How to butcher your foray into PR if your story's half baked

Profile picture of Brendon Wolf
Brendon Wolf
October 26, 2021
Clock representing time taken for PR to build a profile

Long story short, I walked into a butcher's the other day and was devastated to find out they don't sell bread!

Huh?! Who knew?!

The same goes for PR.

IT'$. NOT. ADVERTI$ING.

Too many people these days think PR is a free bus ride to the front page of their favourite newspaper or magazine.

It can be ... but it's not guaranteed; and where this can get uncomfortable for all concerned, is when a person has unrealistic expectations as to what they're going to get (that is, media placement) for their money.

Actually, I take that back ... what they're going to get in a certain timeframe.

See, even the most well known celebrities (with the biggest of PR machines working for them) were at some point nobodies.

It took time for their publicists to build them up ... but they got there eventually.

Absolutely no major media out (especially one with highly valuable editorial space) is going to stick a random on their cover or TV show just because a PR agent asked nicely (and was presumably being paid by their client).

The ones you do see in those coveted spots (usually) climbed their way there from smaller outlets first ... and over a long period (think local media, trade magazines and websites, even blogs).

They took what they can get in the early days ... but it all counted (beggars can't be choosers, right?).

They showed their value to a media outlet instead of naively (if not embarrassingly) thinking they just give out big breaks for free!

I spent 12 years as a journalist for arguably the country's biggest media outlet and here's a trade secret: we went looking for stories in smaller outlets (and social media, of course). Why? Because if someone else was talking about someone, then most likely, our audience would care too. But that "yarn" would never have made it to said big media outlet if a smaller one hadn't have picked up on it first.

You got me?!

What publicists can guarantee is a foot in the door of these bigger media outlets.

If they don't know someone on the inside personally, they at least know how to speak their language and get an editor or producer to take their pitch seriously.

What clients need to do is trust the process.

Unfortunately (but perhaps understandably), they're biased towards themselves.

They think they belong in double page spreads or long features on 60 Minutes; otherwise, they wouldn't be paying a publicist.

Their publicist can try but again, it's not pay to play and if that is the route a client wants to take, by all means, just don't forget your wallet.

The other point to keep in mind is this: if you do pay for advertising, people might see it, but do they take it as seriously as earned media?

I'm here to tell you they don't.

PR, when it works, yields far greater exposure for a client than a paid spot (which, ironically I have to say, still costs a lot more than a publicist - $25,000 for one page in some magazines).

The caveat to all this is sometimes PR doesn't work and then a client has to decide if they do want to persist with it, but it all boils back to what they thought they'd get out of it in the first place and where they asked (demanded) their publicist to pitch them.

If a client is happy to take the scenic route to the top (and not the fast, expensive lane), that's great and welcome to PR, but they shouldn't expect a loaf of multigrain from Max's Meats.