History is replete with examples of factually incorrect moments that people have come to hold as the truth. This often happens because a frequently repeated, but unproven supposition eventually becomes an indisputable fact to many people.
Public relations professionals are not immune from falling prey to unproven facts and half truths. I'd like to take a few minutes now to examine some common suppositions that PR pros are familiar with, and give them a dose of the truth treatment.
Old belief: Any publicity is good publicity.
Current: Non-controversial coverage helps clients.
Should Be: Only positive publicity with client’s message points included helps clients.
Old belief: “Shotgunning” press releases are certain to insure good pick-up.
Current: A major media “hit” is good publicity.
Should Be: A major media “hit” without client message points is not good publicity.
Old belief: The longer the story, the better the placement.
Current: A “hit” in a prestigious outlet is a home run.
Should Be: A few words identifying the client without containing message points is worthless.
Old belief: The more clips, the more successful a publicity campaign.
Current: It’s the quality of the newspapers, not the number of papers that are important.
Should Be: Targeted media with message points is what’s important.
Old belief: Getting a story in a major publication means a client will be happy.
Current: Not all major publications are equal in a client’s mind and often a smaller story in the “right” section of a publication will be appreciated more than a longer story in the “wrong” section.
Should Be: Targeted media with message points are what are important.
Old Belief: During a PR crisis situation, the CEO or president of the company must be the spokesperson.
Current: The media is not influenced by the title of the spokesperson.
Should Be: The best spokesperson is an individual who knows all the aspects that caused the situation.
Old Belief Get stories in secondary publications to build the placement report.
Current: Social media is as important as traditional media.
Should Be: Stories in prestigious publications with message points that the C-suite reads, like the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Business Week, USA TODAY, trade and professional publications or mass circulation magazines are most important to clients.
Old Belief: Count on the wires services to disseminate your releases.
Current: Public relations firms use “in house journalists” to write news releases and post them on web sites.
Should Be: Stories in prestigious publications, with message points, that management reads, like the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Business Week, USA TODAY, trade and professional publications or mass circulation magazines are most important.
Old Belief: Clients should respond to the media ASAP following a PR crisis.
Current: Too often the same as the old belief.
Should Be: Respond to the media only when the facts of the situation are clear. (Until then, statements like. “We’ll answer all questions when we have the facts.”)
Old Belief: Crisis experts know best how to navigate a PR crisis.
Current: Same as above.
Should Be: What crisis experts suggest has little affect on media coverage.
Old Belief: Good results on an account are important to your advancement.
Current: But not as important as profits on an account.
Should Be: Do what’s right for your client and good things will accrue to you and the agency.
Old Belief: Doing a good job is the most important aspect of keeping a client.
Current Belief: Good client relations will assure keeping a client.
Should Be: Making a client look good to his boss is the most important aspect of keeping a client.
Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications, consults on public relations projects and is on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.