PR is not the Single Greatest Marketing Tool

This article on public relations from Forbes.com: The Single Greatest Marketing Tool, it is depressingly full of unsubstantiated criticism and misunderstandings about the nature of what PR actually is and can do.  This starts with a definition by its author, Lisa Lamotta:

“public relations”–the discipline of shedding a benevolent light on a person, company or cause, mainly by tapping the news media

She also writes about PR practitioners that “most aren’t very good at what they do” and “PR types often promise more than they can deliver”.  So her advice includes reference to DIY:

For starters, you’ll need a press kit. Most of that material will end up in reporters’ garbage bins, but a rare few might grab their attention.

or working with “interns looking to pad their résumés at rock-bottom rates”.

I would expect to see better consideration of public relations on any small marketing agency’s website, not on a website which claims to target the “world’s business leaders”.

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Heather Yaxley

Heather Yaxley is passionate about PR - teaching the CIPR qualifications, lecturing part-time at Bournemouth University and running the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA). I'm undertaking a PhD looking at Career Strategies in PR. I love sharing ideas and knowledge - connecting news and views by blogging on public relations and educational developments, especially relating to accelerated and active learning. I'm also a published author, qualified trainer and experienced consultant.

4 thoughts on “PR is not the Single Greatest Marketing Tool”

  1. I agree, most press kits are a waste of time and get tossed by reporters and most PR people are low level hacks. Sad but true. That’s why good PR people stand out. Forbes tells it like it is.

  2. I don’t think this really does tell it like it is, since it adds nothing of any value. Indeed, it seems to say there is a lot of poor PR work, so do it yourself or employ a student on the cheap and do it as bad as everyone else. There is more to PR than press agentry and such articles do nothing to help business people identify the good ones. I’m not disputing there is a lot of poor PR work (as per poor journalism too), but it would be good to have seen a better article on the fuller scope of how PR is.

  3. Public relations is difficult to define. The most simple, yet inaccurate, way of referencing PR is by making it synonymous with tactical activities like generating press releases, coordinating messaging offered to the media and creating press kits. Of course, this is an analysis from someone outside of marketing communications.

    As a profession, the real aim of PR is to be strategic and fit communications into an organization’s overall growth and business objectives. If approached properly, PR and the communication tools that it may lead to, like media kits, can actually be of value. Hopefully that isn’t too shocking …

    Bottom line, PR can be approached and executed terribly, removing much of its value. Showering the world’s journalists with your organization’s press kit, for example, probably isn’t a worthwhile investment. But being able to offer a member of the media scheduled to interview a organization’s leader background information about the organization’s history, goals and culture may actually be helpful.

    PR isn’t for all organizations, and practicing certainly PR isn’t for everyone either. Small business owners shouldn’t have to pretend to be communication experts or lower there standards to meet their budget. The ROI just won’t be there … but all the overwhelming generalities will.

  4. Lorena – thanks for your views. I agree that the tactics of PR are often what is most easily understood by those outside the profession – and also that done well, there is nothing wrong with the tactics, particularly when they are derived as part of a strategic approach.

    It is such a shame when it is the smaller businesses who would benefit from understanding how to build their reputation, establish valuable relationships and avoid risk and crisis, who get the DIY or off-the-shelf PR solutions (such as the $20 press release you covered).

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