Why PR is a lot like shoes
PR is a form of marketing, kind of like how shoes are a part of an outfit. You may find that a slightly odd analogy, but bear with me.
PR (short for Public Relations) is a multi-faceted form of talking directly to the end listener via valuable channels and outlets. Done well you can steer public perception in a crisis or launch a new product directly to the customer with a single master-stroke of publicity. There are many styles and types of PR and they shouldn't all be viewed of as the same.
Richard Branson has always been the master of one sub-discipline of PR - the publicity stunt.
In increasingly whacky stunts he'd grab headlines to launch his latest Virgin-branded venture and found increasingly impressive ways to beat his previous effort to stay interesting.
So what about that shoe analogy? Well, in a lot of ways PR is the shoes in an outfit that is the overall brand image. Your presentation, and outward appearance, is about the things you wear and shoes are functional but also a visual queue to the message you're putting out about who you are and what you're doing. Shoes give away the true intent of your outfit and the wrong shoes with the wrong outfit is either going to become a fashion sensation, or a flop.
PR messages are very similar. If the PR message doesn't match the rest of your branding, or your outward appearance then you're more likely to get laughed at then be seen as an inspiration.
If your insurance company is well known as being professional and considerate then a publicity stunt that runs counter to this may get you headlines but isn't going to create a lasting impression of your brand (or at least not a good one). And don't listen to the old adage that any publicity is bad publicity, there is definitely bad publicity.
Synchronous PR is where the PR message/activation meets your brand identity and reinforces it further. Richard Branson's outlandish stunts suited the Virgin brand because it was a rebel, an upstart in every industry it entered. It countered the stuffy institution so every stunt was seen as the rebel playing up a little. The shoes matched the outfit.
Most PR is expected to be a silver bullet for a business. Getting their hands in the right influencer will explode sales, one well-timed stunt will get them thousands of dollars of free publication space. In reality that's more the exception than the rule.
Until you get it wrong of course. Like Krispy Kreme deciding to run a 'KKK Wednesday' event (Krispy Kreme Klub), or Acclaim deciding to pay for any speeding tickets on the day it launched a video game, or U2 forcing every iTunes subscriber to download their album, and then delete it. Those shoes were very much the wrong shoes.
With PR being like a pair of shoes the first thing to consider is whether your business, activity, or outfit, even requires shoes. If you decide it does then you're probably best to choose the rest of the outfit, then find shoes that match.
My business wears sensible clothes and practical shoes. Yours might be a little more adventurous and rugged, or flamboyant and colourful. Whatever your business outfit make sure you choose the shoes that suit.
But wait, what's this now about an entire outfit?
Well, that's your marketing and business plan. If you know what you're doing that day you can find the outfit (marketing) that will help you achieve that day's plan.
Our parting message is the last shoe link we'll make. No matter what you're doing remember that your shoes connect you to the ground and support your whole body. Cheap shoes are likely to damage your posture and cause you long-term health problems. The same can be said for PR. PR connects your brand to the wider world, cheap and crummy PR will only cause you long-term headaches. It's better to invest on something that suits the purpose and will last.
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