Why does public relations matter?
That’s a good question asked by almost every accounting firm, related organization and service provider. I think people “get” what public relations is trying to achieve, but the overriding concern, always, is to reap a successful return on investment … and that’s where the rubber meets the road.
I think back to college when I studied to be a magazine writer and editor. I graduated in the early ‘80s – not a great time to find a job. I dreamed of editing a national magazine, but would settle for something local. Much to my dismay, there weren’t any of these types of jobs for a greenhorn editor, much less someone with a few years of experience. I settled for a career start in PR, laughing at how I mocked my peers in college who took the one PR class Missouri offered. Boy was I ever eating my words!
It turned out PR wasn’t what I thought it was, and although at times it may seem as if you’re Sisyphus pushing the rock up a hill, you can get measurable results from a strategic PR campaign.
It’s the time spent waiting for the jury to reconvene that is the most frustrating because clients often want immediate gratification, especially professional service providers like accountants, attorneys and doctors. If they are able to complete a tax return, execute a legally binding contract and repair a heart valve in a matter of an hour, then why can’t they get PR results right away?
Patience is the key. Sometimes it takes weeks or even months before a reporter notices your efforts – and no matter how friendly you think you are with a journalist, it’s the content of the story that matters.
I think that is the bottom line – the story itself. When clients ask me to promote something they’re doing, my first question is, “Why does this matter and who would want to know about it?” Most of the time, the answer is, “It doesn’t matter and no one would want to know.”
That doesn’t mean you can’t conduct a PR campaign or activity with what you already have; you just want to make sure the story is newsworthy and timely, and that you have a person ready to go at your organization who can provide comments or an interview. Time and time again, I’ve seen companies who were unprepared for a call from a reporter – and reporters have a keen sense of smelling fear.
Public relations can be very rewarding, especially when you realize you just won a new contract, or got a new client or customer because your image and reputation were improved through a strategic effort.
That’s why PR matters!