever been to a gathering and caught a collective eye roll or sigh when someone continuously dominates the conversation by talking about himself/herself? That’s pretty much social suicide, and has the same effect if you’re a brand trying to sell a product or service. Reaching an audience (or not being an annoyance at a social event) is about having the emotional intelligence to ease up on the self-promotion, listen to others and respond, and address topics that are of common interest.

3. Are you a work in progress?

"I'm a martial artist", said the person who has been attending Muay Thai classes for a year. I'm furrowing my brow at that scenario even as I type this. You know that doesn't create the greatest sense of credibility. Likewise, if your product isn’t ready, it isn’t time to talk about how awesome you are going to be (or already are). That’s great and all, and we all wish the very best for you, but that’s not the best time to start trying to get in the media or showing off. Why? What’s the value in reading about a possible product that may or may not hit the shelves? Timing and accuracy is important when trying to get your message out there, because you want people to be reading about reality, not your hopes and dreams.

4. …or an imagined work of art?

“Nobody’s perfect” - but many think they are. I have personally struggled with clients that have a hard time receiving feedback, whether it’s to change up the content on a website to be more concise or relevant, review the layout of an app, fix up bad grammar, or just to rethink certain product features that may be falling short of standards. Some are resistant to speaking about anything but their own product, essentially acting as super-senior-level salespersons instead of thought leaders and business leaders. When that happens, your contributions to audiences are close to zero and it’s pretty much a given that you won’t hold their attention.

I genuinely don’t think that PR is for everyone, some are not ready to embark on the journey while others are just not interested in seeing beyond day-to-day operations. On the flip side, good PR tells stories that really speak to their readers, gets them thinking about an idea - leaving the page with an ever-growing positive cache of memories about your organisation.

Why did I write this? It’s been on my mind on-and-off over my entire comms career, and I believe it will always be an issue because not everyone approaches building a business with a long-term mindset.

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