By Roy H. Williams
Advertising professionals can depend upon the client’s ad budget to help them grow that client’s business, but a public relations person can depend only upon his or her personal credibility with journalists in the media.
Advertising can be purchased by picking up the phone and calling a media’s sales department. Public relations, however, is the subtle art of being noticed by the journalists in the news department. Let me say it a little more plainly: Advertising is exposure that you can buy. PR is the exposure that you get for free. (Except that you have to pay the PR people who can get it for you for free.)
I’m always amused when a young person says they intend to pursue a career “in advertising and public relations.” I smile because the statement is very much akin to saying, “I plan to be a fireman and an arsonist.”
A professional journalist will say only what they want to say, when they want to say it and how they want to say it, and they will always insist on saying it for free. The most heinous insult that you can offer a journalist is to suggest that money might somehow influence what they will say or write about you.
The one thing that will guarantee that a journalist will utterly ignore your story is to be a major advertiser. They don’t want to take the chance that the public might think the advertiser somehow “bought” their way into the news. Most journalists consider advertising to be an evil intrusion upon their very important task of keeping the public informed. Journalists generally consider advertising people to be sellouts. No…it’s actually worse than that; they think of advertising people as whores.
Stand in the parking lot of a newspaper, a magazine, a TV or radio station at quitting time and watch as everyone gets into their cars. The well-dressed people getting into the new sports and luxury cars will be the sales staff, the ones who deal with advertising buyers. The aristocrats walking around asking, “Can you give me a jump start?” well, those will be the journalists, the news staff. But even with jumper cables in hand, journalists somehow carry themselves with an unmistakable air of superiority.
Are you beginning to see why advertising buyers are your worst possible allies in helping to secure a news story? Rule 1: Never expect a public relations person to be able to create an effective ad campaign. Rule 2. Never, never expect an advertising professional to be able to arrange for news coverage for you.
And that’s just the way it is in the wacky world of media.
So now you know.