30.11.20 / Posted by jirehconsult

Public relations (PR) is not an industry widely known to people. When I first joined this industry, I too struggled explaining to my friends and relatives what I actually do. To give them a simpler answer, I would just say it is something to do with media. But they ended up thinking I am a media reporter or are in advertising. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who faced this challenge.

After almost a decade in this industry, I can now sum up some of the perceptions that people have of PR.

1. PR equals events
This is one of the very top perceptions people have about PR. Yes, we are involved in events but this is not the core activity. An event is just a platform for us to disseminate the message. Having a PR event is also an opportunity for PR practitioners to keep in direct touch with media, establishing or maintaining the relationship.

2. We only write press releases
Knowing how and being able to write a good press release is the cornerstone of what we do. However, PR is much more than that. We advise on the brand positioning, strategise the messaging, craft the bosses’ speech, evaluate the timeliness of narratives, build media relations and so on. Therefore, no, we do not only write press releases.

3. “I can write. I love to talk to people. That’s why I’m in PR”
It’s true PR requires you to do a lot of writing and talking to other people, especially the various stakeholders. It is also a lot more than these. It requires both IQ and EQ, a desire to do research and read up, a lot of hard work in coordination, perseverance in following up, ability to pack information and things well, and the list goes on.

4. PR does not need money
This is my biggest annoyance. There is a propagated belief that PR is cheap or free. As a result, budget is not properly allocated. Hence, many a time, there is insufficient or no budget available to execute the PR activity well. For example, no budget allocation for proper photography or preparation of b-rolls or even translated collateral for media. The reality is media are now functioning with manpower constraints and have no time to translate from English into their language. The outcome is, the pick-up will be lower.

I believe the situation arises from a lack of understanding of how PR works and what is required. A simple way of thinking is, PR is just like any other marketing and promotional activity – it requires proper budget and understanding that things and efforts cost money.

To be honest, not everyone can do PR well. PR is as an art. The art of persuasion. The art of understanding (the client, the media, the industry and everybody else that we need to work with). It is also the art of patience (of which, I’m slightly losing ever so more often when dealing with other people!).

Not many people realise the importance of PR for brands, companies and even the society. It requires a lot of advocacy. The role of PR is most apparent during a crisis. Handled and communicated well, the public will be placated and even understand the situation. Otherwise, the perception formed and reputation gained will take years to repair, and sometimes, never.