There are a lot of pains and a lot of gains in the public relations industry.
Some things are understood; others are not—neither by clients nor journalists. The business is changing, and so are the rules.
I operate my business transparently, so I won’t sugarcoat things or send false promises your way. So, here are eight things you might not know about public relations:
1. It’s not about sending emails. It’s about building relationships. My news media contacts don’t owe me anything, so I have to maintain good working relationships with them to do my job successfully. Luckily, I worked on that side of things for 10 years and have great relationships with people in the industry. I have seen stories turned down because the publicist was not likable, even though the client was a great fit for a story. Conversely, I have earned publicity for many clients by sending a Facebook message to a friend.
2. Media relations take time. If you want to see results fast, buy an ad. If you want to see meaningful results over time, hire a publicist. Timing is everything when it comes to earning media coverage. If it’s not in print today, that doesn’t mean it won’t be in three months. Be patient.
3. We can only lead a horse to water. If you want publicity, that’s on me as a PR professional. If you are not doing your part as a business owner to get that horse to drink the water I led them to, there is only so much I can do at that point. For example, if your website needs help, I will refer you to one of the website developers I work with. What you choose to do after that is out of my control. I once had a client who wanted me to promote her business, but her website wasn’t completed yet. If your online store isn’t open for business, what’s the point of media coverage?
4. Our work never stops. News is a never-ending cycle. It’s just about impossible to take a day off, as it could mean a missed opportunity. (That’s why when we reach out to you with a question or request for a certain picture, we need it ASAP.)
5. There is a level of skill and expertise to what we do. I provide a service that has taken me years to learn through a variety of experiences. That you have a Facebook page or Instagram account does not mean you know how to strategically promote a business via social media. I wish I had a dollar for every time someone told me they didn’t need social media help because their nephew was handling it in his spare time.
6. What you pay for might not be what it seems. Don’t be fooled by the big, beautiful office and fancy website of a well-known firm. Many times, the people running the firm won’t even send an email on your behalf. After you pay your retainer, your campaign is given to a low-level staffer. Make sure you know who is really working on your account.
7. What is published or aired is usually out of our control. Remember, we don’t write the articles nor direct the live TV interviews. Instead, we make you look good so people want to tell the story we’re pitching them. Sometimes, you might not like the way something is written or the way a question is asked. That’s public relations-how someone in the public is perceiving you, your brand or your business. I once represented a baby product in and around National Reading Month. I used the product to promote reading to infants and noted the benefits of doing so. Well, one writer I pitched had a child who was deaf, and she did not believe reading to infants was beneficial. Needless to say, she didn’t write an amazing review. These things happen.
8. No one wants to give you a free commercial. It’s your business, and it’s your product, so of course you think it’s the best thing since sliced bread and makes a great story—but so does every other entrepreneur. It has to be more than that to earn media coverage. For this reason, let your publicist guide the development of newsworthy content for media outlets.
Christina Nicholson is a former TV reporter and anchor. She owns and operates a full service public relations firm, Media Maven, and is getting ready to launch Master your PR, an online course that teaches small business owners and marketers how to handle public relations on their own. Christina also has a lifestyle blog. She lives in South Florida with her husband and two young children. A version of this article first appeared on LinkedIn.