10 Reasons Your PR Might Be Failing

The success or failure of a PR program can hinge on many factors, most of which are within our control. Still, when you’re too close to the work, it’s difficult to determine what gears might be hampering a machine’s performance. Here are 10 possible reasons for PR outcomes that miss the mark.

There’s no buy-in at the top 

If a company’s leadership isn’t willing to commit to a PR program, it may be challenged from the start. Senior executives who don’t get involved in internal PR reviews, or who don’t participate as corporate spokespersons where needed are sending a message that the program isn’t a priority. That can hamstring the PR team’s efforts.

It’s not working well with others

If a PR team or agency doesn’t work in collaboration with marketing, it may be spinning its wheels — or worse, working in opposition to company business objectives. Since PR and marketing are increasingly blurring their functions, sharing goals, data, and messages, the absence of collaboration is a lost opportunity.

The silver-bullet theory

It may be tempting to think that a great PR program is the magic ingredient for a critical product launch or the sole solution to a decline in brand reputation. But it isn’t usually quite so simple. PR is not a band-aid in times of crisis, nor is it a quick study or one-off tactic. While a strategic PR campaign can yield powerful results in the form of earned media, it typically generates influence over time. The molding of public opinion, raising of awareness, or bolstering of reputation are time-consuming endeavors requiring discipline and patience. And they’re worth it.

Aiming too high to start

Top-tier earned media articles are terrific, and they’re often a highlight of the research, relationships and media strategy that goes into a good media relations campaign. But it doesn’t pay to narrow your targets to an unrealistic handful of marquee outlets. If leadership insists that only splashy features in Fast Company or The Wall Street Journal will do, it will miss many opportunities. As we preach here often, well-targeted trade and niche publications are the less glamorous but effective workhorse of PR.

It’s underfunded 

An inadequate budget can lead to an underachieving PR program. Businesses that lack experience in public relations may believe that a sliver of the marketing budget can be repurposed for an annual PR and influencer campaign. Or they may think they’ll give it six months to change a brand image. The reality is usually different, however. Strategic PR takes a long-term commitment by an experienced team, and that comes at a cost. See our earlier article on how PR agencies set budgets and billing.

No measure of success

It’s important to have a clear definition of success at the outset. In the current environment, there’s a world of data available to help inform program strategy and measure success. Vague outcomes like “increased visibility” may work as a goal but will never suffice as a metric. A PR team must set forth a specific set of metrics from placements, to leads generated, to social mentions for any and all PR initiatives — and allocate budget for such measurement.

Look what I did!

If a company’s media pitches, blog posts, and press releases read like the accomplishments section of a resume, they are probably just as fun to read — meaning, not at all. Public relations is about making great content that engages, educates, and entertains. And it shouldn’t always be about your brand. If your PR program is festooned with self-promotional pablum, you’ve missed the point, the value, and the power of great storytelling.

Ignore SEO at your peril

The lines between PR and marketing are blurring. If a PR team isn’t optimizing its considerable online deliverables, then it’s leaving increased authority, visibility, and credibility on the table. SEO and PR can influence search ranking and increase site traffic. More importantly, SEO and PR build strong brand associations and drive market authority, helping reach customers at every point in the sales journey.

DIY PR doesn’t deliver

But there can be no DIY in public relations, no matter how tempting it can be for a startup. That doesn’t mean you have to hire a PR agency, but it does mean an experienced professional should lead the program. We’ve seen some businesses relegate PR to an afterthought, defining it as responding to media inquiries and assigning an intern to it. Yikes. We advise early-stage companies to hire seasoned PR pros as soon as they are ready and able. See this earlier post for some compelling reasons why DIY PR so often falls short.

No creative spark  

It’s easy for an initiative to be drowned out in the torrent of social and traditional media noise. In today’s atmosphere of continuous communications from a multitude of channels, PR people (and their marketing peers) must choose their channels well and review programming each quarter for original approaches to storytelling. See this earlier post for more on the power of PR creativity.

The Power Of Creativity In PR

Some people don’t think of PR professionals as particularly creative – except when it comes to hatching wild PR stunts or gimmicks, like KFC’s fried-chicken-flavored nail polish. Yet creativity plays a part in much of a PR person’s daily work. They must constantly generate fresh concepts for bylines and story angles for pitching, as well as dreaming up campaign ideas for clients.

According to The Holmes Report’s Creativity in PR study, which surveys PR executives all over the world, 68% of PR agency respondents say their clients are more likely to approach the PR team for “big creative ideas” than in the past. There was also a significant increase in agencies who employ a formally named creative director, from 37% to 56%. Still, a prime impediment to PR teams’ showing out-of-the-box creative chops is clients’ aversion to risk– something not so prevalent in the advertising field.

In today’s atmosphere of continuous communications from a multitude of channels, PR people (and their marketing peers) must come up with original approaches to storytelling and content to break through the noise.

4 ways creative PR takes it up a notch

Creativity in PSAs helps make a tired message fresh

We’ve all seen 30-second PSAs on late-night TV that feature a talking head looking into the camera and telling you to adopt a dog, or talk to your children about drugs. The Canadian Ontario Association of Optometrists unveiled an eye-opening approach to getting a simple public service message to the public. To urge people to give their eyes periodic breaks from screens, it filmed a series of snappy, fun viral videos called 20 Second Daydreams.

This fresh packaging of a mundane personal health topic makes all the difference. The video series makes a point through entertaining content, as opposed to a routine “eat-your-veggies” message. Showing beats telling, but it takes more work.

Creativity helps express company values in a distinct brand voice

Advertisements for travel metasearch sites usually involve a cutesy gnome (Travelocity) or a charismatic spokesperson (Trivago). Instead of traditional ads, Danish travel site Momondo produced a short documentary about 67 people doing DNA tests to find out more about their ancestral origins. Does this have anything do with shopping for airfares? Only tangentially, but it’s effective.

Momondo links the documentary to a brand statement that differentiates it from competitors like Expedia. “Our vision is of a world where our differences are a source of inspiration and development, not intolerance and prejudice.” (Expedia’s vision statement is milquetoast in comparison.) Momondo’s creative endeavor was no small project; it involved a heavy lift of DNA tests, interviews, and filmmaking. Yet it started an important conversation by espousing its values through storytelling. Seventeen million views later, Momondo has taken a strong stand and conveyed it an entertaining way through creative content and PR.

A great idea aligns a company’s mission with its market

Intuit reinvented itself six years ago as a provider of services to small businesses. Its Small Business Big Game campaign was not only a contest for small business owners to win a Super Bowl ad, but a way for it to interact with and celebrate SMBs. The 17,000 participating owners had the opportunity to tell their stories and receive additional benefits through the program. The initiative was an inspired method of spreading awareness of the Intuit Quickbooks brand, and more importantly, to position the company as an advocate for small business owners. PR teams need to conceive inspiring ideas to communicate alignment with its audience.

Creative PR helps B2B brands be accessible

B2Bs must scramble to find creative ways to gain competitive advantage in crowded markets. One way is to offer the company’s more human face to the public. Capitalizing on the trend of B2B PR/marketing borrowing B2C tactics, a UK data security company opened up a pop-up retail store in 2017 in London where customers were required to pay for products with personal data from their mobile phones. The Data Dollar Store was a fun, experiential event that raised awareness about data privacy, thereby communicating the company’s purpose to the general public. The event, boasting a playful, performance art ambience, accurately reflected the company’s values (“supporting art, science, and sport”) and the overall brand vibe. A firm’s PR team must bring their best creative chops when envisioning a tactic that generates so much earned and shared media on such a modest budget.

Audacity can add authenticity

All four above examples have the elements of authenticity and audacity in common. Creativity is in itself PR currency, since it’s the x-factor that can boost the inherent value of any campaign tactic. Some say it cannot be taught, but we disagree. The more you exercise those creative muscles, the stronger they become. Creative concepts are by definition outliers, so they may take a leap of faith. Small steps lead to larger strides and big ideas.

Is Facebook Still Best For PR Campaigns?

Does Facebook still work for brand PR?  The answer depends on your audience, but it’s likely to be yes. Although teens may have moved from Facebook to Instagram, Facebook is still used by 71 percent of  U.S. adults aged 18 and older. Not only do nearly three quarters of this group have a Facebook account, but according to the Pew Research Center, around 70 percent check it daily. So, what are some current best PR practices to consider when leveraging the site for earned and paid exposure?

Keep posts short and visual, and post on Thursdays and Fridays? Yes, current research says photos get 53% more likes, 104% more comments and 84% more click-throughs on links than text-based posts. Emoticons boost engagement and engagement rates on Thursday and Friday are 18% higher than other days.

Take inspiration from top brands. Facebook can go beyond brand storytelling and customer service, although it’s useful for both. It’s also an ideal platform for crowdsourcing a new product idea, or even customer insights, like Bobbi Brown’s campaign to bring back “retired” lipstick shades, or Lay’s #DoUsAFlavor campaign.

Create and manage Facebook Groups. Facebook Groups are an excellent way to manage relationships for a group, organization or brand.  Consider posting all company/product and interesting industry news, an events calendar, networking benefits to members, and other ways to participate. We have watched the Facebook group for a health technology client of ours grow exponentially by using the “face” of the company to help personalize content and posts.
Let your audience do the work for you. Businesses can connect with thousands or even millions on Facebook with a single click. If posts are provocative and share-worthy, the audience will be happy to do the work for you by liking, sharing, commenting and re-posting to other sites. Figure out what your “friends” like and comment on; and give them more of the same! Additionally, the connections made are that much more personal since people trust their friends and their information, leading to future benefits.

Earned vs. paid or both? We believe in maximizing the opportunity of the medium, may the best methodology win! Therefore, post some great visual content – include a provocative question or contest offer –  boost that post and consider advertising around it. Test some very inexpensive Facebook advertising and see what kind of ROI you get. If paid messaging increases brand affinity and purchase intent, while keeping cost efficiencies manageable, we are all for it.

Explore tools that will improve your posts. Whether a brand is looking to spruce up visual content or make social media publishing and scheduling easier, there are some terrific tools to explore. Canva helps the design-challenged create beautiful graphics for use on Facebook or any other social site. Try Edgar to organize and maximize social media updates. Stuck for ideas? Get to know buzzsumo.