CEO Misconceptions About Public Relations

Misconceptions advice at Bospar“I am not feeling the love!” is a common exclamation in public relations (PR).

This utterance is bidirectional. CEOs say it to PR advisors when they don’t get the favorable coverage anticipated for their companies and/or themselves as the result of a PR initiative. PR professionals tend to mutter it to themselves when their contributions demonstrably increase awareness or their adroit crisis management efforts avert a brand perception disaster yet go unrecognized.

The saying “where one stands depends on where one sat” helps explain the perception gap between the value delivered by PR versus the value perceived by CEOs. Whether we like it or not, perception tends to trump reality. To quote the movie Cool Hand Luke, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” How ironic this is, given that the purpose of public relations is to create and convey impactful communications.

At Bospar, experience has taught us how to best interact with CEOs and other C-levels to bridge the expectations versus reality gap. It entails upfront discussions of misconceptions that executives may have about PR.  This includes reaching an understanding about roles and responsibilities, capabilities (human and technical), deliverables and metrics for determining success. It may sound cliché, but great things do happen when everyone is singing from the same hymnbook from start to finish.

Clearing up the misconceptions 

In no particular order — and while recognizing that this is a bidirectional communications challenge where the parties need to listen and then act on agreed-upon roles and responsibilities — below are few select “perception versus reality” misconceptions Bospar has encountered. These examples should enable PR agencies and CEOs to avoid destructive misunderstandings. In fact, they should facilitate a win/win relationship in good times as well as when business problems arise.

Perception: “We don’t have a budget for PR but want to grow our awareness.”
Reality: The old saying “You have to spend money to make money” applies. Just putting a press release on the internet (regardless of channel) without a media optimization plan and expecting great things to happen is fantasy. The press may glamorize things that go viral, but the overwhelming majority of videos, blogs, RSS feeds, tweets and other social interactions that get traction are not actions of happenstance. They are the byproduct of intensive planning and timely, compelling execution.

Perception:“Why are our competitors always mentioned in articles and we are not?”
Reality: In two words: RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT.Competitors are mentioned because — thanks to CEO appreciation of PR’s gateway/gatekeeper role in managing the relationships with industry influencers of all types — they know how to have the right person say the right things to the right people at the right time. This includes knowing when and how to interact, since influencers don’t like being hit-and-run victims.

Perception:“If we could only get on the front page of The Wall Street Journal…”
Reality: That is the ultimate prime business media real estate reserved for developments with enormous importance and impact. A nice aspirational goal is to have something of substance that this newspaper wants to put on its front page.

Perception: “Everything we do is newsworthy and deserves media attention.”
Reality: No, sorry! Plus, too many media blasts are akin to the boy who cried wolf too often. When something truly newsworthy happens, there is still the strong possibility of being ignored. It is also why relationship management matters.

Perception:“Our solution is the most disruptive!”
Reality:  Declaratory statements without facts and objective, third-party validation are the bane of journalists’ existence. Claims including “most” or “first” can be a very risky business, like to do more harm than good.

Perception:“I am the CEO. I don’t need to prepare for an interview.”
Reality: Total arrogance and ignorance of what happens in the media meat grinder leads to a predictable result.Everyone needs to prepare for an interview. Period.Preparation should include interview role-playing and a messaging review.

Perception:“We have approval rights to a story before it goes live.”
Reality:Only if this is negotiated. Truthfully, the most influential journalists are the least likely to agree to this. And insisting on an advance review will damage the relationship with the journalist.

Perception:“Lots of reporters showed up for Apple’s product launch. So, let’s throw our own launch party and invite them. Why don’t we have a press conference?”
Reality:When your market share or thought leadership is clearly recognized, party or press conference attendance by the media is mandatory. Press events sponsored by the other 99 percent of companies fail.

One last reality check

There is a distinct difference CEOs must fully comprehend between “PR, the messaging deliverable” and “PR, the multi-faceted, mission-critical brand stewardship functionality” whose caretakers need to have a seat at the table and who deserve respect for their roles as advisors.

Yes, PR is responsible for producing “stuff.” But PR is so much more. If there is an absence of CEO appreciation for PR’s critical and varied role, PR is probably not merely underused; it’s likely being misused.

But misconceptions no longer exist when clients see PR as:

  • the gateway/gatekeeper (relationship managers) of media access to the company
  • the experts on proper training and execution of executive interactions with media of all types
  • the front line for evaluating “market buzz” from the press, industry analysts, social media, and various stakeholders

CEOs and PR pros alike need to feel the love. Mutual respect and a clear understanding of what PR can and cannot do are the keys to successful partnerships.

One Launch Is Not Enough

Why one launch is not enoughFirst appeared in the December 2016 print edition of O’Dwyer’s.

There are many circumstances—tequila shots, bright eyeshadow and orange shag carpet come to mind—in which less is more. In PR, however, more is always just more.

Back in September we polled 1,010 American adults in our Consumer PR Effectiveness Study to determine how likely people were to visit a tech company’s website based on media coverage. Then, in October, we fielded a B2B PR Effectiveness Study, which surveyed over 500 marketers—CMOs, vice presidents of marketing, marketing directors and marketing managers—to see how PR influences them.

What we discovered is that some people are moved to visit a company’s website the first time they encounter it in the media. But, in most cases—and this was especially true in the case of consumers—people have to see several media placements before they are moved to check out a company further.

These results confirm what PR people know from experience: a single launch event is not enough. What truly drives traffic to a company’s website and achieves lead generation and, ultimately, sales is a steady cadence of regular coverage in a variety of media outlets. Anything short of that and your company is but a blip on the radar of the noisy news machine.

“Decision makers are influenced by compelling content that brings insight—be it a video, infographic, survey or industry backgrounder,” said Carla Schlemminger, marketing strategist and startup advisor. “By encountering broader content pieces which speak to a larger industry, the reader forms a positive association with the company in question. That company is now gaining brand recognition in the mix of larger industry conversations, trust over lesser-known brands, higher-level partnerships and shorter sales cycles.”

Hetal Pandya, co-founder of EasilyDo, agreed that seeing products and services in the media is essential to making purchasing decisions. “Learning about a B2B company, their product and their success from the press definitely helps give the brand credibility.”

Marketing professionals, on the whole, are far more responsive to media placements than consumers, likely because it is their job to keep their fingers on the pulse of their industry. In our survey, over half (52 percent) of the CMOs and vice presidents of marketing responding said they would visit a company’s web or mobile site the first time they see a company in the news. That was also true for 43 percent of the marketing directors and one in five marketing managers. Seeing a story several (two to five) times in the media will garner visits from another third of CMOs and VPs (35 percent), another third of marketing managers and another 14 percent of marketing directors.

“As a CMO, if I’m engaged in a branding campaign, then I’ll be automatically drawn to content related to branding and will likely visit websites that can educate me on trends, tools or techniques,” said Arya Barirani, CMO of GlobalLogic. “Good marketers are always putting themselves in the audience context —some call this the customer journey — to figure out how to serve up content to create greater engagement. So, yes, if I encounter a really compelling piece of content, I will certainly investigate the company further.”

“As a rule of thumb, consumers must hear about a product or service two to five times from three different sources for a company to establish awareness and earn purchase consideration,” agreed Mark Undercoffler, a 20-year marketing industry professional. “In contrast, many in the industry are tasked with innovating and keeping a competitive advantage, so the B2B audience is more likely to check out a new company sooner.”

Indeed, consumers are a harder win: only one in five American men and 13 percent of women will check out a site the very first time they see a media placement. Sixteen percent of American men will visit a company site after seeing several (between two to five) media placements, and nearly one in four will visit a site after seeing a company in the news more than five times. Only an additional 11 percent of women say they will visit a company’s site after seeing several placements, but 49 percent say they will eventually check out a company’s web or mobile site if they see enough placements.

“The studies’ results are clear,” added David Hurwitz, Vice President of Marketing at MosaixSoft. “Seeing a company mentioned by legitimate third parties drives interest. The magic of PR is to make that happen.”

While a launch event is—in the right hands—definitely news, one foray into the media will not be enough to propel a company to success. Sustained, creative PR outreach efforts to a variety of outlets are the best—maybe only—way to achieve long-term success.

“PR is likely the most effective sales lead tool available to companies today,” added Undercoffler. “The days of taking potential clients out to time-consuming entertainment events to woo them are all but over.”

Surviving CES: Tips and Tricks

Bospar Advice on CESIt’s that time of year again. The holidays are fast approaching, and, with them, techies from around the globe are preparing to attend the mother of all tech conferences: CES.

If you’re one of the lucky thousands planning to attend, please enjoy the following hard-won tips and tricks that helped me survive CES 2016.

Wear your comfiest pair of nice shoes

You will be walking A LOT during the show, so be prepared for that. But also be prepared for an impromptu business lunch or drinks at a swanky restaurant. Remember: you are in Las Vegas. You can never be overdressed.

Carry your business cards

Bring plenty of business cards, and make sure they are easily accessible. Nothing is more embarrassing than scraping the bottom of your purse or tote bag for those last few ragged business cards you know you’ve got in there somewhere. Also, be sure to decide in advance where you will be putting the business cards you collect, and make sure it is somewhere distinctly different from where you are keeping your own cards. Imagine accidentally handing over someone else’s card to a new contact!

Take advantage of your surroundings

CES puts on some great events in the city, and each one is an opportunity to network and unwind. Make a list of all the after-parties, contact promoters and plan your schedule accordingly. You want to attend the best parties and sit at the best tables, because that’s where the best networking occurs.

Download the apps

There are some great CES apps available that help with your registration, car rental, hotel reservations and free transportation to and from CES venues. Some even tell you the times and locations of the after-parties. And don’t forget to use your own social media apps regularly—social media is the best way to find out where you should be at all times and who’s who at the event.

Eat well, rest well, stay hydrated

Have a full and hearty breakfast, and pack plenty of snacks each day. The food on the show floor is limited and just about what you’d expect from a convention center. I brought trail mix, protein bars and a bottle of water, which helped keep me on my feet.

Last but not least, make sure you get enough sleep! The conference is exhausting all by itself, and the setting—Las Vegas—tests many attendees’ self-discipline. Have fun and enjoy Vegas, but also get a full night’s sleep every night—because walking the floor requires a lot more energy than you think it’s going to.