MYTHS AND FACTS ABOUT PR
Urban myths, presented as fact, thrive on the Internet. Tales of freakish deaths, vicious crimes and heart-wrenching scenarios spread like wild fire. The most popular myths become viral sensations, quickly circling the globe through e-mail and social media. Many people fall prey to the tales and believe them. On a much smaller scale, a number of myths circulate about the profession of public relations. Some have a basis in fact or may have been true in another era but no longer apply. Here are some top picks of public relations myths or misconceptions that don’t hold up to scrutiny.
- Myth No. 1: Any PR is good PR: Where in the world did this ridiculous, yet popular, school of thought originate? Given the choice of no coverage versus national coverage that portrays my firm in a bad light, I would always opt for no coverage. Public relations of the negative variety can be destructive, brand tarnishing and irreversible.
FACT:PR needs to be positive to generate interest in your company, to create buyers and develop loyal customers. Negative PR may draw attention, but it won’t make them jump on board with whatever you’re selling.
- Myth No. 2: Advertising and public relations are one in the same: Though they are commonly used synonymously, advertising and public relations are vastly different. Advertising is a paid placement with a controlled message. Those purchasing the advertising control virtually all aspects — the message, appearance, size and timing. Consumers know when they are reading an advertisement that they’re trying to be sold a product or service.
FACT: PR campaigns are persuasive and often communicate messages through third parties, like newspapers, magazines, TV and radio. There is no obligation by the media to use information submitted via news releases or media kits. Because any resulting coverage is free, there is no control over the content, timing or placement.
Advertising and public relations each create an image in the marketplace, yet they require different strategies to complete successfully. Since PR practitioners seek a third-party endorsement, the message of the campaign is often deemed as more credible in the public eye.
- Myth No. 3: PR professionals are just gloried spin doctors: In general, PR professionals loathe the word “spin” because it implies disingenuous, deceptive and/or manipulative tactics.
FACT: When working with the media, PR practitioners promote story angles that provide a benefit to their clients’ target markets and the news audience. They are trained to identify newsworthy opportunities for different types of media outlets and news formats
- Myth No. 4: “Legitimate” media snub PR: Urban legend will tell you that journalists and PR have a contentious, you-need-me-more-than-I-need-you relationship.
FACT: On the contrary, much of the news coverage read in the newspaper, heard on the radio and seen on television has its origins in public relations materials sent to the media by organizations and corporations that want to promote their causes, products or services.
- Myth No. 5: Every fact reported in the media is checked and verified: The reality is most PR materials are printed with almost no verification.
FACT: The media simply doesn’t have enough people or money to check every fact. If the material is edited, it’s usually for style, grammar and space limitations, not to add or verify factual content.
According to the Huffington Post, in traditional media, trust in news was established by ethical behavior, like good intent backed up by checking the facts. Distrust in the press grows when traditional journalistic values, like fact-checking, are forgotten.