Mythbusters: PR Edition – Hint: It’s Not Like TV

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Michiko Morales

My introduction to PR came from Samantha Jones. Her job was certainly fabulous – going to parties, meeting celebrities, wearing expensive (and revealing) clothes and drinking cosmos. Of course, PR isn’t always like this. Mostly.

There are plenty of myths about PR out there – such as the glamorous partying – and while some of them might be completely false, others are based on old practices that have given PR professionals a bad name.

Before you assume that we’re all imbibing in $30 martinis while clutching our designer handbags every afternoon during happy hour, we’re here to demystify several common public relations myths.

Any publicity is good publicity.

Just because it’s an old adage, doesn’t mean it’s right. Sure, you might get some exposure, but negative publicity can have harmful and lasting effects on your stock price, public image and reputation. Just ask Exxon or Tiger Woods. Or, you know, Enron.

If I have learned anything from my education, experience, mentors and Olivia Pope, it’s that the best way to deal with negative news is to take action quickly before it becomes a full-blown disaster. That, and always tell the truth.

Impersonal mass emails are the way to go.

Um, no. Just no. There’s a reason journalists dislike (ok, hate) PR people, and this could be it. Instead of sending the same email to everyone, take the time to research what the reporter writes about, check out his/her Twitter account and craft a message that does more than send a canned pitch. Even if they pass this time, they will be more likely to open your message and respond in the future.

The longer the press release, the better.

Don’t get me wrong. A press release is a great tool for communicating your client’s news – but only when used correctly. We can get so caught up in saying everything we want to say that our releases can end up being three pages long and burying the lede.

Instead of focusing too much on filling a press release with useless information, make sure your headline and lede contain all of the information a reporter might need or find useful – right up front – and how it pertains to their audience. If they’re interested, they’ll read on or contact you for more details.

PR is all partying and wining and dining.

I wish! Trust me, I’d like nothing more than to be out at a fancy dinner or cocktail party sipping on some bubbly. But most nights? I’m home glued to my email (sipping some wine, I’ll give you that). News can break at any time, and clients or reporters can ping you late at night for something urgent, or your pitch planned for the morning can fall apart when a competitor beats you to the punch.

Like many jobs, PR can be a lot of hard work and late nights. But it’s all worth it when your client sends you flowers and chocolate to thank you for a successful launch!

PR is all spin.

While that certainly might have been true in the times of P.T. Barnum, today’s audience knows better. Most people can see right through fake or overly promotional material. In fact, if a company is caught misrepresenting news, the backlash would be enormous.

And with social networks tweaking their algorithms to minimize overly promotional content in users’ news feeds, brands have to be even more careful about being genuine, transparent and publishing actually useful information.

You need to hire the biggest and most expensive PR firm.

Well, as someone who works for a boutique technology marketing agency, I beg to differ. The big PR firms out there are great for large companies that need a lot of resources on their team. But in today’s crowded agency world, bigger isn’t always better. Smaller agencies will usually be more focused on a specific market or space. At GMG, we specialize in B2B tech clients. That’s what we’re about and where our experience lies. We excel at what we do because we’re focused on helping B2B tech companies grow – and we like it that way!

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Leah Nurik