Five Public Relations Myths

When I tell people I’m in public relations, I often wonder how they picture my day. One day, I actually asked a friend what she thought I did. Boy was I in for a surprise! She told me she thought I had a (as in just one) client that I would call the media for, the media would report what I told them and I would go home successful every day. While I hate to tell her otherwise, because she’s in awe of my job, that’s not how my day looks – ever.

Public relations isn’t a one trick pony. It’s a multifaceted field that requires education, research, training, research, practice and consistency. While there are myths about what public relations is, there are as many myths about what public relations is not.

Shawn Paul Wood wrote a great article for PR News on the top seven myths in public relations. I’ve taken the five ideas and myths for the remainder of my post from Wood’s article.

  1. Any press is good press. I hear this a lot, okay, a whole lot, from everyone who learns I’m in public relations. This is public relations myth is simply not true, especially when it comes to a crisis or a bad review. Wood states: “Prior to contrary opinion, people actually read the article (for which, our friends in the media thank you). And that’s where we discover not all headlines create smiles or profit. Want to change this? Quit embracing bad news.”
  2. The media release works, every time. While a release is a tried-and-true tool of the public relations professional’s toolbox, editors typically only read the headline.Wood adds, “It’s the story, the content, the news they want, not your press release. … if you want the media to love them, do them correctly — short, sweet, and tell a story.”
  3. PR drives sales. Wood defines this as a half-myth. While a public relations professional is hired for the 3Ps – promotion, publicity and position – you shouldn’t hire a public relations professional to solely drive sales. However, a strategically placed story in a national publication can help increase a company’s sales. “Any good PR pro offers a sales force excellent tools to make the money,” said Wood. “They are called headlines.”
  4. Anyone can do it. Hearing this always hurts. Wood even calls it “one of the largest offenders out there.” In all honesty, a career in public relations requires dedication, good research, top-notch writing and exquisite story telling abilities. Wood believes if this myth were true, few people would leave agencies and get burned out. He adds, “The majority of society can’t do this, but it sure is nice to have a few who can.”
  5. Publicity is all about luck. I’ve heard this quite frequently lately, yet I still don’t understand why success with the media must be about luck. News is going to happen, regardless of if you’re pitching it or not. You might as well do your best for your client by taking the time to find the right reporter for your story. Wood concludes this myth with this piece of advice: “Our job is to serve our clients in ways they couldn’t help their business without us. That’s why our cardinal rule is discover conversations where no one is talking. Sure, timing has a little to do with it, but mainly it’s finding the time to tell the right story to the right people.”

After all the myths and confusion over what I do, I certainly wouldn’t trade my job for anything. Have you heard any myths about public relations? If so, leave a comment and let us know!