Why PR is more than just media relations

An article advising startups to delay hiring a PR team inspired this PR pro to list the many reasons why that is bad advice. Do you agree?

I’m fairly certain Sean McGinnis has an alert set up for “Things that will make Gini go ballistic.” He sends me articles all the time, and then sits back to watch.

Such is the case with “5 Most Common Startup Marketing Failures.” McGinnis said to pay close attention to the first mistake.

The first mistake a startup could make, of course, is to hire a PR team early on.

Heaven forbid you focus on your strengths and hire professionals for your weaknesses.

I certainly can keep our books up to date, but I dislike it. So, I have Kasia Kaufman, accountant extraordinaire, keep my financials in order and meet the bank’s monthly demands.

But that’s not what bothers me. If you don’t want to hire a professional to do work you’re not skilled in, that’s fine. Do-it-yourself media relations is fairly easy.

PR is more than media relations

What bothers me is that PR is not just media relations.

The article says:

“You don’t need to have a PR team when your business is just starting. What you need then is a solid customer base that has formed a brand loyalty, and this is done best organically by interacting with your customers through social media accounts and being open about your business. People love to read blogs and follow Twitter accounts, so give the people what they want! You can spend the money on the PR team on something that will be a bit more useful.”

Um, aren’t social media and content marketing part of PR?

How, pray tell, will you start your business, find customers, sell your product or service, innovate, develop new products or services, make tweaks and be ready to go to market if you’re also writing blog posts and tweeting-without help?

To be fair, when I said this to McGinnis, he said, “Social and blogging certainly can be PR, but there are many companies that do not treat them that way.”

Even if you don’t treat social media and blogging as PR, you still have to do them—and if you don’t hire someone to help, you have to do them yourself.

As much time as I spend on the road with business owners, I know most of them don’t have time, passion or skill to do social media and blog on their own.

Integration of PESO

No matter where social media and content marketing belong, my firm believes in the PESO model: Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned media.

PR is an integration of those four media types. Media relations—earned media—is a quarter of the larger strategy.

You’ll also note that shared media—or social media—is only a quarter of the larger strategy. And so is blogging, or owned media.

The four have to work together for an organization to not only create its message, but distribute it and get third-party endorsement.

It takes an experienced professional to do that.

But by all means, startups, don’t make a mistake by hiring a PR professional when you begin to market your company. You can definitely grow if no one knows anything about you. (Where is that sarcasm font?)

As my husband said while I was writing this, “Saying PR is just media relations is akin to saying your brand is about the color in your logo.”

Amen, honey. Amen.

Gini Dietrich is founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, Inc. A version of this article originally appeared on Spin Sucks.

Topics: PR

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