Who’s preventing you from getting the media stories your product deserves?
Public relations firms. That’s who.
Consider this: About $500 billion is spent annually on advertising and about $10 billion is spent on public relations. Of that $10 billion, most goes to PR services that are not publicity, such as crisis management, investor relations and community relations. Very little is spent on media coverage promoting products. The proof is in how few media stories most companies get.
Maybe the reason companies don’t get more media coverage is they’re just not interested in the exposure. No, that can’t be the case. The problem, as odd as it may seem, is that media coverage for products isn’t a service PR firms are comfortable offering.
There are two reasons for this. First, product media coverage doesn’t fit the culture of PR firms.
Thanks largely to Edward Bernays, who is considered the father of public relations, people in the industry are conditioned to see themselves as social scientists, not salespeople. In the 1920’s, Bernays borrowed the titles of “counselor” from the field of law and “practitioner” from the field of medicine. He simply started calling PR people counselors and practitioners to bring legitimacy to the emerging practice of public relations. Pretty clever. And most PR professional still use these titles today.
As counselors and practitioners, public relations professionals do their best work smoothing over social issues between a company and its many “publics”.
PR folks see themselves as mediators, not salespeople. As a matter of fact, many of them have an ideological problem with capitalism. It would at least be safe to say most PR firms don’t see themselves as a merry band of capitalists. That’s not the case with ad agencies. They understand very clearly that their job is to sell, sell, sell. And then sell some more.
Using publicity as a means of selling product puts PR professionals in a sales role they are not comfortable with.
The second reason publicity is a bad fit for public relations firms is their practice of billing hourly. Hourly billing may work fine for crisis management and investor relations, but not when it comes to arranging media coverage for the purpose of selling products. Imagine what would happen to the pizza industry if they charged by the hour with no guarantee of delivery: When the driver shows up, he may not have your pizza but you still have to pay the bill. Pricing media stories by the hour is such an illogical billing model that it should be obvious PR firms aren’t really interested in persuading reporters to do stories about products.
If you want to use media coverage as a promotional channel and mobilize reporters to share your product’s story, you’ll need to look beyond traditional PR firms. One great option is us. We arrange a ton of publicity and we don’t consider ourselves a PR firm. We are a hybrid agency that thinks and operates like an ad agency. We just happen to specialize in using earned media coverage to promote products.
We took a lot of heat when we tried to distance ourselves from the PR industry 30 years ago. What set us apart most was our nationally trademarked Pay Per Interview Publicity® billing model. We simply focused on using media coverage to sell products and priced it more like ads. I didn’t understand what the big stink was, but traditional firms were outraged at the way we did business. They felt our “pay per interview” way of billing cheapened the image of the PR industry. Hmmm. That’s telling, isn’t it.
Fortunately, business owners and marketers felt differently. They flocked to us in droves. Since that time we have arranged tens of thousands of news stories that explain products to the public. The selling power these media stories have had is unmatched in marketing.
If you don’t have media stories appearing frequently about your products, you should call our Vice President of Media Production Heather Champine at 952-697-5269. Over the last 30 years we’ve gotten pretty smart about persuading reporters and producers to do stories about our clients’ products.
Lonny Kocina, CEO and Founder
Media Relations Agency