Can I Do My Own PR?

Last week I was in New York City to speak on a Fashion PR 2.0 panel about the use of social media in PR and marketing for the fashion industry. During the course of the evening, many interesting questions were asked. One in particular that stood out was from a budding fashion designer who asked, “Can I just do my own PR?”

Let’s take a quick look at a few things you can do yourself:

- be your own legal representative

- bake your own wedding cake

- file taxes

- be your own Realtor

- sew your own clothes

Obviously, there are many more things you could do yourself. But you choose not to because it’s not your area of expertise, you know someone else can do it better (i.e., the professionals), you don’t have the right amount of time or resources to do the best job, or a variety of other reasons.

With the rising popularity of social media, many people are implying – or outright stating – that PR as a profession is dead and that everyone can do their own PR. This sentiment is just silly. PR is not dead. It’s not a dying profession. Social media isn’t killing it – if it were, PR would just be about the tools, and not the people. If anything, social media is simply forcing an improvement in PR – thankfully.

That’s a key point people are missing – PR is about the people and how they execute their professional skills, not the tools they use. Think about it – social media is just making it easier to connect with more people, more often – but even before social media, the main tools for PR professionals were mail and phone, and before that, postal mail and fax. These are tools that – like social media – anyone could have used to execute PR in the past – so why suddenly does everyone think that just because it’s easier to communicate, everyone is good at it?

Trust me, I’m well aware that there are many, many PR professionals that do a bad job. I’ve received horrible, off-topic pitches myself as a blogger. But is this really different than any other industry? Or is PR as a profession just more visible to the outside world and thus more of a target to have bad work exposed?

PR isn’t brain surgery. I’ve always said that. It’s not impossible for anyone to do. Of course you can do it yourself. It doesn’t mean you’ll be good at it, or as lucky as Jason Calacanis was, and it might take time away from what you’re really good at – or worse, you might cause yourself more damage than good. So while hiring a full service PR and social media agency isn’t right for everyone – certainly a budding fashion designer would be better off hiring a consultant to start – it doesn’t mean that doing it yourself is the right option either.

People seem to view it as an “either/or” situation. Just because you hire a PR firm doesn’t mean that they are the only ones promoting your company. it also doesn’t mean that they don’t believe in your brand, understand or even use your product. We use plenty of our client’s products and are avid brand advocates even before – or after – working with them.

Good PR and marketing firms help everyone involved to properly promote the company – and to keep messages honest, transparent, consistent and persistent. It doesn’t mean the CEO shouldn’t also be participating in conversations – together, PR firms and their clients can all work together to spread brand enthusiasm and “be amazing, be everywhere and be real.” PR isn’t a synonym for fake – and the implication is tiring.

Rather, if you are already involved in social media, use it to ask the community about good PR firms or some great consultants. Keep in mind, however, who you are asking – be sure they are either reporters who work with these executives, or that they are industry executives who have had more than one job and truly understand both sides – corporate and agency – of PR and communications.  Just because someone has a lot of followers on Twitter doesn’t mean that they know corporate communications or how to help with other areas of PR such as crisis communications, marketing and sales positioning, corporate branding (as opposed to personal branding), and other crucial facets to great and successful marketing. Trust me – personal brands are one thing, corporate expertise another.

What do you think? Should everyone do their own PR? Can they?

15 thoughts on “Can I Do My Own PR?

  1. Quite honestly, I think that in some aspects, social media has created new opportunities for PR professionals. Yes, anyone can use SM to promote their product or service and do PR, but have they thought of all of the ways this can be done? That information should be gathered and shared as the new PR to potential clients. I believe that people who did not traditionally need PR, need it more than ever now but perhaps the definition isn’t what it has been. That’s the change. I don’t think it’s dead. Just like the media industry and many other industries it simply has to evolve. Where are all the new ideas? That’s what I want PR types to share with me. Everyone is into personal branding these days so why not capitalize on that? tell us how to do it. that’s the ultimate PR need at the moment.

    Angela Connor | @communitygirl on twitter

  2. Great post Christine,

    While I agree upon the benefit of hiring a professional in order to get a job, any job, done swiftly, I can’t help to believe that PR is threatened by the advent of social media.

    The reason I believe this that I find traditional PR to be a matter of two things: a) contacts with journalists and b) the know-how of writing newspaper articles which can be printed right away.

    Now, social media does in a way disrupt this relationship as news and information can move more freely due to common people being empowered with publication tools as well as distribution tools.

    In addition the language used out here is not necessarily the same as the language used in newspapers which even can cripple the traditional PR person. You need to talk the talk if you want to walk the walk, if you please.

    I find many mechanisms applied earlier to be out of date and if not the PR business can adapt to the new ways of communication they may face some severe problems. In addition we’re all humans, aren’t we. So communicating with other people is something we’ve been taught since day one.

    So I’d say that traditional PR transforming into “new” PR may be an issue of tools since many peeps may not know where to start. Of course it may be a matter of time as well, but since initiatives within social media tends to take plenty of time it is uncertain that anyone could afford to hire a professional – well, unless you have a large turn-over.

    (Pardon my French. English isn’t my first language)

  3. Angela, I agree, a lot of people are into personal branding and it’s easier than ever to do. I think the tricky part is balancing personal branding with your day job. Brian Solis actually does a good job of talking about this in a series of posts (be prepared to read, he writes a lot!): http://www.briansolis.com/2008/08/socialization-of-your-personal-brand.html

    Stefan, thank you very much for reading and commenting. I have to say that I disrespectfully disagree that PR is only those two things you mention. PR is about relating with your public – and that goes well beyond just the media. That’s part of the reason social media is such a game changer – it makes relating with your public constituents easier than ever! But I still don’t think it means everyone is good at it. I do agree – PR is changing. I just don’t think it’s dead.

    Alin – thanks for reading!

  4. Social Media is a new with increasing popularity tool in the Digital Age. And I think it’s very
    vital addition to PR.
    So, PR can use a lot of advantages of the social
    media in making its work more efficient and impressive.

    Personal Branding can go a long with experienced
    PR specialists as well. I mean, sometimes companies have got their own vision, concept on how they want to market themselves. So, PR managers should feel, envision their perspectives
    of themselves. So, it’s very mutually interdependent relationships. And outsourcing
    is quiet helpful.
    And PR can be essential in dealing with some
    negative responses, misinformation. So, Personal
    Branding can’t only survive on its own.

    I’m for everything new and innovative whether
    its social media or personal branding.

  5. I really liked this article.

    PR and PR firms are definitely not dead. As you mentioned it’s really about the people and you can’t get this from social marketing replacements. There are some really great small/large PR firms that do a great job for their clients and get results that their clients would not have been able to reach on their own. Whether or not you need a PR firm is really dependent on how important public relations is to you and/or your business.

    -Timothy

  6. Christine, I just love this line: “so why suddenly does everyone think that just because it’s easier to communicate, everyone is good at it?” AMEN! Communication is an art and it takes practice (if you care enough to be good at it).

    To me, this is akin to “anyone can be a marketer.” PR (and marketing) pros make it look easy because they *know* what to do & they know understand their craft…and sure people will think it’s easy to do. Heck, cooking is easy to do, but does that make me a chef?

    And I am with you, I don’t think social media is threatening PR at all…it’s just giving us more tools to use. The Social Media Club/Philadelphia just had a meetup in December with some editors from the Philadelphia Inquirer/Philly.com and we asked them about social media tools and pitching using these tools. They said their staff isn’t using ‘em (only a few are on Twitter). So, if someone wants news in Philly, they best better pick up the phone or send an e-mail. :)

  7. Timothy – thanks so much for your comments. Also – cool site! You guys are doing some interesting things. Thanks for introducing yourself.

    Beth – I totally respect your opinion and am thankful for your insights. I love the assessment that we make it look easy! And, good to know about Philly – thanks for the tip :)

    Thank you both for reading! Would love to keep collaborating on such topics – see you on Twitter!

  8. This reminds me of something I was talking to my kids about the other day…

    As I was putting together some tips and tricks for web design and SEO it occurred to me that it might not be good to ‘give away my secrets.’ (as if a couple of clicks on Google wouldn’t turn up the same thing.) Maybe some would-be clients would read them and do it all on their own! OH NO! Then I thought about my fence.

    We got a new pup and needed to put up a fence. So I Googled “how to make a fence”. No problemo. Went down to Home Depot, bought my premade panel, some nails, a few extra pickets and a couple of things I needed, all the while singing “Sistahs are doing it for themselves…”. My girls and I were going to build a fence! And save some money at it too! AND learn a new trade to boot!

    To make a long story longer, after buying the wood, bringing the pieces home, standing outside in the snow and giving more thought to the what-seemed-so-easy-before task at hand, I placed an ad on Craigslist and hired a professional!

    I tell this story to that would-be client who wants to do it themselves…

  9. Christine,
    Don’t I wish I had half the skill at communication of the true PR profssionals I know? Yeah. Excellent PR is darned hard work as well as an art. Writing my own PR is like trying to stitch up a wound in the wild. I’d rather have a professional in charge.

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  11. I think the big problem is that PR is subtle. Well, GOOD PR is subtle and from the outside it looks simple. Make friends with some reporters, call them with your awesome story about your super-awesome business…and watch the money, clients, awards, and accolades roll in!

    Wait, that’s not how it works? *grin*

    I like to learn things from the inside out, and to hear people say on blogs and elsewhere that PR is dead haven’t even been in a paper or on TV or HAD publicity. Sure you can pick up a science book and THINK you can make your own rocket that will go to Mars…but yeah…good luck with the execution.

    I’ve been in the LA Times, WebMD, ABC News, and the Chicago Tribune in the last three months. I’m here to say PR is NOT dead, PR agencies are necessary and good.

    That’s coming from someone who has gotten their own publicity in real places. Not some blowhard know-it-all who thinks they can just “figure it out.”

  12. Thanks Jenny. It does look simple, you’re right. And sometimes it is – honestly. When I managed PR for a gaming company, getting the media to cover us was *so easy* – everyone wanted to review the games (duh). And most of the games were cutting edge, from one of the first and most original game developers in the industry.

    The challenges came when the reviews weren’t good.

    Or when we couldn’t give previews.

    Or when a product manager got testy with a reporter.

    That’s when the subtle communications skills become really valuable and PR was absolutely necessary – good PR.

    Maybe one of the big problems here is that everyone thinks PR means “media relations.” There is a lot of that – but let’s not forget, it doesn’t stand for “press release.” It stands for PUBLIC relations. Don’t your public constituents go well beyond the media?

  13. It can be difficult doing your own PR, it eats in to a lot of your time but if the postitive response – if you can get it – and any press coverage makes it all worth while. I found The Pocket Guide To Fashion PR really helpful, I bought it via Amazon UK and they posted to the States no problem.

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