What is the difference between PR and publicity?

If PR is media coverage, what is publicity?

This is a question I’ve asked both industry peers and customers alike.  While it’s a rhetorical question with customers, I’m always hopeful that somebody in my industry can explain it to me.  Either that, or they’ll realize that what most ‘PR’ firms sell isn’t public relations at all – it’s publicity.

Most of the time my question is met with silence.  It’s an awkward silence when the conversation is face-to-face and when the conversation is online I get no response.

I thought I’d ask it again today.  The topic of the Future of Communications was being discussed at an event in London, England and so I hoped somebody might be able to offer an answer.  I was disappointed, again.  Or perhaps I wasn’t.

The best I got was from John Brown, Hotwire PR’s Head of Engagement [also known as @brownbare on Twitter] – and it was remarkably honest.

John Brown Hotwire PR Publicity

He’s right.  It’s something I’ve long said.  The problem is that publicity, or awareness, is what most PR firms charge thousands of dollars per month to deliver for their customers.  And now John Brown says it has no real purpose, other than excruciating indulgence.

When I suggested PR was about building and maintaining relationships John was equally candid:

John Brown PR Bollocks

He went on to explain, when I cited the PRSA definition, crowdsourced from PR industry ‘pros’ that people where talking about Google + in 2012.  It’s perhaps worth pointing out that some people still are – and I’m one of them.

So, if PR isn’t about relationships and publicity has no value, what exactly is it that most PR and publicity firms do?  What is their value proposition?  How are they justifying their expensive retainer fees?

Ah, I know… they’re content marketers these days! And, it’s all about storytelling and engagement.

 

 

Relationships Are Complex

I was told last week that building relationships and hustle were synonymous – and I think it’s important to address the myth.

Relationships are complex.  They are made up of a combination of words and actions; non-verbal cues and involuntary responses.  In most cases our brains see, process and respond far more quickly than we are consciously aware of – whether to respond to romantic approaches or to remove ourselves from situations that we feel uncomfortable in. Very few relationships are established and maintained by a prescribed set of words, actions and behaviours.  The process is as complex and individual as the people involved in a relationship.

Many of the skills we use to build and maintain personal relationships are innate.  They’re unlearned.  Others are picked up from our life experiences and from the norms  of the company we keep.

This applies to our business relationships as much as it does our personal ones.  Hustle plays a role – whether it’s talking to the guy or girl you like the look of in a bar or at a party, or starting a conversation with a potential investor or prospect.  But building a relationship based on trust and respect is a complex process that involves a combination of real-time interactions and a longer-term ‘dance’.  It involves both verbal and non-verbal cues, behaviours… it has ups and downs… it requires subtlety… it requires influencing third-parties [on both sides] and, ultimately, must be mutually beneficial.

Hustle will only get you so far.

How To Measure Success of Public Relations

Ask most PR professionals and they’ll tell you that measuring the value of public relations is hard to express.  As a result, they’ll say, it’s hard to be specific about the value they deliver.  The return on your investment is affected by so many variables it is hard to be able to give you tangible outcomes.

It’s all a lie.  Here’s how to measure the success of public relations.  It’s all in the strength of the relationships build or maintained as a result of your PR activities. We do it every day in our private lives, so why do we find it so difficult to do it in our businesses?

Think about the most important people to your business right now.  Do you have relationships with them at all?  If not, they score a zero.

Of the people you have relationships with how strong are those connections?  Would they drop everything to help you if you asked them to?  Would they willingly do everything within their power to help your business overcome its current challenge?  Will they go to bat for you if you needed them to? Will they introduce you to people within their network that may have a need for your product or service? Will they testify to your credibility or vouch for the quality of your work?

If they would then score those relationships a 10.

If they’re not a 10 then you need to figure out where on the scale they are currently.

Perhaps they’re a new connection that will help you with advice, or will provide feedback on your product development.  They might be willing to introduce you to people that are potential customers or partners, but won’t provide a reference or testimonial.  They will help if they can, but you can’t guarantee they’ll come rushing in an emergency.  Would they help if they really were your last hope? What incentive would you need to offer in order to get them to help your business if you needed them to? Do you have direct access to them? Who are the people that you rely on to give you the access you need? Do you loose access to these people without the intermediary?

Make a list of the top ten people your business needs relationships with and score them, between 0 and 10, based on these criteria.  Having benchmarked the relationships that are most important to your business achieving its next milestone you can develop a PR programme designed to build, strengthen, or maintain these relationships.

Measuring the success of your PR activities can then be tracked, based on whether these relationships strengthen, weaken or whether you are able to maintain them until you have achieved your desired outcome.  If you reevaluate each of your ten most important relationships every 30 days you can quickly see the impact that public relations is having on your business.

Startup and SmallBiz PR and marketing tip: benchmark relationship strength and build a plan to ensure you have the ones you need in place.

Public Relations, Tesla, PR, PR Strategy, Value Proposition, Startups, Startup, Smallbiz

How To Sell Your Product or Service Like Elon Musk

When I work with entrepreneurs I ask them repeatedly to tell me what their business does.     In the majority of cases they talk about feature and function, rather than about the value it delivers to their customers. It’s often the biggest hurdle to growing a business.

An effective value proposition focuses on the value to the customer.  It understands the problem that a product or service solves. Why? Because if you can prove a value over and above the sticker price the question of price tends to be a secondary consideration [this presumes the prospect can afford the price – a question of finding the right audience].

Let me give you an example.  Tesla announced yesterday it will launch a $35,000 electric vehicle in 2017.  Its current Model S sells for anywhere between $60,000 and $110,000. When customers talk about price what do you think the sales representative says?

“Imagine if you never had to buy gas again”.

Gas, the great variable in owning a car right now.  Let’s say you spend $100 a week on gas…

$400 a month. $4800 a year. $24000 over a five year period.  The car suddenly starts to look less expensive.  Factor in that gas prices will fluctuate – and are likely to continue rising…

You also have no expensive trips to the Shop for repairs.  No fluids. No oil changes.

Elon Musk is thinking about the perceived value to prospective customers and is looking at the total cost of ownership of a vehicle, rather than just the sticker price.  When you think about your product or service, consider what your customers will value most – and sell it to them.

PR Espresso, THINK PR Espresso, Startup, Smallbiz, PR Strategy

Things Can Go South On Social Media. Quickly!

Earlier today I wrote a post about best practice on social media.  I should have known better!  If you want an example of how quickly perceptions can change on social media, check this out!

Having published my original post I tweeted, “We may disagree about PR but get’s social. You can learn from his example! [cc ]”.  It seems, however, that despite calling Shane out for best practice in social media, he wasn’t happy!  

You can read his tweets below [from the bottom up]. 

Social Media, Public Relations, 'Experts'
Everything can change in 140 characters

Apparently, he was concerned that I had outed his professional background in my piece because I had said he works in social media and, as he had admitted publicly to me on Friday, has no experience in public relations.  This, despite the fact that he’d written a piece that assumed publicity was PR – and that PR was dead.  For anybody that doesn’t understand the industry I work in this is misleading – and, having worked in the profession for 17 years, I feel justified in correcting this common misconception.

Here are my tweets from this morning’s exchange:

Public Relations, PR, Social Media, Publicity, THINK DIFFERENT [LY]Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 1.00.05 PM

If you want to read Friday’s exchanges then you can find them at @THINK_Lyndon

Why am I so passionate about this topic?

Let’s face it, my industry does a good enough job without help from uninformed commentators like Shane adding their misguided opinions that are based on an incorrect definition of what public relations is.  I have spent 17 years trying to help businesses to understand that public relations is not about publicity, but about relationships – despite the industry’s attempts to drive it in to the ground for a quick buck.

Shane, as you can see, disagrees!  He, after all, thinks you don’t need to be a singer to know how to sing! [his words not mine] I’m not qualified to comment on that, as anybody that has heard me caterwauling along to a Radiohead of Depeche Mode track will confirm!  But what I am qualified to talk about than him is public relations – I’m 17 years more qualified that Shane and, despite his claims that he’s open to being corrected, I’m not so sure!

I’m also not convinced that he really understands communication, let alone social, at all.

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Why Rob Ford’s Media Interviews Were The Wrong Strategy

Rob Ford has spent time today doing one-on-one interviews – and it will only do him harm.  Having said, on Monday, he takes full responsibility for his substance abuse today he said he had been born with a disease that, effectively, was the reason he had said and done things that he has repeatedly denied and, more recently, apologized for.

Having made a statement, slash political campaign speech on Monday after two months in rehab where he failed to answer questions, Ford subsequently invited select media outlets where he preceded to dodge almost every question posed to him.  The problem is that the interviews are now being scrutinized and – as expected – there are also some discrepancies.  These discrepancies create more questions than they answer.  For Ford, this creates a problem.  It creates a credibility problem – and for a man who is trying to regain the trust of Toronto’s electorate it creates a serious problem.

Ford had the perfect opportunity to answer the questions everybody wants answers to on Monday.  He had an opportunity to answer them once and for all.  He had an opportunity to avoid any misunderstandings or discrepancies, nuances or questions that may result from multiple interviews with different media outlets.  But he blew it.

Rob Ford had the chance to explain the situation he is currently in with his drug and alcohol addictions, he had an opportunity to apologize to everybody he has hurt through his actions and words, and to answer any and all questions that need to be answered and put it behind him.  But he didn’t. And, now he’s back in the same situation he has faced for the last 14 months where a lack of clarity or consistency raises more questions that it has answered.

For Rob Ford it was his last chance at redemption – and he blew it.  In a way that only Rob Ford appears able to.

Rob Ford’s PR and Media ‘Strategies’

Public Relations Espresso

How To Plan For Public Relations Success

We’re half way through the year and today my advice is that you take a long hard – and most importantly – honest look at your PR, marketing and publicity plans to see whether they are moving you closer to your commercial objectives for the year.

Today’s THINK PR Espresso explains a little more about how to create a plan that will enable you to see quickly and easily whether your PR, marketing and publicity is working.  Tomorrow I’ll explain how to tell if your current plan is working or not.

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3 Reasons You Should Copy Apple’s PR But NOT It’s Publicity Strategy

Apple, PR, Public Relations, Publicity
Ed Zitron says you shouldn’t copy Apple’s PR strategy. I disagree.

I read this article by Ed Zitron on the Inc website earlier and tried to comment.  When the comment wouldn’t load for technical reasons [I’m assuming] I thought the comment was worth turning it in to a short blog post.

The point Ed makes is that most  companies shouldn’t try to emulate Apple’s publicity strategy.  Ed calls it PR, but what he is describing is publicity.  Whatever he calls it, I agree.  Apple has a reputation for being media shy until it is ready to talk with the press and for early stage businesses this aloofness is definitely not a way to make friends and influence people.  Another reason I think trying to emulate Apple’s media strategy is wrong is because when the Cupertino-based company has something to announce it always – at least under Steve Jobs – had something worthy of media attention.  I’m not sure the majority of early-stage companies have anything as game-changing as the iPod, iPad, iMac or iPhone with which to tempt the media.

That said, I DO believe that early stage businesses should attempt to emulate Apple’s PR strategy.  Public relations is about building relationships – with the media, customers, prospects, influencers and people that might become customers.  For all it’s reluctance to talk with the media until it was ready, Apple had [and still has] some of the best media relationships of any tech company.  Scratch that… of any company.  

Apple – under Jobs – also had a way of communicating simply.  It understood the power of ‘less is more’ in communicating complex products, services and propositions.  It was an early  adopter of video in its PR – its 1984 and Think Different spots were both exercises in public relations, despite looking suspiciously like adverts.  They were predominantly about communicating values and building relationships, rather than promotion or marketing [getting the audience to take action on its behalf].

The major problem for most companies trying to use Apple’s publicity strategy is that it takes discipline, focus and an awful lot of work.  It requires commitment and patience – and, most importantly, it requires that when you do have something you want coverage for you hit it out of the park.  Apple repeatedly managed to do this with the iMac, iPod, iPhone, Macs and iPad.

Very few other companies – even highly successful ones – will ever come close to emulating what Apple did. Want to know why?  Read Ken Segall’s book Insanely Simple