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4 signs that your PR campaign is doomed

February 1, 2012

One of the hardest things in life is saying no. And it’s no different in business: when you have a chance to build revenue or grow your business, you want to say yes to every opportunity.

When it comes to PR, however, there really are times when you need to say no. I’m all for optimism, but the fact is, not every company or campaign will benefit from a media push, social media campaign or fancy event.

Realising that early on, saves tears and sorrow later. Like… after you’ve gone nuts trying to pitch a rubbish media release that no sane journalist would run. Or a client is freaking out that nobody wants to come to their event. Or your Facebook page is so empty there are tumbleweeds blowing across the screen.

Anyway, there is a fine line between being all gung-ho and ‘yes-we-can’, and just setting yourself up for failure. (Just look how the ‘yes-we-can’ approach is working for Obama).

So, here are some clear signs a PR campaign is going to flop:

  1. You have nothing new to say – It’s called news because it’s new. Unfortunately, talking about your ‘innovative’, ‘groundbreaking’ or ‘cutting-edge’ product doesn’t cut it. Unless you can say something genuinely insightful, or provide a kick-arse case study, then it’s not a story, it’s a sales pitch.
  2. You don’t have time – Even the best PR wizard can’t work by magic alone. If a company won’t devote time, input and resources to developing ideas and content, then PR is a lost cause. I know a lot about my clients’ businesses, but I will never be an expert  – that’s their job. And if they don’t have time to share it with me – and their audience – then it’s a recipe for failure.
  3. You can’t commit – PR is a long-haul gig. Getting an article in the newspaper or a bunch of ‘Likes’ on Facebook doesn’t mean a flood of calls the next day. It’s about building awareness and credibility over time. So unless a company is in it for at least six-month period, it’s really just pissing in the wind.
  4. You’re a control freak – If a client asks ‘can I see that article before it goes to print?’, it’s a bad sign. Sorry, no, I don’t ask journalists to run their work by me to ensure it meets your corporate agenda. Anyone who gets nervous about how their material will be interpreted, or who changes every tiny word on a media release just for the hell of it, is going to be a PR nightmare. If you want to control your messages, buy some advertising.

Which brings me to the next point: if not PR, then what? Well, sometimes good ol’ fashioned marketing is the best option for a company. Maybe a direct mail campaign, some well-targeted advertising, a strong frontline sales push, or some nice advertorial space.

PR sounds fun and glamorous and cool to a lot of people (I blame Ab Fab for that), but in reality, it’s pretty tough, sometimes disappointing and often expensive. When it works, PR an awesome way to build a business. When it flops, there’s nothing left to do but drown your sorrows in a nice bottle of Bollinger, just like Patsy and Edina would.

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9 Comments
  1. Esther permalink

    Great post Belinda. What makes it worse, when trawling through all those bad press releases, is the knowledge that there are people/companies out there that have interesting, relevant and sometimes even funny stories to tell, but they either don’t realise it could be news, or they don’t want to take the risk. It haunts me!

  2. Yup, Cheers, Thanks a lot! permalink

    Great post. Go Patsy and Edina… thanks for making our industry seem so much ‘cooler’ than it is!

  3. Esther – this is so true! So often I will be talking to someone who runs a genuinely interesting business and I will ask them about PR and they either don’t know what it is, say they don’t have the time/money or have tried to do it themselves. ARGH!

    Belinda – your wise words bring joy to my black, cynical, PR flack heart.

    • Aww, shucks. And unfortunately, a lot of businesses don’t have the time or money or focus. But at least they realise it.

  4. Perceptions, hey? When people ask me what my kids do, and I say “My daughter is in PR”, they uniformly sound impressed. (Not that “My son is in the army” isn’t impressive was well.) I guess every profession has both its mystique and its reality; look at all the kids who want to go to law school. If only they knew …

  5. What if you only have ONE of the four syndromes that doom failure. Is there hope? LOL!

    • Yes, there is always hope! I think it comes down to identifying what the issue is, and deciding whether to address it, or cut your losses.

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