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10 Foolproof Ways to Waste Money on PR

Waste money on PRThere’s yet another anti-PR article making the rounds, and this time it was printed in none other than the New York Times. When I first saw it, I thought it lacked substance and hoped it would go away. But like any anti-PR article in a major publication, this thing has legs.

So for those who would like to follow in the article author’s bumbling footsteps, I’m here to help.

Checkout these sure-fire methods to squander your time and money in pursuit of PR:

1. Hire the first person who comes along
If someone approaches you pitching to handle your PR, obviously they’re the best person for the job. Forget caveat emptor – there’s no need to interview other consultants and agencies to find out strengths and weaknesses, and under no circumstances should you ask for proposals from multiple firms to learn about different approaches. If someone knocks on your door, that is clearly good enough.

2. When approached to get started with PR immediately, hurry up and give the green light
Someone wants to take your money, and quick? By all means give it to them. Checking references, asking for a plan, and defining measurable objectives are a time sink. Don’t know in which half of the year they’ll be doing most of their work? Who cares?! Jump into the deep end and see how it goes.

3. Confuse PR with Publicity
This is a big one. Rest assured that PR stands for press release, and nothing but old-school print publications will give you that vuvuzela buzz – it’s the only thing that counts.

Make sure you don’t hire anyone who thinks otherwise, and forget other forms of PR that could be beneficial to a restaurant, such as grass roots outreach and partnerships, social media and community management, events, and so on. Your PR person should be on the phone everyday – dialin’ and smilin’ – to beg traditional media reporters to give you big ink.

4. Make sure you have a “chorus of self-promoting hosannas”
Your stories are fabulous and unique. People have never heard of anything close to resembling you, and reporters just can’t wait to tell your story to the teeming masses. Throw it on the wall, see what sticks…then sit back to watch the riches roll in!

5. Get excited by a documentary film crew
A less common occurrence, but if someone wants to film you, there’s no way that could be bad. Documentary crews love it when people get along and things are going smoothly. It’s gold, baby!

6. Be sure to target everyone
Your message will work best if you make it general enough to appeal to everyone. Go for “boomers and Wall Streeters and Gen X, Y and Z’ers.” And if you know what Millennials are, go for them too. Everyone knows Millennials and Baby Boomers like the same things.

7. Blame all PR people for your lack of discrimination
Hey, if the first people who knocked on your door are crazy-making, then all PR people must be incompetent reality-twisters, right? “All of them.” Never mind that you haven’t actually done any legwork to see if this is true – your hair-trigger experience is all that counts.

8. In a pinch, hire a friend
Again, there is no need to go through the pesky process of interviewing multiple firms or reviewing proposals. If at first you don’t succeed…find somebody who knows somebody who does PR. Always take the path of least resistance.

9. Be wowed by a celebrity PR person
A “PR” person who appears on TV? Where do I sign?! I’m sure they automatically rock, and will have plenty of time to worry about how best to promote your business.

10. Know that you’re never wrong
Be confident in your knowledge that all PR people are the problem, and write a piece for a national publication saying so. Imply that you’re now smarter than the world’s PR people because you’ve found a secret: one prominent tweet is worth 1,000 press releases.

Be sure to disregard the fact that the qualified PR people (which you never took the time to find) already know that….

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Photo credit: Pleeker

  • Just disgusting. #3 is my mantra: publicity does not equal PR. When someone has had a bad experience with PR, it can usually be determined through conversation that the person who left the bad impression was really a one-note publicist and not a true strategic PR pro (not that there's anything wrong with publicists — but there is something wrong with being a publicist disguised as a PR pro). Thanks for your attention to this and creating a USEFUL dialog here, Kellye.

  • Thanks, LuAnn. A “one-note publicist” is an apt description of what many organizations seek and receive. As others have said, we could do a better job as an industry in explaining the difference, but in the meantime, those looking to hire PR help should ask a few questions first!

  • Thanks for spending the time to write this post, Kellye. Amazingly enough, we poor PR peeps still have to spend a great deal of time defending our work and helping others understand why it matters/why it helps. Nevertheless, I for one intend to keep doing my job, doing it well, and not sweating the small stuff that comes out of the mouths of doubters and fools.

  • Great post, Kellye, hope you'll do a follow up with 10 tips for getting it right.

  • This is a fabulous post. Your writing is awesome, Kelly. One thing we always used to say in my corporate jobs is no matter how well we know the ins and outs of this business, we can't assume others do and need to make sure we hear the public perception of our brand and influence perception, clear up misconceptions when possible. You've done that very well here. Cheers!

  • marydemingbarber

    Great post Kellye. I had someone referred to me yesterday who's likely to make several of these mistakes. I was in a meeting so didn't return his call for an hour. He had already talked with someone else and sent him/her the project so not longer wanted to talk with me. He didn't think it was ethical. I tried to explain things to him and sent him a pdf on choosing a counselor from the Counselor's Academy but he's bent on sticking with the first person he asked who said they could get him on the news. It's sad when people work this way…professionals and clients.

  • I agree, Christine. I think we PR people do a lousy job of doing PR for our own industry. I think it's because we're too focused on getting real results for our clients!

  • Thanks, Frank. I think the 10 ways to get it right would be to do the opposite of the above. 🙂 But you're right, a follow-up post may be in order.

  • Thanks, Justin. Hopefully the message will spread to those who need to hear it!

  • This story is so bizarre to me, my head is spinning. I'm so methodical in all aspects of my life (it's the OCD!), that I often forget how haphazard some people are. When it's your livelihood at stake, and you select PR counsel like you're picking a car wash (who can fit me in fastest/cheapest?), how can you be surprised when things go awry? Maybe the gentleman should receive a link to this post. J

  • Jasmollica

    Kellye,

    Terrific post. I didn't realize I was doing things wrong my whole PR career, until I read the NY Times post. Next time I meet a client, I'm going to tell them, “Let's just see what sticks and go with it!”

    Best,
    Jason Mollica
    @JasMollica

  • Beverly M. Payton, M.A., APR

    Great post Kellye! I am so tempted to e-mail it (or at least your snarky #4) to a potential client who, during a teleconference today, wanted me to “guarantee” massive national press attention during a press conference demo of their product. I told them no PR person worth their salt could or would offer such a guarantee and the press attention they got would depended on what was going on in the news that day and genuine news worthyness of their product to the media they want to pitch. I also advised them to seek a variety of other ways to reach their target audience and they were not interested in anything but a huge placement on all the national TV news shows. Frankly, I'd rather not deal with clients who have unrealistic expectations anyhow–or those who don't understand the fundamental difference between advertising and public relations.

  • Thanks, Jason!

  • I agree, Beverly — unrealistic clients weigh us down and prevent us from doing work that's not only more pleasant, but also more profitable in the long run.

    By the way, there are several organizations (including PRSA) that have deemed guarantees unethical (since, as you say, there are no guarantees). Perhaps you can send this person a link to one of those orgs (rather than this snarky post). 🙂

  • Sorry I didn't see this sooner; thanks to @jgombita for sharing. Yesterday, @jennwhinnem guest posted on my blog a response to none other than the dude you're referencing above. Your top 10 list is divine; love it.

    Last night, none other than the same dude stopped by the blog to reply to Jenn! We all broke out in song as we had a forum to set the record straight.

    Today, Gini Dietrich guest posts on Shonali Burke about more PR rants via a not-so-professional PR “kid?” and a journalist and spurned TechCrunch!

    It's getting overwhelming for sure, and we in PR need to uphold our industry. I'd not normally share url in comments, but if you'd like to jump over, Kellye, and add additional thoughts (while also plugging your blog here, please), here's the link http://bit.ly/gfZ3QM and would be a pleasure to have you!

  • I enjoy the point-by-point dissection of how this guy did it wrong, Kellye. A little sarcasm certainly injects some levity into the situation. Thanks!

  • And fun to read, the follow up. 😉