If you’ve ever been confused about what PR is, you’re not alone. Here, we dispel 7 myths to help you understand what public relations is and its value.

2. Traditional PR is irrelevant in today’s world.
You may assume PR pros waste their time developing angles to infiltrate the media, whereas advertising can be bought and guaranteed (or when social media can reach a target audience directly). But did you know an analysis from a credible publication will always be trusted more than advertising and still hold a lot of sway with the public, since reporters are opinion leaders?  Even though people think “no one reads the paper anymore,” this is certainly a big exaggeration (hello, digital!). Traditional PR also pays off online because search engines return results from credible news media outlets ahead of paid reviews.

3. Paying a PR firm guarantees media placements.
No PR pro, no matter how good, experienced or professional, can guarantee your story will get told in The New York Times next week. We repeat: No PR pro, no matter how good, experienced or professional, can guarantee your story will get told in The New York Times next week. There are too many uncontrollable variables. A large story can take up a lot of space that might otherwise be given to stories like yours, or a big news event (such as a catastrophic debt crisis) will be given precedence over soft news stories. Alas, a less-than-newsworthy announcement isn’t attractive to the media, no matter how experienced or clever the person is who’s pitching it. The pros at PR agencies have no control over the decisions journalists and editors make about whether or not or when to use the information they receive. No matter how much you want immediate news coverage, pitching journalists often does not result in coverage right away, but it can result in planting a seed for a later time when a use for your story arises.

4. PR is all about press releases.
A press release is just a tool to help reach a goal – it isn’t a goal in and of itself. It’s a door-opener and an information resource for journalists and serves as the beginning of a discussion. In our digital world, online distribution of a press release is also a way to reach potential customers even without journalists. We – and other PR pros — spend large amounts of time looking for journalists who write about topics relevant to the client’s story, and working out how to craft the news in a style that journalists will find useful and attractive.  To be successful at media relations, we have to think way beyond the initial press release and offer additional relevant info tailored to specific journalists.


5. Any publicity is good publicity.
Bad publicity is harmful and especially hard to manage in today’s online environment, where bad news lives forever.

6. PR pros are hacks and drones.
Much of the work done in PR goes unrecognized, especially if it didn’t lead to a big media placement. To be successful, PR pros need a good understanding of their clients’ businesses in addition to a wide variety of communications skills: corporate brand building, crisis management, thought leadership, social media to name a few.  Research has shown that in the most successful companies, the PR people report to and/or have frequent access to the CEO to provide key input for decision-making.

7. PR can’t be measured and is therefore worthless.
PR doesn’t build sales—it builds a pathway to sales and ROI. PR is an invaluable prerequisite to sales. PR builds reputation and credibility. When customers are at point of purchase or choosing a brand or company, they will be more likely to choose yours, because, thanks to PR efforts, they are already familiar with your products and services and most importantly, already trust in your brand.

One last word: PR is vital to helping companies craft their stories in a way that will help them stand out from competitors and be heard through the very, very, very loud media noise.  Never underestimate the power of PR!


This is an edited version of an original article by Carinna Gano 9/12/14 from Bridge Global Strategies LLC


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