A communications or public relations practitioner may be your best ally and resource when seeking or refining strategic communications to reach key audiences, build support, and deliver more dollars to your bottom line. However, there are at least four reasons you should not make that call.
1. To write press releases.
In journalism and PR circles there are periodic pronouncements that the press release is dead. Not to so many are the companies and organizations that believe the press release is THE best way spread the news out about their enterprises. Churning out press releases and blasting them out is lazy PR. It assumes that the only way to reach your audiences is through the media and reporters, who—by the way—don’t really want your releases. They look at it this way: If you’ve done a release, chances are you’ve sent it to the reporter’s competition; and no one wants someone else’s sloppy seconds. Reporters need information that is clear and succinct, and tailored to them. A well-crafted, short customized pitch will do just fine. If you really want to send a press release, send it to your partners, clients, and friends. The format of the release suggests a certain gravitas that a memo or announcement does not and is a good way to let key audiences know about new developments at your nonprofit or firm.
2. To tweet for you and help you get more likes on Facebook.
In 2013, we have more means to communicate than ever before in human history. But sadly, we seem to understand each other, trust each other less. Asking a PR firm to tweet for you or build your “like” count is meaningless. Twitter, Facebook, and other social media activity should be carried out within the context of a communications strategy that examines the audiences you want to reach, their concerns and issues, and the type of media they consume, while articulating well the messages you want to send.
3. To “spin” your story.
Communications and public relations can make a great idea spread faster and farther, but it can’t make bad ideas better. If you have a flawed product or you’ve behaved badly, a communications and/or PR firm can help you communicate with your audiences about what you are doing to fix the situation or help you frame the solution and make your apologies. But you shouldn’t expect it to help you lie or somehow erase the flaws that skunked you in the first place.
4. To feed your CEO’s ego.
Hiring a PR and communications firm simply to drive buzz for your CEO, because he or she is distressed that the competition’s CEO is getting more ink, is a recipe for disaster. If the CEO doesn’t have a good story to tell, people won’t pay attention, no matter how much money or effort you throw at it. And if folks do start paying attention, it’s hard to sustain that attention without a good, solid—and stand-out—reason. You will have created an expectation that can’t be sustained. And lastly, you should use your CEO to help tell the company or nonprofit’s story—not be the story.
The bottom line is that effective strategic communications is about more than the sum of the vehicles (traditional media, social media, etc.) employed to deliver messages. The best communications starts with a strategy—not random activity. Do you have any more reasons not to hire a communications firm? Tell us.