In this guest piece, Patrice Pandeleos, general manager of Kite Communications, looks at the misconceptions of the Public Relations industry and aims to wrap up the most common perceptions versus reality.
After 15 years working in media buying agencies and major networks, it was a big decision to head into the world of PR. When I first told my friends and colleagues that I was going to a PR agency I was faced with a surprisingly difficult question to answer – what exactly does a PR agency do?
Perceptions of what a PR agency does are arguably out-dated amongst the broader industry. With all of this in mind, I thought I would aim to bust misperceptions of ‘PR’ following three months on-the-job as general manager of Kite Communications.
Perception one: All PR people do is write press releases
Reality: With the declining size of newsrooms across the country and the 24-hour news cycle, ‘PR people’ do not simply write press releases and send them to journalists.
Communications professionals are talented storytellers who get inventive to create new news – this could be through a content series, activation, third-party research, new technology or social media campaign.
Perception two: PR is free
Reality: Earned media and some influencer engagement might not be paid for, but they do require an investment to achieve. Creating clever stories that reach the right audiences not only requires a dedicated and smart-thinking team, but also an investment to create and execute.
Perception three: PR is the poor cousin within the agency landscape
Reality: Advertising, media buying and PR agencies all compete for the following work: content creation, social media, digital, in-program branded content, and paid-for native and editorial content.
What sets a PR agency apart from the others? Our innate ability to create messaging and narratives that resonate.
Perception four: PR people are spin-doctors
Reality: Before I worked in the industry, the very words public relations used to conjure up images of spin-doctors trying to twist the truth. The real truth is that PR is not just about damage control or stunts.
Each day we authentically build brands, manage brand reputations, and we provide strategic advice to help companies with their bottom line.
Perception five: Anyone can do it
Reality: PR is a specialist skill and requires a specialist to execute. You may have an understanding of strategy and your audience, but do you have the time to do it properly? Have you got all the relationships with media? Are you good at crafting a story? Do you understand what each journalist is after from a story?
Do you understand the audience that you are speaking to in each publication? Do you know the difference between how to pitch to a broadcast channel versus a print publication? Do you understand the tone of each publication? I could go on, but it’s best I leave it there.
Perception six: PR is a dying industry
Reality: PR is a rapidly evolving industry and the only thing that will die is the term public relations. As it should. Why? Because we’re no longer just doing ‘PR’.
We’re doing strategic planning, business planning, portfolio management, communications planning, integration, digital, social, content, SEO and paid media. Oh, and we’re managing all the messaging, too.
Perception seven: PR people are so ‘Ab Fab’
Reality: Yes, for some, ‘PR’ conjures up images of Patsy and Eddy from Absolutely Fabulous! In PR or communications, we’re the first people the CEO, CMO, MD or GM call when they have an issue, crisis or business problem that needs to be addressed and managed publicly.
Perception eight: All PR people do is go to lunch and schmooze with journalists
Reality: I wish this were the case! The truth is I’ve lost five kilos since moving from advertising into PR, because I’ve cut down on lunches out to schmooze with media owners! Now I spend more time on my feet facilitating strategy workshops or walking across the city to meet clients and potential Kite hires!
Perception nine: Social media doesn’t sit with PR
Reality: Disagree. We are storytellers and brand custodians. No other agency has a better understanding of the audience and the distinctive skill to create newsworthy and timely content. Consumers don’t want to see traditional ads in a non-traditional environment.
Perception ten: PR people aren’t accountable for anything
Reality: This is my favourite misperception. Almost all my media friends told me how lucky I was that I wouldn’t have to do any reporting when going into the PR industry. Just like our friends in advertising, we set KPIs for our campaigns up front and just like in advertising they are based on reach, frequency, awareness, engagement and – where relevant – ROI.
More often than not, our KPIs are to create conversations, shift brand perceptions and change consumer behaviour. And how often do advertisers tell you that WOM advertising is still the most powerful form of advertising?!