PR for Dummies

By Sylvia Ogilvie, Intern (@sylviaillini)

As the battle between traditional media and social media heats up, a lot of questions are being raised about what effect the outcome of this contest will have on industries beyond the news media realm. One industry of particular relevance to this discussion is public relations.

In the past few weeks, a lot of terms such as “If I can create my own media, why do I even need a PR firm?” and “I could do this myself” have been thrown around. For the sake of Fusion and for my own future career path, I was eager to have some answers and ideas to combat these accusations.

Bob Geller, SVP, engaged both me and fellow intern Samantha Evans in an educational session concerning this very topic. So the question at hand is really this: what does PR bring to a client that the client could not get themselves? There are actually quite a few things, and while it may be true that clients could hypothetically do everything themselves, the level of quality would never even come close to that of a PR firm (or at least a good one, anyway).

First off, the amount of time and effort that goes into generating a buzz for a company and getting its name out there is immense – there are press releases, calls to publications, briefing documents, meetings, spreadsheet building (just to name a few). The PR industry exists for a reason – clients are too busy simply trying to run their companies and stay afloat to even think about how to promote themselves. Just because the option now exists to do it yourself, it does not make it any easier at all to do so.

So now let’s pretend that a company has taken a DIY approach and is going to be self-sufficient, what is the level of quality for that work going to look like? PR firms are completely based around the notion of promoting clients and spreading positive messages about them, in other words – they know their stuff and they know it very well. This talent and skill doesn’t just come with the territory, it takes a lot of time to get to that point of expertise and knowledge. On top of that, over the years PR firms often build relationships with certain reporters, editors and analysts that are essential to making things happen for their clients and getting out the good word.

Not only does it take time, but in order to be successful in PR it takes a certain kind of personality, and a passion for being influential and persuasive. Deciding one day to do your own PR for your company is akin to waking up and deciding to be an NBA player (well, you get the picture). Basically, it’s not the kind of thing that you decide to do and then you can automatically do it well, it really does take time, experience and, most importantly, the inherent ability to work in public relations. So before companies decide to pick up a ball and try to make a half court shot, they need to remember who the real pros are and what it takes to do that.

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