Half-baked Public Relations leaves a bad taste….

“All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions.”  
Leonardo da Vinci   

One of the problems for Public Relations practitioners (and Marketers) is that everyone thinks they can do your job.  This is certainly a very prevalent theme in the technology business.

The obvious intellectual barriers to entry are sufficiently low to the uneducated and as we all know, everyone loves to give their advice on how you could improve your programs and your results.  Sometimes this advice can spark great ideas, but often it’s just part of the drudgery of everyday Public Relations.

One of the results of these perceptions is that often pressure is put upon PR practitioners to “get things done” regardless of whether it is the right course of action, regardless of whether the program is ready or if the timing is right. Often in our desperate need to please management we allow our better judgement to be over-ruled by such interference. But as we become more experienced we push back.

I consider myself a pragmatist when it comes to Public Relations.  I won’t rush a half-baked program or announcement, while at the same time I won’t wait for a program to arrive fresh from the ivory tower. I believe that both approaches as wrong.  Going with a program too soon means you are unprepared and will most likely be unable to sustain it in the medium term.  Waiting too long runs the risk of missing the opportunity.

Understanding the happy middle ground is something you learn over time.

By way of illustration, allow me to recount a conversation I had in the past week with a former colleague of mine. She was approached by a software start-up who were looking for a PR expert.

My former colleague was perfectly qualified and in my opinion would have done a fantastic job for them. However, in their first meeting, the enterpreneur informed her that he had previous experience of PR at other companies and that he wanted a US media and analyst tour planned and executed in less than three weeks and XX number of stories placed in the same time period.

He assured her he had “contacts” in the analyst firms that would smooth the process. His company however had no messaging, no materials, no previous media exposure and no infrastructure to support a PR program such as customers etc. My former colleague tried to explain that whilst such activities could be attempted it would be wiser to delay a little while to make sure proper preparation was made.

He hired another practitioner who agreed with his timeline. I await the results with interest.

As you know, Public Relations is not about one-off meetings or one-off news stories. It is about building relationships and communicating effectively. You get one chance to make a first impression and you better make sure that it’s a good impression. Setting up a meeting and then not delivering is worse than doing nothing at all. IMHO.

The start-up’s perception that all that was needed was a press and analyst tour (and a press release) is a common misconception. What if the tour was successful and the company created some interest from the media or analyst community, would they be able to service that interest? Would they be able to build momentum? I doubt it.

Pragmatism tells me that you should hit the green button once you’ve all the major pieces in place. But it also tells me that you shouldn’t go before you’re ready.

This rambling observation was prompted by my former colleague’s experiences and an editorial in Communications Convergence magazine this month.

Editor-in-Chief, Rick Luhman writes:

“Anyway. Food for thought, vendors.  Initial press contact is fine and dandy in almost any and all formats; just make sure you can dish it out after you’veworked so hard to jerk us around to your company.”