I just re-read the most impactful argument for what Public Relations is all about by my friend Brian Solis, head of FutureWorks PR and Media agency in San Francisco. I expect if anyone knows what he is doing in this field, it is Brian. One of his most interesting assertions in this blog post, simply expresses how our profession should and should not be valued. Brian states that; “PR isn’t charity”, which unfortunately so many startups and businesses fail to acknowledge sometimes.
In the last year, I cannot tell you how many times a CEO or founder of a startup has approached us with a proposal to do consulting or PR on a performance based enumeration. Almost to a man, these companies have employed an agency under retainer and were dissatisfied with their return. Having seemingly wasted valuable time and money, they all wanted something akin to “assembly line” or pure commission – sales driven results. In a way, I cannot blame them, but considering the job before PR professionals, asking for this model is actually ridiculous (which does not mean I have not considered it).
It is true that some PR firms demand a king’s ransom for their services, when smaller and more economical agencies and solutions can actually do as good or a better job. The problem with PR, or any other service, is that every company is not ideally suited to any customer. Aside those firms that simply take advantage (which gives us all a bad name), any PR firm has it strengths and weaknesses.
A company seeking public relations or consulting representation is obligated to find the right fit just as they would be for any service. If you take your car to a bad mechanic 10 times, and it still won’t run, should you seek out the same mechanic? Or better yet, ask the next one to give you 100,000 mile warranty on your 1977 Malibu?
Telling Versus Selling
Brian captured the essence of the difference between good PR and sales or marketing with this; “They’re in PR because they prefer to “tell” a story instead of “selling” it.” We are in public relations because we love telling a good story and having it well received by the people who will benefit most from hearing it.
Money, for the true professional, is simply a monetization for doing their art. This is true for the best in any field. If you are in PR just for the monetary rewards, in the end, no one will want your services. And, make no mistake about it, telling fairy tales to prospective customers is a bad idea.
There is a market for these stories too, at Amazon books. However, partnering with clients to tell the story of their wares should always be about the best presentation of their true value. Bad PR is like dressing a pig in a tuxedo, no matter how good the clothes look, sooner or later everyone will notice the pig.