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MythBusters: PR Edition

Published on April 16, 2021 at 9:40 p.m. 
by Taylor Tobin.

Public relations has proven to be a beneficial tool for businesses, organizations and brands to use. However, we often still see myths of the negative side PR can expose when implemented into one’s brand. With some still not being convinced, let’s review a few myths of the public relations industry from the point of view of PR professionals.

Photo by Bank Phrom on Unsplash

Any press is good press
Fact or fiction? This is an idea that has been debated by PR professionals for many years and has repeatedly shown both positive and negative results for the product or company.

The majority of PR professionals tend to disagree with the idea. In a survey conducted by Everything PR, results showed that 92% of PR professionals disagree with the statement that any press is good press.

“Awareness is a crucial baseline for an organization or brand’s ability to drive behavior,” said Louise Oliver, the president of PERITUS Public Relations. “As public relations professionals we have a responsibility to look beyond publicity opportunities and understand how certain coverage can shift momentum or unravel our entity’s hard-earned reputation.”

Oliver explained that PR professionals need to be “good stewards of their values, their mission and stakeholders’ expectations” to help protect and strengthen an organization’s reputation.

Now, on the other end of the spectrum, PR professionals often take and analyze the positive results that any press can provide. In the words of P.T. Barnum, “there is no such thing as bad publicity.”

Dylan Lanas, an assistant account executive at FleishmanHillard, reflected on the recent scandal with Burger King’s tweet on International Women’s Day. Lanas said that the tweet was a form of bad press that had a powerful result for Burger King. Looking back on all of the content aired that day, Lanas noted that Burger King’s controversial tweet was one of the only posts that stood out.

Burger King has thrived by creating a reputation of stepping outside the boundaries in advertising, and Lanas said that when working with PR, it is just as important to “understand your brand” to know what will reach your customer base.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Good products do not need PR
PR professionals focus on sending the right message to the right audience. Any business, organization or brand is able to benefit from a team of PR professionals and the strategies they have to offer.

“Think about brands you look up to,” Oliver suggested. “Chances are they have faced a situation, whether it is a crisis or critical turning point, where their reputation was at stake.”

Resting on one’s own merit is not always the best long-term brand management strategy.

“As communicators we cannot just rely on the legacy of a well-liked or celebrated brand. We have a responsibility to constantly evaluate environmental factors and ensure not just that we are riding on the highs, but are on the lookout for any potential risk that could impact that positive reputation,” Oliver said.

Elon Musk has been recognized as an entrepreneur who eliminated his internal PR team. Musk’s company, Tesla, is a very strong company. But, when the elimination was made, PR professionals began to discuss what the change might mean for the future of communications within the company.

With such a strong brand, Lanas said that Musk’s decision is the exception, but not highly recommended for brands to do.

“PR won’t make a bad product good, but PR can absolutely help good products stand out,” Lanas noted.

Photo by Kate Trysh on Unsplash

PR and advertising are the same thing
Advertising and PR fall under the same overarching umbrella of communications and are often intertwined with one another, but the two hold completely separate roles and responsibilities.

Yvonne Taunton, a public relations specialist at UAB, said, “Advertising is more of a creative approach to building brand awareness; it is a subset of an overall PR campaign or communications plan.”

Advertising focuses on paid media for a specific targeted audience, which is many times included within a communications plan. The two components create a mutually beneficial relationship.

“Within a communications plan, advertising would be part of the strategy,” Taunton said. “For example, if you wanted to place print ads, or social media graphics, that would be underneath the plan’s deliverables.”

Taunton said she likes to think of the two as “cousins.” The two work closely together under the same roof, but focus on different tasks at hand. Public relations focuses on building the reputation of a brand through effective storytelling and pitching to media for earned coverage, while advertising uses visual components and content marketing to keep the audience engaged. When PR and advertising work together, the goals are more easily accomplished and both receive tremendous benefits.

Public relations has proven to be a vital tool for any entity, brand, product or organization. In the words of Bill Gates, “If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on public relations.”

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