Does Every Company Deserve PR?

Guest post by Karen Addis, APR, President & CEO, Addis Communications

I recently participated in a roundtable discussion with industry professionals and academics about the future of PR education. We discussed at length issues such essential skills future practitioners need to possess.

I’m pleased to say that everyone agreed writing is still an essential skill. The best practitioners are strong writers.

Another item that was discussed was ethics, an issue that continues dominate the news. That led to one of the participant’s posing the question: “Does every company deserve PR representation?”

It stopped the conversation cold. For a group of communicators to suddenly go quiet is unusual!

It was a great question and got us all thinking. Our conclusion: No, not every company deserves PR representation. After all, PR professionals are not the same as attorneys.

The discussion also got me thinking beyond ethics. There are some companies, even if they are not involved in wrongdoing or ethical dilemmas, that do not deserve PR representation. I realize that is a rather harsh statement to make as someone who has been on the sales side of PR for the past dozen years.

Over the course of my career, I’ve come to realize there are some companies that should not hire PR agencies because they lack an understanding of what PR is and what it can accomplish.

Here is what PR is not:

  • We are not miracle workers. Every company has problems that need to be fixed. If you have a car that gets poor ratings on crash tests, you need to correct the manufacturing flaws. No amount of PR is going to fix the root of the problem.
  • We cannot guarantee media coverage. If you want assurances that your organization will appear in the media, buy an ad or pay for a sponsored article.
  • We are not the same as sales and marketing. Yes, we support those functions, but rarely can we guarantee PR will directly improve your sales.
  • We cannot operate in a vacuum. The best client-agency relationship is a partnership, a two-way collaboration. We can only take projects so far and ultimately need clients’ input.
  • We are not “spin doctors.” While we position our clients in the best light possible, if an organization or its management is involved in illegal or unethical behavior, that’s an entirely different matter. Hire an attorney. And if a company is not genuinely interested in making amends and righting its wrongs, PR is not your answer.

So now that you know what PR is not, how do you decide whether PR is right for you?

Here’s some guidance:

  • You look at PR as a strategic partner that can offer thoughtful insight and advice, not simply tactical order takers.
  • You view PR as an integral part of your organization’s success, along with other key functions, such as sales, marketing, finance and operations.
  • You understand PR is a two-way street and cannot operate in a vacuum.
  • You see the value PR brings to an organization – and what it cannot do.
  • You recognize that PR is an ongoing process, not just a tool to fix a problem and then disappear.

Every company benefits from PR, but an organization needs to have a clear understanding of what what it can and cannot accomplish. Smart, forward-looking executives understand this, and those who don’t aren’t ready for PR.

About the Author

Karen Addis, APR, is president and CEO of Addis Communications. She  is a seasoned communications professional who is committed to collaborating with clients to help them achieve success. She has been in her clients’ shoes and understands the demands placed on today’s communications teams of doing more with less and the internal challenges they must navigate.