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5 Reasons Why You Should Leave PR to the Pros

A business meme that keeps making the rounds is "entrepreneurs, do your own PR."

Since I'm a PR "agency of one," you are welcome to hereby disregard the rest of this post.

Before you do, though, you should know that I've been both client and agency-side; and have been, and am, a small business owner. What follows comes with 15 years of experience from both sides of the table.

A couple of weeks ago, my BNET blogging colleague Michael Hess decided to "piss off a bunch of good PR firms" by giving you five reasons you don't need a PR firm.

Let's examine them.

Myth #1: PR agencies can never know or sell your product as well as you do.

Fact: True, PR agencies might never know your product as well as you.

But "sell"? That's a completely different ball game.

As an entrepreneur, it's quite possible that you are so taken with your product that you're not objective about it. Guess who can best help you figure out how to position it?

It's not you. It's not your lawyer. It's your PR counsel.

Lori Saitz, founder of Zen Rabbit Cookies (and a Women Grow Business blogger), said, "Most [entrepreneurs] don't know how to do their own [PR] and have a difficult time distinguishing between what's really news and what's just company promo [sic]."

Myth #2: Money and "ROI."

Fact: Agreed, hiring someone to manage your PR is not as inexpensive as doing it yourself.

But what is the opportunity cost of doing so? As an entrepreneur, wouldn't you rather focus your time (which means money) on growing your business?

To quote Saitz: "Even if they do know PR (they've done it professionally in their career), [I'm] not sure doing it now is the best use of their time and focus."

Myth #3: The media like entrepreneurs.

Fact: Of course the media like entrepreneurs. Who wouldn't?

But they like being pitched on target even better. I give you 'Exhibit A,' which I received in the last couple of weeks:

"Dear You - The Person I want to cover my story, or shall I say UNCOVER a great hidden secret to the world,

"I hope this email finds you well. I'm writing to you about an incredible newsworthy story I'd love you to cover... In 1999, at the age of 24 and still living at home, I started my successful business out of my parent's basement. In fact, it took a rejection letter from MBA School to push me into this path of entrepreneurship earlier than I had expected!"

Given that I now write for/publish three blogs (BNET, WGB and my own), might you understand why I was a tad cranky on receipt?

Where's the personalized pitch? How does this make my life easier as an editor and/or blogger? Why would it be interesting to my readers... any of them?

And, why were you, Exhibit A, still living in your parents' home at age 24?

Myth #4: It is easier than ever to do it yourself.

Fact: It is indeed "easier than ever" to undertake the mechanics of media and blogger relations than ever before.

Michael lists several tactics in his companion post on how to get started doing your own PR. Actually, there are even more, as I explained when I presented at Social Commerce Camp-DC earlier in 2010. (See? I can be helpful too.)

But what you need to understand -- especially when it comes to building your own media lists and setting monitoring processes in place -- is that these take time.

A. Lot. Of. Time.

Be very, very sure that the opportunity cost is worth it.

Myth #5: You need to build permanent relationships [with the media].

Fact: Relationships are the bedrock of your business. That's why it's so important to turn customers into evangelizers.

When it comes to media, though, what they want is a good story, quickly, and with easily accessible resources (such as video, images, quotes).

These elements, if provided, are the first steps to building a good relationship with them, which may prove invaluable in time to come. Without them, no amount of media "pals" will help you get that hit you're looking for. Moreover, with fast-moving changes in the media, they switch industries in a heartbeat.

When I ran communications for the ASPCA, I built up a good relationship with a writer for a major pet trade publication. Next I heard, she was writing for a PR trade.

Go figure.

True PR
True PR is much more than "spin" or "buzz." It's a business function that supports and helps to achieve organizational goals and objectives.

As an entrepreneur, DIY PR is your prerogative, and you might be brilliant at it.

But you should understand exactly what the ramifications are for your business if you do so.

Image courtesy Flickr user Jerry Silfwer, CC 2.0

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