by MarkLives (@marklives) Every month we ask a handpicked selection of PR execs to each select ONE feature, news article or research report (accessible online) that they believe their peers would benefit from reading. Next up are Palesa Madumo, Kate Kenny, Reatile Tekateka, Sasha Kupritz and Marisa Louw. Bond, connect, engage, involve, join — welcome to The Interlocker!
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Is Hiring a PR Firm Worth It?
I am instantly attracted to articles that question the need for public relations. And, often, I go to sleep really well at night because there is high praise for our industry and the work we do. However, sometimes, I come across critical analyses as well, and this opinion piece by New York Times best-selling author, Adam Bornstein, who happens to be the founder of a marketing and branding agency, is a must-read and a rude awakening for executives in our industry. He tackles some important issues that I believe don’t just keep us awake at night but our clients, too:
- buzz vs long-term ROI
- PR’s rate of conversion and success vs ‘the gamble’
- PR vanity metrics vs tailored and attentive client servicing (particularly for small budgets), and
- (Most concerning) hiring a PR firm vs creating your own.
Whether we like it or not, these questions are still being thrown at us, which tells us that, even as experts, we need to do a better job of positioning ourselves and creating tangible proof points for our work — and if we aren’t already — to get out of our pat-ourselves-on-the-back comfort zones!
— Palesa Madumo (@PalesaLove) is executive director of strategy of Vuma Reputation Management
I recently read a South African article, Four tips on honing your mental resilience in PR, touching on the need for mental resilience in public relations. It’s a topic I frequently think about as we work in a field that requires a strong emotional EQ, mental stamina and an ongoing positive attitude.
This may be a daunting prospect in light of the needs of constant proactive client service, creativity on call, media rejection and team management — all of which make PR professionals highly adaptable and often ‘jacks of all trades’. We need to be on the pulse of our clients’ varied industries (one minute technical engineering, next minute a new shampoo and hair trends or upcoming government legislation), and up to speed on the brisk speed of media moves and platform changes, while juggling a strong understanding of social media and traditional and non-traditional marketing.
This ‘always-on approach’ also includes constantly looking for opportunities or imaginative PR ideas while ensuring no client crises happen under your watch. Added to this, many of us pros are also dealing with the exhilaration and pressure that comes with pitching to potential clients and coping with the highs and lows of that process.
The article How PR can act on its mental health problems also addresses some of the importance of strong mental resilience, showcasing some statistics regarding this stress on UK professionals while also suggesting means of managing PR pressures. My main pick, the Forbes article, although not a recent one, provides guidance and suggestions for recovering your resilience, a need each of us have when faced with another tough week of PR.
— Kate Kenny (@Katjie24) is strategic content and ideation director at JNPR
PR professionals walk a thin line in harnessing the power of influence while avoiding what News24 editor-in-chief, Adriaan Basson, refers to as the “dark art of spin”. This balancing act remains an ever-present threat to our credibility as trusted advisers in business. As the reputation custodians, we should be the conscience of business and yet we there are many instances where we are found wanting.
The impending lawsuit against Bell Pottinger, filed by leading South African editors, has resurfaced questions around our fundamental purpose as a profession. We are often accused of spin, a term most PR professionals balk at, and the Bell Pottinger saga did us no favours. Despite the negative fallout for our profession, it invites us to look critically at the state of public relations here and abroad. Do we consciously behave ethically and with integrity? We leverage the power of communications to influence behaviour but do we act responsibly in our wielding of that power?
While the scandal was an unwelcome tarring of our industry, it presents an opportunity to assess whether we are in danger of drifting from our noble purpose as communicators in pursuit of headlines, hashtags and shares in an increasingly competitive information market. We must strive to build credibility and accountability.
This headline made me pause and think: Is it the “press” release or public relations being referred to? A press release is just one of the tools PR uses to engage directly with media; PR generates detailed content and authentic engagement.
Does PR exist without relationships with journalists, editors, producers, photographers? PR without press and media relationships isn’t PR, or is it? “Earned media refers to publicity gained through publicity efforts other than paid media advertising, which refers to publicity gained through advertising, or owned media, which refers to branding” (Wikipedia).
The PR industry might not have a global measurement tool but, if social media gives currency to views, likes, shares… and the same data weighs ‘engagement’ as mostly generated through public relations, then there’s still place for the lobbyists, story-tellers, messengers or ‘PRPs’ aka public relations professionals.
The spinoff effect of coverage in ‘traditional’ media (TV, radio, print and digital) is worth much more than a Facebook boost. The PR industry has always been misunderstood and, now with social media planners and content managers getting the bigger piece of the budget pie, I think PRPs need to break through the PR box, embrace culture, show that we are as good at content generation as any other industry and will always be a more trusted source of content, and that editorial, by default, has currency and is measurable. Unlike likes, views or shares.
— Sasha Kupritz is a communications consultant at TenacityPR
A journalist dissects a lousy pitch and a good one
Ragan’s PR Daily
The PR industry seems to struggle to maintain a positive reputation with the media. This is partly due to poor pitching techniques. Take this real-life example as tweeted by journalist Mandy Collins on 22 May 2018: “A Pee Arr has just sent me a grundbreaking [sic] release about the fact that apparently smoking affects non-smokers too. WHO KNEW???!!!”
In this article on Ragan’s PR Daily, two pitches are being evaluated: a bad one and a good one. Why I picked this article, out of dozens on the same topic, is because of its detailed evaluation. It is a must-read for any young PR professional, and some seasoned PR pros may also enjoy a refresher.
The key learnings are:
- Know who you address the pitch to. The journalist has a name, and it is not ‘newsroom’.
- Think like a journalist. Will the readers care about the story?
- Your story must be newsworthy. Often timing is everything. Share the right news at the right time with the right publication.
It is time PR pros learn to do better. Your reputation is at risk and so is that of your client.
PS Another great read is The How Not To Guide To Public Relations.
— Marisa Louw (@marisalouw) is an independent PR practitioner
Launched in 2018, The Interlocker is a monthly newsletter (available as a regular column on MarkLives, too) in which we ask a handpicked selection of PR execs to each select ONE feature, news article or research report (accessible online) that they believe would benefit their peers to read and why. Sign up here!
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