To PR or Not to PR?

I’ve had a number of client prospects over the last several months ask me to deliver a PR campaign “just like the one we do for Adobe.” Yet, I’ve counseled them that this may not be the best use of their limited budget. Like many agencies across the industry, Bluetext has deep roots in traditional public relations—the time-honored tradition of taking story ideas for our clients to reporters and hoping that they write positive articles that highlight what our clients are doing. But in today’s media market, just how useful is traditional public relations?

Here are some of the challenges:

  • There are fewer news outlets to go to.
  • There are fewer reporters at each outlet.
  • The number of PR firms hasn’t declined, so the competition is tougher.
  • People don’t read publications nearly as much as they used to.
  • The trend is going away from news outlets.
  • There are many more options for reaching the audience directly.

On the other hand, getting an article published has a lot of intrinsic value—it’s validation for your client, it is great for search engine optimization, and is particularly good for social media and other marketing efforts.

On the third hand—if I can have a third hand—traditional public relations is resource intensive, and those resources may often be better spent on more targeted outreach activities.

So, to butcher the Bard a little, to PR or Not to PR? Here is what I tell clients:

  • PR is still important. When real news can be made, by all means do so.
  • If you are a well-known brand, PR is much easier—every reporter will take your call.
  • If you are not a known brand, it is much more difficult, and the results may be disappointing unless you have legitimate news or a real story to tell. Reporters won’t write about your company just because you are there—they need to have a good reason.
  • If resources are limited, save the traditional PR for something big, maybe once a quarter. Use the rest of your resources for a non-traditional campaign that will establish your brand.

That can be a clever online landing page design supplemented by banner ads to drive traffic. Or it can be a survey designed to make news, create interest, and generate leads. Develop a social media campaign that reaches audiences directly. Use video to your advantage…or all of the above.

The bottom line is that PR should be only one strategic arrow in your marketing quiver—not your only weapon.