A few months ago I was called by a colleague of mine who I respect immensely. She was upset with me. Very upset. She has over 30 years of experience in the world of Public Relations. She’s seen it all. From the boom of traditional advertising and branding, which I would consider the glory days of public relations, to the new transformed digital age. She lives and breathes PR and will ultimately forget more about this industry than many could ever learn.
She was mad because on my “About page” I directly quote that I think PR is 75% bullshit. So after she read that, she obviously took issue with it. In all honesty, I don’t really blame her either. She’s defending her industry.
Here’s My Problem With “PR”
My problem with PR isn’t that I don’t think it works. My problem is I don’t think PR is what it once was. To give you context, I also do digital marketing and work with many small businesses directly. I can’t tell you how many times these small businesses have told me they paid a PR firm some ridiculous amount for absolutely zero return on investment. That hurts, and considering most PR firms work on a retainer with a strict contract, that doesn’t help either. So yes, PR in my industry doesn’t come highly recommended.
So when I make statements that PR is 75% bullshit I stand by it. I’m not talking about the great PR professionals out there like my colleague I upset. I’m talking about the PR firms that prey on smaller clients that spend time convincing them that well written press releases will get their business more “exposure”.
I also think there are a great number of PR professionals out there (like my PR friend) who understand the importance PR has to an integrated marketing strategy. These people are also honest enough to understand that more goes into marketing than just good “press”.
Ezekiel Elliot Shows Good Press Still Has Impact
If you haven’t heard by now, Dallas Cowboy rookie sensation Ezekiel Elliot elevated Salvation Army’s brand to another level last night on Sunday Night Football.
Last night after Elliot scored he got flagged for excessive celebration because he jumped into the Salvation Army’s big red kettle in the end of each endzone at AT&T Stadium. Although Elliot got flagged for his celebration he won't’ be getting fined. In fact, just the opposite seems to be happening. For a penalty that mostly comes with a ridiculous and unnecessary fine of $12,154 for players who get this penalty, Elliots celebration is literally paying dividends in donations to Salvation Army.
Now, just under 24 hours since Elliot jumped into the Salvation Army’s big red kettle, reports say $183,000 donations have been made online.
This type of impact in the middle of what non-profits call “giving season” can’t be emphasized enough. Salvation Army has stated Elliot’s jump was much needed. Donations for the Salvation Army our down 16% from this time last year. Not to mention Salvation Army got some positive social media sentiment last night, too. Salvation Army was trending on Twitter last night when the most dominant trend normally on Sunday nights is #SNF (Sunday Night Football) itself.
My Conclusion on Public Relations
I don’t believe PR itself is bullshit. I believe there are a TON of PR firms out there that give PR as a whole a very bad name. Also, in my experience, I don’t believe PR should be the sole strategy to any comapanies marketing strategy. I also think PR is very unnecessary for smaller entities when there are cheaper and more effective ways to market a small business.
I DO believe PR can be effective when it hits a platform like Sunday Night Football. The type of exposure Ezekiel Elliot brought The Salvation Army is undeniable. His actions, although I believe were out of selfish and celebratory reasons, brought wonderful awareness to a great cause. When a brand has a mission at hand and gets exposure like The Salvation Army did, there is no doubt in my mind it will positively impact that organization.
For a fun pass time. Here’s a small debate I once started on Reddit regarding the ROI and public relations.