With the heat in DC nearing 20 degrees above normal today, it’s time to vent! Figuratively, at least… So, let’s get right to it. Here are five myths about public relations – or misconceptions, mistakes and shaky assumptions business owners make at their own peril:
• “PR is a waste of money.” Truth is, positive publicity is a fundamental growth element, and without it your customer base will never expand. Business owners can easily forget that even customer word-of-mouth is actually good publicity by another name. If your small business has a reservoir of goodwill, what steps are you taking to capitalize on that? And it’s not just the obvious attention-getting opportunities that count. Skilled publicists know how to identify and seize openings for publicity that the busy entrepreneur may not see, the way a smart accountant knows how to maximize deductions.
• “Once I get a good spot of PR I can go back to laughing all the way to the bank.” Yeah, try telling that to Toyota. After months of relentless negative publicity, Toyota’s PR efforts to rectify problems from the mass fleet recall seem to have worked, with recent sales rising significantly. Then this happened yesterday, and now Toyota needs another round of smart, aggressive PR tactics to get back on track. Good public relations means never taking your eye off the ball – or tweets, Facebook page, chattering class or whoever is talking about you.
• “My product/service/awesomeness will generate press all on its own.” Possibly, if you are this guy and happen to sell this. But if that’s not you, then you’ll need help. Building positive publicity requires the same immense discipline, passion and resolve as creating a new product or service, since you are essentially generating something from nothing. If you’re not on the radar of reporters and bloggers covering your industry, then you should consider professional advice on how to get there.
• “I went to law school/I kick ass on Jeopardy/I always win arguments; therefore, I will control/intimidate/steamroll any reporter interviewing me.” Most journalists are fair, hard-working and want to deliver thoughtful perspective and comment on interesting issues. While some may have cavalier morality when it comes to ethics, they don’t represent the high standard in their profession. But never forget – just like your aim is to generate commerce, a media outlet’s aim is to generate attention. If you haven’t been media trained before you do an interview, you run serious risk of your answers being twisted into a catchy headline, at your expense. Once it’s printed, you can’t take it back.
• “How hard can it be to write an op-ed/letter-to-the-editor/press release?” Like many things in life, a lot harder than you may think – at least if you want it done right. Many business professionals are excellent writers, but may not know how to identify all relevant stakeholders and use a media platform to make messages resonate with each one.
With these principles in mind, and with the economy on the rebound, now is the best time for business owners to leap ahead of the complacent competition – let clever public relations help fight and win that battle for you.