The Most Common Myths about Public Relations

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You're exposed to the fruits of public relations every day, in every medium -- TV, newspapers, radio, Facebook, Twitter, and magazines. It's a growing profession and never have so many people been in the public eye in so many different ways.

Yet public relations is still more art than science. There are many myths and misconceptions about PR that are not only wrong but, in many cases, dangerously wrong. Here's a list of the most common myths about public relations.

Any Press Is Good Press

There's an old saying, "As long as you spell my name right." The idea being that any ink is good ink, that just getting your name out there, and breaking through, is a benefit that outweighs any negative content in a story. This is an enduring public relations myth. It's also a losing strategy.

PR Is All About Press Releases and Press Conferences

"Press release" and "press conference" are the two phrases that clients and bosses know. They will use those phrases. Often. And this is bad. Bad for you, if you're doing the work because press releases are over-used and often the wrong tool for the job.

Bad for your client or boss, because press conferences should be rare and reserved for the biggest possible events. If you hold press conferences all the time, reporters won't show up. Public relations today is an ever-changing field, with more and more communication happening online in YouTube videos, Twitter, and blogs.

Once You Break Through with Publicity, You're Golden

Say you did a viral video and got a million hits, or wrote the most amazing press release the world has ever seen and newspapers all over the world picked it up. One big hit in the media isn't enough.

It's like music. One-hit wonders are common. They skyrocket to the top and just as quickly, they crash to earth. The tough part for rock bands -- and any public figure or organization -- is a steady success.

Publicity Is Free and Easy

We all drive cars. That doesn't mean you should hire your neighbor to fix your Chevy's engine. Not when your competition is using a trained mechanic. And there's a lot of competition with public relations.

Most organizations are trying to get coverage in the media. Most people doing public relations full-time are experienced professionals who used to work at newspapers, TV or radio stations, and the ones who didn't often got degrees in journalism or public relations. So it's smart to have the best possible person doing the job -- or if you do it yourself, to study up and talk to pros before you dive in.

You Need to Hire an Expensive PR Firm

For many individuals, small business owners, and people just trying to break through -- whether it's in politics, entertainment or professional sports -- hiring an expensive PR firm is not an option. The budget isn't there. But there are other options.

Good Products Don't Need Publicity - - Only Bad Products Do

Even if what you're doing is innocent -- puffing up a bad product while ignoring your good products -- that's an odd and unproductive strategy. You want people to know about your best product. You should be proud of it and making it the centerpiece of any publicity or marketing campaign.

Saving PR only for bad products means few will trust what you say if you finally decide to do publicity on your good products. In their head, they'll have made the link: whatever these people try to pump up is garbage, so if they're pumping this widget up, it's also garbage.

Public Relations Can't be Measured and Is Therefore Worthless

Public relations isn't like baseball. There aren't statistics for when you succeed and when you don't. Some people and organizations do try to quantifying public relations, but that's like trying to nail jelly to the wall.

You can try to compare earned media to an equivalent amount of advertising. Yet earned media is far more credible -- and effective -- than ads. You can't pin that down as a number.

PR Means Schmoozing and Controlling the Press

The worst thing you can do is tell a reporter to not cover a story or to stop digging. That's a flashing neon sign that says, "There is journalistic gold buried here! They're hiding something really juicy -- dig dig DIG!"

You can't control the press. The press isn't a monolithic institution anyway. Public relations is about communicating with the press and public in a smart, effective way.

Only Ex-Reporters Can Do It

In public relations, there's no professional license or test to pass. The profession is growing, as the demand for information grows. There are more public relations jobs in business, entertainment, politics, non-profits, and government.

Organizations of all types are seeing the benefit of communicating with the press and public, and they're doing it in more ways than ever: websites, blogs, Twitter, radio, Facebook, print, e-mail, Youtube videos, and television.

Public Relations is Spin, Slogans, and Propaganda

Propaganda is manipulating people to do something that's not in their best interests, and it's usually the tool of a state, used along with censorship and fear. Public relations pros avoid spin, slogans, and propaganda techniques.

Today's audience has never been more sophisticated, and there have never been more alternative sources for news and information. A lot of public relations is simply making life easier for busy clients and journalists.