Q: What is public relations?
A: Public relations is the two-way conversation between an organization and its publics. Specifically, our PR services include: media, community, government, member, employee, industry and customer relations; award nominations; content creation and client announcements; photography; promotions; counseling; and more.
Q: What’s the difference between “public relations” and “marketing”?
A: Ask 20 marketing/PR professionals this question, and you’ll get 20 different answers. But being the good communicators we are, it behooves us to try to clear things up here, rather than send you hunting through the Internets.
We’ll give you the technical definitions first — in case you’re like some of us and like that kind of thing. Then we’ll tell you what that means in plain English.
Jargon answer: According to the Public Relations Society of America, public relations is defined as “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” Whereas, according to the American Marketing Association, marketing “is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”
Plain English answer: A very simplistic — not 100 percent accurate — way of thinking about the two is one-way dialogue (marketing) vs. two-way dialogue (PR). Or paid (marketing) vs. “earned” (PR).
Delving a little deeper, Deborah Weinstein of Strategic Objectives in Canada explains it perfectly: “Marketing is everything a brand, business or organization does to sell its goods, services and values. … Public Relations, with its P2P (person-to-person), two-way dialogue and human approach builds honest, open and transparent bridges of communication between a brand, business or organization and its constituent communities — be they clients, customers, consumers, employees, the media, stakeholders, government and key influencers, and/ or all of the above.”
No matter how you define them, the best campaigns combine both.
Q: Define “media.”
A: Media, in this case, is anyone working to supply facts to the public through the printed word, television, social media or online. Today’s traditional media outlets include television news, printed daily, weekly and monthly newspapers and magazines, and online-only news sources.
Q: Am I guaranteed coverage in the media?
A: Unfortunately, no. Not unless you purchase an ad or advertorial. The editorial side of the news is more trusted for a reason – because it is what the paper/TV station/radio station reporters/editors/producers have determined legitimately newsworthy. Newsworthy stories either inform, entertain, educate, inspire or some combination thereof. Because of this, we only pitch newsworthy ideas on behalf of our clients. But while we only pitch ideas we believe a reporter will be interested in covering, reporters do not “owe it to us” to cover the ideas we pitch. That being said, we have very good, trusting relationships with members of the media throughout the state and through the country, and our success rate in successfully pitching ideas for coverage is excellent.
Q: If it’s free to have an article about my company in the paper, why should I pay your company to make it happen?
A: It is true that anyone can pitch their story ideas to a reporter for coverage. However, it is often more work than someone who is running his or her own business can make time for. (Especially considering members of the media move around so much that it’s practically a part-time job in itself just maintaining an up-to-date list.)
Members of the media receive hundreds of emails and pitches daily. Yes, daily. Considering they have actual reporting to do, they don’t read all of those emails. (It would be impossible.) Typically, they scan for emails from sources they trust (like us) or potentially interesting headlines. If they do actually read an email from someone they don’t know and that person is pitching them a story that’s off-target (a business pitch to a sports reporter, for example) or simply not newsworthy, they probably won’t read emails from that person ever again. Because of our longstanding relationships with both individual reporters/editors/producers and our overall reputation as a firm, we are better able to get our messages seen.
Q: I’ve heard public relations called “free advertising.” Is that an accurate depiction of what you would be getting me?
A: Not quite. It’s sometimes called “free advertising” because, often, you are getting a great feature that gets in front of thousands of readers, and it’s free! However, unlike purchasing an ad, we are not at liberty to view a reporter’s story before it runs. If there’s an error in it, and there might be, there is nothing we can do about it. (Although, we can ask if the error can be fixed online and, if it’s a big enough error, we can ask for a correction to run in the next day’s paper.) The reporter may also want to take their story in a different direction than we originally intended in our pitch, and it is absolutely their right to do so.
Q: OK, so you’re not paying the media to cover your clients. How, exactly, would you get me coverage then?
A: Reporters can’t be everywhere and they use additional resources and contacts to generate their news, feature and business stories. We work with you to tell your story to the right reporter who will then tell your story to the public. There is never a guarantee, but our job is to decide which reporter to pitch and when to allow for the best opportunity for coverage.
Q: What kind of relationships do you have with the media?
A: Our team has years of experience in the news industry, and we’ve developed many trusted relationships with members of the media along the way. Many of them are our friends, and we have professional relationships with many more. It’s because of this that, when we contact the media with a story idea, they’ll usually give our ideas a listen.
Q: What kind of results should I expect?
A: This depends on a few things, including newsworthiness of the ideas we pitch, how often we pitch, how easily you make yourself available when media calls, and more. While we can’t guarantee you will get covered in the media, it certainly makes sense for you to have expectations for your PR campaign. Together, we can discuss what’s reasonable on both ends.
Q: How do I know the difference between what’s important to me and what’s actually newsworthy?
A: The best way to decide this is to speak to us, and through conversation, we can decide what will be of the most interest of the media at that time. Media interests depend on their personal and professional interests as well as trends and timely local and national news events of the day.
Q: If a reporter interviews me, how can I know for sure the story will be positive?
A: There is no way to guarantee what a reporter will say about you in a story, which is a risk. However, we will never put you in a situation where there are questions that could paint you in a negative light or set you up for failure during an interview. We will work with you to prepare you for your interviews and help you think of answers to any tough questions before your interview. If you are honest with us about your story and situation from the beginning, we can help make sure your media opportunities are positive experiences and there will be few surprises.
Q: Do you do press conferences?
A: Yes. When a press conference is truly needed, we can absolutely handle that. However, some things that may initially seem to require a press conference might not. If you think you need a press conference, let us know and we can discuss the best way to handle getting your message out.
Q: Something bad happened and I don’t want the media to know. Can you handle this?
A: There are different ways to approach a crisis. Oftentimes, we actually recommend being the first to notify the media when there’s a crisis. If the situation, or client, is large enough, they’ll find out regardless, and it’s always better to let them hear it from you rather than second-hand. When a situation seems large to a client but, in the grand scheme of things, actually isn’t particularly newsworthy, we can help you work out the situation a different way. In all situations when something has gone wrong, it’s critically important to address it quickly, communicate to all involved parties and the media (if necessary) how you’re addressing it, be transparent, and be helpful.
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Q: How long will it take for me to become famous?
A: “Famous” is a relative term, although how quickly you become well-known to various sections of the public depends on factors like the frequency of which you’re in the media and across multiple media outlets as well as how relevant you are to the public.
Q: What is a media relations campaign, and how much does it cost?
A: A media relations campaign takes into consideration the message a client would like to relay to the public via the media as well as the steps required to implement that message.
The cost for such a campaign depends on your budget. Nothing we create for clients is cookie-cutter, so all ideas, pitches, press releases, distribution lists, etc. are created specifically for each message we send to media on behalf of a client. Because all of this takes time, the amount of time we can spend on behalf of each client is determined by how many hours a client contracts for us to work on their behalf each month. The larger the client’s retainer, the more time we are able to work on enhancing their image. At a minimum, though, we recommend at least one monthly media push to begin to develop, and then maintain, momentum.
Q: Why do you write in AP style?
A: AP Style is the writing style of the Associated Press and a vast majority of the publications in the country. By writing our press releases and submissions in this style, newspaper editors and reporters can easily tell we speak their language, and they can easily copy and paste any information we send them without further editing. In busy newsrooms, the time saved editing can be invaluable.
Q: What is a media kit, and how is it used?
A: A media kit is like a sales kit, but it’s written with reporters/editors’ needs in mind. It can also be called a press kit.
There’s no one-size-fits-all rule when determining what to include in a media kit; we cater each one to the client for which it’s written. Often included, however, are: About Us, Leadership, Services, FAQs, an executive Q&A and a Contact Us page. When it makes sense, we may include Facts, History, Origin Story, etc. Essentially, we’ll include whatever general information a media outlet would want when writing – or considering writing – a story. An elaborate WHO/WHAT/WHEN/WHERE/WHY, if you will.
Upon completion, the media kit can also be used as a jumping off point for writing many other materials – such as the website, sales kit and brochures – for the client. If being an easy resource for media at all hours is desired, a designed version of the media kit can also reside on the client’s website as a downloadable, native PDF.