Seven things I wish people knew about PR

by Pari

Tomorrow morning a high school student is going to join me for a week to learn about public relations and marketing. Today as I looked around my messy office and contemplated what I hoped she’d take away from the experience, I realized that there were a few things I really wanted her to know.

1. Public relations is about relationships with your publics.
Oh, I know I’ve said this before. But it bears repeating because everyone gets so caught up in getting publicity – free interviews on television or the Web, mentions in the newspapers, book reviews – and, frankly, I think a lot of that is a waste of time.

I know for a fact that you can be highly successful without a single intentional media hit.

2.  Word of mouth is still the best form of PR there is.
Of course there are experts who work hard to create “buzz,” to manipulate the public psyche and make the next big thing. They do it through multiple media and with a lot of money and strategy. But the truth is, what they’re really doing is manufacturing word of mouth. The more people talk about something the more interesting it seems.

Here’s the reality: Whether you generate buzz through money spent on advertising and media hits or through getting people you know to be your marketing foot soldiers, the principle is really the same. Get ’em talking about what you want them to talk about.

3. Public Relations is about the truth
You read that right. It applies across the board.
Don’t mislead. Don’t lie. If you do, it’ll bite you in the butt.

I wish more people understood this one.

4. What you think is newsworthy – especially if it’s about you – probably isn’t.
Think in terms of your audiences and know what your audiences need . . . not what you want them to need.

Really. We’re not nearly as interesting to others as we are to ourselves.

5. Be sincere.
I think information consumers today are quite sophisticated. They hate feeling like they’re being used. And they can smell a fake. Don’t give them a reason to plug their nose.

6. Pick the PR methods that make you the happiest.
There are countless ways to do public relations – to get your message out. So there has got to be at least one or two that you’d enjoy doing. Why spend energy on things that make you miserable? Life is too damn short . . . isn’t it?

Here’s my advice (even if your publicist tells you different): if you despise speaking in public, don’t do it. Write emails. Conduct online contests. Do blog tours. If you love being on television or radio, go for it. Make yourself — or your pitch — irresistible to those media outlets. If you like attending conventions, have a blast and enjoy yourself.

7. Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.
In other words, be nice.
Do your homework.
Be respectful.
Remember to be grateful — and to express that gratitude.

Is there anything I’ve missed? Let me know. I’ll share your pearls of wisdom with my intern . . .

16 thoughts on “Seven things I wish people knew about PR

  1. M.J. Rose

    All so true. Also PR even the best PR is a gamble. Hire someone only whose clients you talk to! And balance PR $ with the same amount of marketing dollars. I have a list of questions to ask a publicist before you hire one if you want – write me at Authorbuzzco at

  2. Alafair Burke

    Great advice! I did find myself wondering how much I violate #4. Not everyone wants to know about my dog, The Duffer? I think they do. They must. Yes, I will make a Duffer exception to #4.

    Good luck with the high school student. Were you a Seinfeld fan? Something about having an in-house intern reminds me of the Kramerica episode and therefore makes me smile.

  3. Debbie

    Pari, you covered PR really well.
    I was going to say be approachable, but that comes under choosing what works for you. I was going to say get to know others by asking questions, people like to talk about themselves but that's both formulaic and not always true…fits under sincerity.
    Apparently, I have nothing to say…I'll stop typing now! 😀

  4. pari noskin taichert

    Great to see you here.

    I'd love to get that piece. I wrote one a long time ago. It'll be interesting to compare.

    When you use the word "publicist," I automatically think about publicity. And that primarily evokes media relations. But there's so much more to PR. In thinking about image, for example, I spend a lot of time working on tone, on the look of the informational pieces I create, on key information disseminators (yeah, it's not a word) who might get the word out more effectively to target audiences and so forth.

    As a matter of fact, with one of my clients I've actually had to avoid any media PR work because I've been so effective with other methods that we've sold out earlier than the media would want to run a story.

  5. pari noskin taichert

    What you do with Duffer is create fun. And people love fun. You do a great job of it.

    And I'll have to rent that episode of Seinfeld. Sounds like it might be a gas.

    The one thing I forgot about PR –and I think this holds true — is that it's about WRITING. Pretty much all the communications I do, even the phone pitches, start with writing — talking points, bios, interviews, press releases, pitches, brochures, programs, advertisements etc etc etc.

    Even if other people don't see the writing, it has to be there first and it has to be compelling/informational for the target audience.

  6. Sylvia

    Great post and I would just add – anyone who calls themselves an "expert" "guru" "diva" or otherwise in social marketing PR an immediately be discounted. Just because you have a Twitter account, can spell Facebook and have kept a blog doesn't make you wise. Look at years of experience in the business of marketing and results.

    Morning rant over.

  7. pari noskin taichert

    I sense there's a story there. A bad one <g>.
    You're right though. And I think that holds for any professional consultant. If the hyperbole is there, the person is probably overcompensating for definite lacks.

    I just hired someone to help me with my resume. It was a fascinating experience. I spoke with several people, one of whom told me she was extraordinary, fantastic, beyond believable.

    Well . . . I went to her website. It was incredibly unprofessional. I read her brochure and it presented as a hack job w/o polish. She was an obvious example of my #3 and #5.


  8. JT Ellison

    Pari, an excellent reminder list. I think you're absolutely right – pick the thing you're good at and do that. I was surprised to discover mine happens to be radio, that one on one chatting format. I love it. It's fun. Its so much easier for me to do than the public speaking. My touring partner last week felt exactly the opposite. So playing to your strengths, and letting your team know what those strengths are, is paramount.

    Sage advice from an expert today.

    And Alafair – we all love Duffer.

  9. pari noskin taichert

    I remember you worrying about having to talk in public.
    Radio is a fabulous medium. It also often provides an opportunity to discuss things in more detail . . . and you can show up in your sweats and no one minds.

  10. Grace

    Thanks for the post, it managed to quell my terror – especially of public speaking – didn't realize you cculd just say no – wow.

  11. pari noskin taichert

    You made me laugh. Thank you.
    Yes, you can say "no," or you can offer options. I know writers who do public appearances by phone — conference calling. Margaret Atwood even developed a pen to "sign" her books remotely.

    There are all kinds of options. Being honest with yourself — and your publicist or pr person, if you have one — is very important.

  12. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Pari

    Great post. I'd be fascinated to see MJ's list, too!

    And "Really. We’re not nearly as interesting to others as we are to ourselves."

    Amen to that … ;-]

  13. Adrienne Fletcher

    Great post. I'd just add some sort of stewardship somewhere. I know that it could fall under building relationships which I really do think is number one but I think it is too easily forgotten without adding it as a separate item. Thanking editors after writing, thanking clients for passing on WOM, thanking visitors/donors depending on your industry….

  14. Adrienne Fletcher

    Well stewardship just seems like it is one of those topics in PR that is always implied that it should happen but how many non-generic, non-mass thank yous are actually written these days. Or better yet, following up with people by phone. These things take extra time but are so integral in building meaningful relationships with any of your strategic publics. Most organizations rely more on repeat customers/ visitors than new ones.Taking the time to show gratitude is an excellent way to strengthen loyalty and trust to encourage their repeat behaviors.
    In terms of my examples, thanking editors after publishing a story on your organization or company shows your appreciation at the time that they took to focus on you and will increase the likelihood of additional coverage in the future. I'm not saying to buy them a gift because that would seem in appropriate. Just a phone call will do. As for thanking clients about word of mouth- in a world where word of mouth keeps gaining importance, if you see that a client (current or past) has gone out of their way to promote/mention/recommend your brand/organization, a personal thank you again goes a long way. It just makes things more personal in a world that is continually decreasing everyone's attention span! ; )

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