When I was a TV reporter, I worked with many public relations firms. Coming from news, joining “the other side”, and becoming a publicist was pretty seamless. I was doing the same thing, storytelling, but instead of for an audience watching the 6 o’clock news, I was doing it for a paying client. Now, that is where I learned some new things.
Since I was living, eating, and breathing the media industry for more than a decade, the way things worked was second nature to me. I was prepared to educate my clients on the ins and outs of the media industry, but sometimes it didn’t work. I’ve had clients who either didn’t believe or just didn’t listen. Needless to say, I was not prepared to hear some things from a few clients. If I had to narrow it down to four things PR pros hate to hear, they are:
1. “I’d love to just get on the Today Show or Good Morning America.”
Yes, I would love to get you on the Today Show or Good Morning America just like every business owner and their publicists would love to just get on the Today Show or Good Morning America. That’s a given. It’s one of those things that goes without saying. If it were that easy, you could hire any publicist in the world to do that for you. Hell, you could just call them up and do it yourself. It doesn’t mean I won’t work hard to earn that huge media hit for you. It just means that kind of national exposure doesn’t happen for most people.
2. “How can we make a viral video?”
Well, they usually involve kids or animals, so we could start there? No! Viral videos just happen. If there was a formula to it, everyone would have one and they would not be viral. No one really knows how to create a viral video. The people behind viral videos have no idea how they made the viral video themselves! When you stop thinking about how to create a viral video, it might just happen.
3. “Can I just try you out and pay you after you get me media exposure?”
Yes, people ask this. Unfortunately, I cannot hand you something tangible worth $5,000 when you pay me $5,000. Public relations is a service-based industry. Asking a publicist to work for free is like your doctor working for free, spending countless hours of time and expertise, but only charging you after all your illnesses are cured. It just doesn’t work like that. It can’t work like that. When you hire a publicist, you are paying him or her to spend their time using their knowledge, expertise, and professional relationships to earn your business media exposure.
4. “You got me that coverage, which was great, but it didn’t really do anything for my business.”
At the risk of sounding blunt, if the publicity I earned didn’t bring you business, there’s not much more I can do at that point. It’s like leading a horse to water. That’s my job. You need to make sure the water is ready for drinking. I can give you some advice and we can troubleshoot some things, but again, a publicist can only do so much after publicity is earned.
When I hear these things from clients or potential clients, I chuckle a little bit and tell them exactly what I’ve laid out here. I don’t make false promises. In fact, I don’t make any promises when it comes to earning coverage. PR is a tricky sell for this reason.
If you’re interested in hiring a firm or a publicist to help your brand earn exposure, check out this guide first. It may help you tackle the media yourself. But if you’re able to hire a professional, you don’t need to mention these four things. We already know what you’re thinking and we’re on it.
Christina Nicholson is a former TV reporter and anchor who now owns and operates a full-service public relations firm, Media Maven. She 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 lives in South Florida with her husband and two small children.