Gini Dietrich

What is PR? Tactics a PR Pro Will Use Today

By: Gini Dietrich | May 29, 2013 | 

What is PR? Tactics a PR Pro Will Use TodayRemember a couple of weeks ago that blog post that suggested you use your PR skills when networking?

Remember one of the tips they recommended was to know when it’s appropriate to show your bra strap?

At a networking event. In a business setting. And somehow this is a PR skill?

Clearly, I’m astounded (I’m still not over it), but it got me thinking. Why do people think this is a PR skill?

Seeing Your Name in Lights

I think it goes back to the whole idea that most people think PR is getting your name in the newspaper.

One of my very favorite stories to tell is a prospect called me three days before Christmas a few years ago and said he really wanted our help getting all sorts of media attention for his new product so people would buy it as Christmas gifts for their loved ones.

Never mind the fact most people are finished with their Christmas shopping three days beforehand, I told him the only way he’s going to get media attention that quickly is if he killed someone famous.

And then I quickly backtracked and said, “I don’t recommend that!”

Of course, he got angry with me and muttered something about finding someone who would help him and hung up on me. His story was never told through the media.

I get it. I do. Seeing your name (or your company’s name) in the paper is tangible. You can hold it, feel it, touch it, see it. Your friends and family see it and they mention it to you. It’s a great ego stroke.

What is PR?

But this is only one tiny part of what a PR professional does for an organization.

It used to be we did media relations (or publicity, if you’re so inclined), events, reputation management, investor relations, speaking engagements, issues and crisis management, and that was about it.

Today, however, the job has broadened so wide, we can also be responsible for generating leads, nurturing them, and handing them over to sales to close. We’ve become an investment, instead of an expense.

Some of the things we do include:

  • Develop integrated offline and online marketing plans
  • Content development (white papers, videos, podcasts, blogs, eBooks, webinars)
  • Marketing that content we develop
  • Email marketing
  • On-page search engine optimization
  • Social media
  • Google+ authorship and authority
  • Online reputation management
  • Crisis communications planning and management
  • Employee communications
  • Social media policies
  • Media relations
  • Blogger relations
  • Monitor online conversations
  • Develop online audits
  • Community development and growth
  • Influencer relations
  • Word-of-mouth campaigns
  • Analyze data and web analytics

We take all of those things and we develop a strategy that allows us to generate leads, cultivate and nurture them, convert them to sales (or sales-ready), and consistently measure our efforts to meaningful business goals.

Hiring a PR firm to just get your name in the newspaper is not only short-changing your organization, it’s not cost-effective, integrated, strategic, or smart.

A version of this first appeared in my weekly AllBusiness column. Thanks to Lindsay Olson for the image.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • Right on, it is not only not smart, integrated or strategic but like the pennies you hoped would be the answer to turning  your hydrangeas blue…small change 😉

    • annelizhannan We’ll see if that works! They’re starting to bloom right now and they’re not quite pink and not quite blue.

  • That is so funny Gini… as a reporter I was constantly asked how I/my wife/my kid/my business/etc. could get on the news.  My standard response… with a smile… was basically the same as what you told that client. 🙂
    –Tony Gnau

  • I’m stealing this list.

  • PattiRoseKnight1

    And don’t forget sometimes free therapist (not licensed and much cheaper) LOL.

    • PattiRoseKnight1 No kidding! LOL!!

      • ginidietrich PattiRoseKnight1 dear god yes….

        • LauraPetrolino ginidietrich PattiRoseKnight1 who needs a therapist when you have this blog to come to for help?

  • Fantastic post. We do a lot of things. 😉

  • You left out coffee. Who gets the coffee?
    But seriously I just want my name in the paper kid.
    The more complex the business and the larger the business the need for your list grows in importance.

  • I was meeting with a guy a while back and he was talking about how he wanted to get in the paper more often. He mentioned to me he was thinking of hiring a PR firm to accomplish this.
    I told him I could save him money.  “How?” he asked.
    “Buy an ad.” It is cheaper than hiring a PR firm if your goal is to just be in the paper and it makes me happy.

  • I have a question that might help me understand better the line, if any, between marketing and PR. What would make a PR professional say, “That’s going to be a job for your marketing department” … and what would make the marketing department (or a marketing firm) say, “You are going to need a public relations professional for that…”  Or am I asking an anachronistic question? I ask because I feel like PR and marketing are effectively one now, according to this list.

    • dwaynealicie when you need a Jingle created send to Marketing. When your CEO was arrested in an opium den sting operation you need PR.

      • Howie Goldfarb dwaynealicie Or a crack pipe. Sigh.

    • dwaynealicie It’s definitely blending. Where I see marketing spending more time is on things such as branding, product development, point-of-sale, and ecommerce/shopping cart strategies. Maybe think about it this way: If the job is to communicate directly with the customer/prospect, it’s communications. If the job is to sell, it’s marketing.

      • ginidietrich dwaynealicie Okay. That makes sense and helps.  I’ll be curious to see what they teach us in this Public Relations course I am taking next semester. I’ll share! I have a feeling I will be holding my tongue a lot throughout it.

        • dwaynealicie If you share, I’m going to have a hard time holding my tongue!

        • ginidietrich dwaynealicie if you pass public relations do you take private relations next?

  • So this is actually a really interesting topic and something I struggle with ALOT. Again, so much of our job is actually in educating the client or prospective client about what we do, what we can do for them and why we are a worthwhile investment (and then after that trying to help them understand why that investment needs to be more than $8/hr or the typical $300/month for complete SEO, social media and world domination package, which is what all of the other firms offer here in Tampa…I kid you not). 
    An odd, but interesting trend I’ve seen here is that ALL of the firms are changing their names to ‘advertising’ agencies because people say, well I don’t necessarily need marketing (or pr, or whatever), but I NEED advertising, everyone needs advertising right? (gag, gag, gag) and so that’s how they pull them in. It is easier for them to grasp. I spend this, I get this….less grey…
    Anyway, the problem is that this ‘education’ process is a constant, uphill battle because there are so many other agencies/firms/consultants who will say ‘yes’ to whatever just to get a client’s money. I often tell my prospects “you should hire me not because I say ‘yes’ to everything you want, but because I say no and then tell you what will actually work.”

    • LauraPetrolino I really love what you tell your prospects. A lot. One of the things we’ve started doing is automatically telling prospects we’re not the right fit for them. It’s a very uncomfortable thing to do because we all need to pay our bills. BUT something magical happens when you do that…people want what they can’t have. So when they come back (and if they’re a good fit), we tell them we do things one way and talk them through our process. We rarely compete for business or on price anymore because of it.

      • ginidietrich LauraPetrolino When you set boundaries and manage expectations good things happen.
        Clients and prospective clients should receive push back from us in a professional manner. It is part of how we establish and maintain credibility.

        • Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes ginidietrich It is funny, I often relate client relations to dating. If you set boundaries and expectations from the beginning you are normally able to develop a great, respectful and mutually beneficial (and often long term) client relationship. 
          But if you are an easy slut that puts out in the first five minutes….well, you will be treated as such.

        • LauraPetrolino ginidietrich You’ll get invited to more parties so there is that. 😉

    • LauraPetrolino I think the real problem is clients are told what they need by people who benefit by steering them to what they sell vs what they really need.
      What they really need is a great product/service, great customer service/support at the right price. If you have that you don’t need much of anything. But luckily most brands don’t have all that.
      So definitely advertising is the right call. (ducks)

      • Howie Goldfarb Both points completely accurate. Advertising is right for those clients, and they are also not my client. 
        When I first started my business I wanted to save the world, than I realized that it was only really necessary to put effort into the part of it that actually wanted to be saved. This is a clear example of this.

  • ElissaFreeman

    Firstly? I’m VERY annoyed about the bra strap comment…esp after my demonstration photo o posted on twitter for all the world to see!! Hhmph! But seriously…maybe it’s the NAME of our profession that needs changing.  I kid you not.  How many posts do we read and write trying to explain PR?  Maybe we should call it: “Work That Cool People Do.”

    • ElissaFreeman I have a really nice purple bra strap all ready for the conference in Ottawa this weekend. 😉

    • ElissaFreeman I am with you. From now on, we shall be called “work that cool people do.”

  • susancellura

    I wonder if the PRSA took your list into account when they decided to define public relations?  😉

    • susancellura Um, I can guarantee the answer to that is no. I participated in that process, in the hopes of seeing some change. Alas.

      • susancellura

        ginidietrich Oops! Didn’t mean to step on toes. I do think many of us were disappointed with that outcome. However, I like what you wrote and use many of those details in my descriptions when speaking to people about what they need vs want and what I can do to help them.

  • Hey – I guess you could hire me after all, I can do a few of those things you mentioned 🙂
    Besides, my secret weapon is when I untuck my shirt and tug down at my pants so you see the waistband of my boxers.  It’s pretty irresistable, I mean it works .67% of the time all the time.  Ok, it doesn’t work at all. Screw finacial services, I’m ready to be a stripping PR pro!!

    • TonyBennett A stripping PR pro! Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new revenue source!

  • 90 percent of my extended family members STILL don’t know what I do for a living, and I’ve been doing this for the better part of a decade. So I’ve basically given up trying to explain.
    Them: Oh, so you write stories for the newspaper?
    Me: Yes. I write stories for the newspaper. *takes another swig of hard liquor*
    I think I will just send this link to them. Thanks for writing it.

    • bradmarley My sister had my nieces and nephew draw on dish towels for me for Christmas. Their instructions were to draw what I do for a living. One is of me sitting on top of a computer, another is of me walking JB, another is of me riding my bike, and another is the cover of Marketing in the Round and an arrow to it that says, “By Gini Dietrich.” So yeah…they don’t know either.

      • ginidietrich At least they were in the ballpark.

  • I work in the field of online marketing, not PR, but I also get a fair amount of “3 days before Christmas” clients that are looking for a quick fix when what they really need is a plan.  I wonder if most “intangible” service professions (not places like Les Schwab) have trouble making other people understand what they do.

    • fieldsf It’s funny…I often wonder the same thing. People get lawyers and accountants, but not other service businesses.

  • CommProSuzi

    I often refer to PR as the filling in an Oreo. Advertising (the cookie) is easy for people to grasp, but describe the filling. Public relations completes the marketing plan.

    • CommProSuzi That is a great description! And the filling is the yummy part, too!

  • Good stuff, I feel like we’re repeating a lot but apparently it’s still gotta be done!
    One add: as you and the SS crew point out when it comes to social media, it’s better to know your strengths, you do not have to dip into everything. Same goes for PR. A company that isn’t committed to doing it right shouldn’t do it halfway, because the impression a potential client / stakeholder gets from that experience isn’t something you can fix easily.

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