I’m responding to 5 Public Relations Myths Debunked, to provide some helpful guidance to any CEO who’s new to PR. The author is critical of PR firms “after speaking with more than 200 companies” who seemingly shared her disappointment.

Instead of debunking the myths and providing helpful information about working with PR firms, she made criticisms of an entire industry. I have to say that I disagree.

I have more than two decades of experience in PR and marketing and have owned an agency for 11 years, so I speak from countless successful PR campaigns that led to valuable press for my happy clients, and have made a big impact on their business. I’ll take it point by point.

PR Myths That Aren’t Actually Myths

  1. A PR firm is guaranteed to get you press
  2. PR firms automatically have strong media connections
  3. A press release will help you get coverage
  4. You should only seek coverage around specific events
  5. Big publications are the only ones that matter


1. A PR Firm Is Guaranteed to Get You Press

The piece might have explained that a smart PR firm doesn’t make guarantees. Any PR firm would be pretty reckless to guarantee anything. A quality PR firm will estimate how much press you’ll get per month or per quarter, based on your monthly PR budget, the marketing team’s willingness to support you, and the CEO’s availability to prepare and deliver compelling interviews. There are no guarantees, because too many things beyond our control can go wrong. A good PR firm is upfront about that. You can immediately get a sense, within a few months, of a PR firm’s effectiveness. If the program’s not working, a good PR firm will recalibrate, or they should get fired. If you’re throwing away thousands of dollars a month with nothing to show for it, how about finding a better chief marketing officer?


2. PR Firms Automatically Have Strong Media Connections

New clients from around the country hire my firm every year. Do I know reporters in every major market? Of course not. With 35 years as a journalist and PR practitioner, I have a deep network of local and national media friends, podcasters, producers, and program hosts. I’ve built relationships over time. And those relationships happen when you serve reporters with the same white-glove care you give to clients.

And you can build those relationships whether you’re a 20-something or a 50-something. Does my 27-year-old colleague have the same deep connections I have? No. Does he take care in his research, ensuring he’s pitching the right reporters? You bet he does. Does he jump to schedule the client interview and meet a reporter’s deadline? He better, or he’s not working with me.

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3. A Press Release Will Help You Get Coverage

This one made me laugh. Because, as I was reading the piece dismiss the value of press releases distributed on PR Newswire, I was coordinating an interview request from a reporter who saw our news on PR Web, PRNewswire’s baby sister. I am not making this up! He emailed me: “I was going to check in with you about this. One of our editors spotted it on PR Newswire [sic] this morning and sent it to me.” 

Two hours later, after coordinating an interview and getting him photos, this story appeared in Crain’s Chicago Business. Case in point. PR Newswire sent our news to a wide list of reporters based on industry. The reporters and editors value the daily supply of news. And they act on it.


4. You Should Only Seek Media Coverage Around Specific Events

Any good PR firm will not focus all of their attention on major or specific events. Despite your best efforts at planning, something always gets in the way. Just look at what Covid-19 did to in-person events over the past several years. Just as we planned a big event, the pandemic struck and everything came to a grinding halt. Our clients had zero events during Covid. Yet I had more news placements than clients ever thought possible. How? By jumping on the news of the day, and finding valuable angles and insights to get our clients added to the conversation going on in the press.

We used our storytelling skills to explain how clients and their stakeholders were adapting during the pandemic. We shared anecdotes with the reporters most likely to request interviews. Our media pitches covered client insights and solutions that had not been covered locally. As a result, we made news in dozens of TV, radio, print, and online outlets, without creating one single event. 


5. Big Publications Are the Only Ones That Matter

The piece implies here that PR agencies’ main goal is to get their clients in major local and national outlets. Sure, we’d all love to see our clients in the Wall Street Journal or on CNBC. But that kind of newsmaking takes time — and a track record of consistently solid local coverage and thought leadership. Reaching reporters at small, local outlets, or landing interviews with podcasters and newsletter writers who cover your niche, will be impactful in helping you grow your audience and your business.

I’d like to add that you’re missing out if you fail to build relationships with reporters who cover your industry at the trade outlets. Also, keep in mind that business reporters who cover certain industries religiously follow trade outlets, looking for story ideas, so it pays to invest your time and energy in the trade press.

Public relations is one of the most effective ways to help grow your business. Advertising just can’t compare to the third-party validation that comes from being quoted or featured in the media. Knowing how to pick the right PR agency, setting reasonable expectations and goals, and finding a firm that truly becomes your partner is the key to your success.

Read More on BuiltIn.comSuccessful Brands Are Built on Business Storytelling

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