Things That Make PR People Cringe: DIY Public Relations

  • May 15, 2015
  • Caitlin New

How can I save money and do PR myself?

You shouldn’t, and honestly, most people can’t. PR isn’t a job that you can learn in one article, let alone through four years of sitting through classes in college. It’s a skill that is sharpened and honed over time, where you learn from colleagues you respect, and by analyzing which tactics work and which do not. PR is a science. PR is an orchestration. Since PR is a relationship-building practice, its practitioners should understand the responsibility that comes with opening a two-way channel of honest communication between the organization and its publics. Here’s why I cringe at DIY PR.

Good PR is responsible and ethical

Last week, I heard a statement that resonated with me in For Immediate Release, a PR podcast run by Neville Hobson and Shel Holtz. Their guest Gini Dietrich, author of Spin Sucks, named DIY PR as a disturbing trend that points to larger issues in our industry. “There’s a low barrier to entry in PR. There’s not a regulating body and you don’t have to be tested in order to practice. You can earn your APR [accreditation in public relations], but you can still practice without it. Unlike other service businesses such as law or accounting, we don’t have anything that regulates ethics.”

I earned my APR in 2014, so I’m passionate about bettering the industry and setting myself apart from dabblers, but as Gini pointed out, one can still practice PR without an APR (and many who do are real professionals who are amazing at their jobs). And the lack of a regulating force that holds professionals accountable to a code of ethics is a problem in PR. Sure, those who are caught using unethical means of promoting their companies run into PR problems of their own, but these shady professionals are able to continue undermining the industry—another day, another unsuspecting company.

People who aren’t well versed in PR may not be able to differentiate between what is ethical and what isn’t. So when novices launch themselves into an industry that in its nature is very public, they run the risk of hurting their own reputation, that of their company, and that of PR as a whole.

PR is scientific

Plan, execute, measure, refine. Good PR is well planned and always focused on improvement. Similar to the scientific method, PR programs should start with an assessment of goals and challenges using research methods (opinion surveys, content analysis, etc.). Keeping these goals in mind, we should then set measurable objectives that guide our strategies and campaigns. Throughout the campaign, we should measure the effectiveness of our strategies so we can refine as necessary. Sound familiar? Check out this basic diagram of the scientific method to see the high-level similarities. It may not be rocket science, but it’s a science nonetheless.


PR is an orchestration of tactics working together to achieve goals

Many people who dabble in PR think that good PR is measured by the amount of press coverage they get. In fact, there are many PR agencies that call themselves PR, but might focus 90% of their business on media relations, which is only one aspect of what we can do. PR can be developing relationships with external audiences, such as direct-to-consumer relations, investor relations, public affairs, and media relations. PR can also be managing relationships with internal audiences and stakeholders, such as employees and board members.

Good PR campaigns consist of a diverse set of tactics and PR practitioners don’t rely solely on press releases and media pitches to accomplish a goal. These can surely help, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg. Content development, company messaging, digital marketing, social media, customer endorsements, analyst relations, and events—among many others—could all be tactics that work together to meet a goal.

Have you ever tried to do PR without having any experience? Are you a PR practitioner who has run into this issue before? I’d love to hear your stories. Stay tuned for other blogs in this “Things that make PR people cringe” series.



Upcoming blogs in this series:

We need more business. Let’s do PR.

PR is a relationship-building industry. Sure, it can, and sometimes should, impact your bottom line, but companies should never get into PR just to make money.

Can’t I just put out a press release to generate buzz?

No. And if you have a PR agency that relies solely on press releases and company news, you should probably jump ship.

Thought leadership isn’t worth my time.

Big mistake. And your competitor is glad you think so.

We want to be in the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times.

“But we don’t have any customer stories we can use, and we’re not willing to say anything provocative about the industry.”

Other good stuff in here