What is the Real Value of Public Relations?

March 31, 2010

By Melissa
What is the meaning of coverage in today's PR world?
Every once in a while, a PR professional comes across that Very Special piece of coverage for a client – one that supposedly makes her client “look like” a credible organization. It's that old-school philosophy that some organizations live by – the ones that think the ultimate PR is coverage in the Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, Forbes, etc. But, the question is, what if that coverage has nothing to do with the business the client operates; doesn't position the company as a thought leader; or doesn't even come close to generating leads?
Well, unfortunately that has become the story of some PR lives: Too many PR people are still missing the boat, getting coverage for the sake of coverage without considering the impact each hit has on an organization's sales and marketing strategy, not moving beyond media relations into a wider range of opportunities for companies. In fact, Author Brian Solis talks about this very struggle and the importance of moving beyond media relations in his book “Putting the Public Back in Public Relations.
I've worked with these kinds of PR people. They call the top-tier papers daily trying to capitalize on any kind of coverage they can get for their client regardless of its true benefit. I even worked at an agency once where the CEO pulled my account team in and said, “I don't care how you do it, but I want business press in the next month for this client. Figure it out.” When I questioned why we were taking this strategy, there was no rhyme or reason behind it. The answer was, “Because I said so.”
Let this be a lesson to all the companies out there that wonder how PR is beneficial for their organizations. If you don't feel a difference in leads, industry buzz or increased Web site traffic within six months of employing a PR agency, then go back and evaluate where your PR firm is placing content and coverage. It's probably not in the right place.
The right place is where customers are reading, searching and networking. It's sitting down with a client during the first week of working with them and asking some of the following questions: What are your goals? How can PR help your lead generation and sales activities? Where do your customers tell you they find their information? These questions, along with others, help frame an initial public relations, social media and content marketing strategy that help PR people talk to the right influencers and place content in the right areas. These questions help PR move beyond the “hits just for hits” to the “a client is there because that's where their customers are.”

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