Shonali Burke is a local PR professional here in the DC area whose work I respect. She’s living the American dream running her own shop, and pens a small business column for BNET. Her piece a couple of days ago, “Why You Should Leave PR to the Pros,” really hit home for me.
The piece was in reaction to another BNET author encouraging entrepreneurs to do their own PR. I guess when you’re really small, you have no choice. And gosh, it’s so easy everyone can do it, right? Jeez, I feel like Rodney Dangerfield here.
Shonali does a good job of addressing this guy’s five points. Here are the biggest swings and misses IMHO:
- Understanding the process — Yes Mr./Ms. Client, you are the subject matter expert (SME in PR vernacular) on your specific product or service. You are most certainly not a SME on public relations. Hint — if you think “PR” stands for “Press Release” and PR the trade is nothing more than media relations, well then Houston we have a problem
- Objectivity — I’ve yet to meet an entrepreneur/founder who can be totally objective about the appeal of their story to the media. I’m told they exist, but until I meet one they are in the same category for me as Sasquatch and the Loch Ness monster
- Time — Do your own PR, you say? You’ve got that much spare time on your hands, running a business and all? And doesn’t that run counter to the managed service/outsourcing trend so prevalent in business today, staying focused on your core competency?
First, I’m painfully aware that the PR industry brings some of this disrespect onto itself. There are plenty of firms who do a lousy job, don’t have a business understanding of their client’s niche and don’t understand we’re in the age of sniper PR, not machine gun. Some practitioners of the trade seem to be more about their brand than that of their clients (you know who you are out there).
Second, a lot of firms shy away from quantifiable metrics to prove the value of their efforts. These are always tough and subject to interpretation, but here’s where social media is so revolutionary. My firm has has great success tying the performance metrics of social media campaigns to the tactical business objectives of our clients. It allows for a level of accountability never before available from PR, and clients are right to demand this kind of reporting.
I should probably also say my agency doesn’t work for startups, because we like to get paid. And we don’t do consumer work, we specialize in b2b and b2g. But I’m tired of my profession being a punching bag, and very glad Shonali hit back.