13 Digital PR Mistakes and Myths Worth Noting13 Digital PR Mistakes and Myths Worth Noting

13 Digital PR Mistakes and Myths Worth Noting

NY-based public relations agencies are better. *eye roll*

Press releases are dead. *head spin*

It’s all about who you know. *squinty eyes*

I want to pause public relations for a few months. *cringe*

I'm ready to rant about public relations myths. After twenty years of owning a public relations agency and pivoting through the dot-com bomb’s challenges, 9/11 attacks, the great recession, and now the pandemic, I‘ve experienced the highs and lows of economies, industries, and public relations.

Unrealistic expectations can be the number one cause of failure. Also, over-promising an outcome is a common mistake digital marketers and public relations pros make. Misconceptions about public relations are all around us. From believing digital public relations is the silver bullet to overnight celebrity status to the notion of testing out PR for a few months.  

Keep reading to discover the top 13 myths surrounding public relations!

Myth #1 The Best PR Agencies Are in New York and Los Angeles

If your PR agency address includes Madison Avenue or Rodeo Drive, it’s a good sign of one thing. For one, it’s almost a guarantee you will pay a premium. Additionally, the reality is it is no indication of clout, connection, or guaranteed results.

A lofty address is not a secret ingredient for a reputable public relations agency or consultant. In today’s remote work mentality, public relations credentials should be judged on track-record and trusted referrals versus the metro location.

Myth #2: PR Delivers Like Advertising

Just like SEO, public relations is organic. It can’t be held to the same KPIs as paid advertising. PR and SEO are not as predictable and less controllable. Although public relations can influence every part of the funnel, the primary function is TOF brand awareness. Stats show 70 percent of consumers would rather find out about a product or service through editorial articles instead of ads. "A good PR story is infinitely more valuable than a front-page ad" - Richard Branson.

An excellent digital PR story also influences search engines like Google. Getting included in an article in a high domain ranking publication will give your SEO a boost not to mention coverage in the SERPS.

Myth #3: Digital PR Is All About Press Releases

While press releases have a place in today’s digital public relations strategy, there is more to the equation. A solid public relations plan should include a well-thought-out editorial calendar looking three months out and remaining fluid. Influencer marketing, reviews, guest posts, storytelling through visuals such as infographics and content marketing, and social media management all play a crucial role in channeling public relations to the right audience persona.

Myth #4: PR Professionals Are Spin Doctors

We can thank Sex and the City for this myth! Samantha Jones and other on-screen PR professionals are portrayed as solving crises by day and drinking cosmos all night. In reality, that’s only a tiny part of the job. Instead, any trustworthy PR agency should tell the story and the goodness behind a brand. If a business has a ton of negative reviews, PR and SEO can't save the day. Before any reviews start, publicist can help craft a strategy to ensure their clients’ reputation is positive from the start. That way, a small scandal or a few bad reviews will be counterbalanced by a long-standing reputation. Thanks to the virality of social media, one slip from a social media marketer and all of a sudden, we have a public relations scandal.

Myth #5: You Have To Be Famous to Benefit From PR

Most PR agencies don’t represent famous people or big brands! Smaller boutique agencies are focused on up-and-coming companies with a more personal story. These brands can benefit from PR as much, if not more, as celebrity status brands do. PR will build them a reputation and get the word out about their offerings to ensure sustained growth. What’s more, journalists often like small underdog companies better. It’s easier for them to craft a story around a unique and personal business than a mainstream brand.  

Myth #6: PR Only Impacts The Top of The Funnel

One myth worth noting is “digital public relations impacts the top of the funnel only. Meaning, it only creates brand awareness versus leading to conversions. That couldn’t be less true. Public relations is all about building credibility and maintaining brands’ reputations from top to down the funnel and bottom-up. PR allows brands to reach every audience they can at any point in the funnel, including current customers. Public relations not only builds top of funnel awareness; it also influences the bottom of funnel decisions and strengthens customer retention.

Myth #7: Traditional PR Is Dead

Traditional PR isn’t dead. It’s evolving. While print still exists, traditional media is now digital. It’s not an extinction, merely a transition. Most mainstream magazines and smaller publications have shifted online. But the relationships between reporters and PR professionals stays the same. And PR can achieve better results than it ever could.

Myth #8: Clients Can Try Out PR For 3 Months

PR requires a long play mindset; it’s not a start and stop campaign. But when clients tell their PR agency they want to try out public relations for three months to see how it goes, we all know it’s a recipe for disaster and unrealistic expectations. Three months is usually the amount of time needed to set up a strategy and gain momentum. It isn’t enough time to launch a campaign and measure outcomes, much less so to get top tier results.

PR is like a happy marriage with *forever* mindset. Your public relations agency or efforts have to be an integral part of your business and your brand. The collaboration never stops. As such, companies should find an agency that understands and is passionate about their brands, mission, and audience persona.

Myth #9: Let Your PR Agency Be On Auto-Pilot

When hiring a public relations agency, a brand’s biggest mistake is failing to communicate regularly and being unresponsive. Your public relations agency should feel like a best friend, therapist, brand advocate, and attorney: full disclosure, open communication, proactive collaboration, and a flexible mindset.

When clients stop communicating with their agency, public relations can go sideways. Passing the buck to a non-stakeholder is a big mistake. Public relations needs to be in the boardroom, not the boiler room.

PR needs to be the first to know because when something goes wrong, or opportunity knocks from a journalist, they need the arsenal. From their rolling agenda to monthly reports, or anything that could be newsworthy, clients should share everything with their publicist.

Here is a classic example and a true story. I once learned about one of my client’s product launches through their email marketing campaign.  Public relations needs to be at the planning stages. Consider your public relations pros as part of the executive roundtable and public relations first to know versus last to find out.  Embed PR in your marketing team and executive communications.

Myth #10: Digital PR Can Be a Set It and Forget It

Public relations isn’t an automated process. Without regular check-ins with your public relations team, clients are headed towards a failed campaign. Things change so much from week to week, whether in the media, within the company or in the news. So staying up to date about your PR work, looking at reports, and understanding what your agency needs are crucial.

Myth #11: Take Your Time, Journalists Can Wait

A timely response to the media is vital in a winning public relations outcome. When your digital PR agency offers up a media opportunity, and you take days to respond or don’t respond, consider this a time bomb ticking opportunity or loss. Public relations needs to be a priority, Journalists do not wait, and they do not reschedule. They move onto the next relationship.  Just like trends, new angles don’t last forever. Journalists are always on deadline and are spread thin. It’s a public relations pro’s job to spoon-feed info with white-glove treatment.

If you want to build a relationship, you need to respond when the media calls. Respond as immediately as possible to media inquiries. Ideally, within fifteen minutes to an hour. Or the same day, at least. Indeed, journalists need to finish their stories fast, especially if they want to break it first. According to journalists, it’s typically the first responders who make it into a story.

Myth #12: Big Advertising Budget, No PR Budget

I see brands spending thousands of dollars a day on social advertising and Google ads. Yet they have a hard time reallocating a public relations budget for thousands of dollars a MONTH - it makes no sense.

Digital advertising can be like crack cocaine to brands. They want immediate BOF gratification at all costs per acquisition. Public relations budgets get the shaft and red-lined as fluff when it is one of the most valuable marketing components. You can’t buy publicity like you can ads. This is what it’s called EARNED media. The bigger the media outlet, the longer the process takes.

“To be successful at the bottom of your funnel, you need people to trust you already. Suppose somebody sees your ad for the first time, and they've never heard of your company, and they don't have an association with you. In that case, they have no history,” said Rand Fishkin, business and technology entrepreneur and co-founder of Spark Toro.

Myth #13: PR Results Will Be Consistent Each Month

Reality check.  You can get three home runs of top tier placements in one month and not get much for six months. Public relations is a process and not for the anxious, skeptical, or overly controlling. Top-tier media takes resources, picking and pruning. Dedicating a budget to public relations outreach and strategy with dedicated professionals backed by proven results - will pay off. It might not be at the pace you want. It’s all in the patience of the process and the potential outcome a long-term mindset will bring.

PR is an adventure from strategy and social media to brand-building and press mentions; publicists do it all. Unfortunately, too few people understand what public relations is all about. Educating clients, journalists, and the general public about the behind the scenes work is essential. So next time you are judging the value of public relations, think about your investment of time and effort. Think about how much you spend on advertising versus public relations.

Conclusion. If you are looking for immediate gratification and short-term wins, public relations is not for you. If you have a long-term mindset and see the value of how public relations can be considered priceless, you’re in the right place.  A digital PR investment will pay dividends in branding, search marketing, social media, SEO, content marketing, social proof, influence, and will attract more media coverage.


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Lisa Buyer
written by
Lisa Buyer
Looking for the latest Social PR trends or digital life hacks? Meet Lisa Buyer, a subject matter expert in public relations/social media and a recovering digital life junkie. She is the author of Digital Detox Secrets and Social PR Secrets with the foreword by Guy Kawasaki. Lisa brings 20+ years of PR experience always staying ahead of the curve as an early adapter integrating PR, SEO, and social media. Clients include Fortune 500 companies, start-ups, and niche brands. Industries include technology, marketing, real estate, health, wellness, and yoga.