4 of the Most Prominent Misconceptions about Public Relations Professionals
Those of us who work in public relations often roll our eyes at how we’re portrayed in the media. It’s usually unflattering. We’re often anti-heroes you hate to root for, but can’t stop watching each week. These misrepresentations lead to a huge disconnect between the perception our clients have of our work and what we actually do. It’s a schism that can lead to huge gaps in communication that leave us underpaid and overwhelmed.
During the next two weeks, I will share a list of the seven most common misconceptions about communicators I’ve encountered throughout my career. They’ve made for some uncomfortable conversations, but the experiences have helped me anticipate why prospective clients may be calling, educate them about the depth of value I bring, and set expectations appropriately.
1. PR Professionals Are Master Spin Doctors
Thanks to TV and movies, people think we swoop in and help clients take a mistake and spin it into something the public will love. The truth is, we’re typically working behind the scenes to help clients avoid mistakes altogether. When they happen, the vast majority of us are helping brands ensure they respond with honesty, sincerity, and transparency. I have had upfront and direct conversations to ensure clients “walk the talk.”
2. PR Pros Are Shady Power Brokers
You’ve no doubt watched a scene where the shady politician who makes a mistake meets with the chain-smoking fixer who out-thinks them. It’s fun to watch, but that’s rarely how we work. Most of us are not running through secret passageways under the White House looking for dirt against political enemies. We are ensuring our clients engage in real and authentic ways with their customers, employees, partners, donors, and others in the ideal channels because we know that’s the key to long-term success.
3. PR Pros Can Fix Organizations From the Outside
Rooted less in fiction and more in the pervasive idea that a couple of briefing sessions are enough for communicators to wave a wand and make magic happen, this myth inspires me to gather as much information as I can from staff in different roles and different departments. When you encounter resistance from clients who believe you can manage their communications without a full picture of their organization, use this strategic framework to help explain the importance of having a 360° view.
4. The Sole Function of a PR Pro is to Get Media Coverage
For some of us, this is very true, but I will always advocate for us coloring way outside the lines of this box. We have the opportunity to offer input on a broad array of administrative and operational decisions that have communications implications. It’s up to us to guide companies and serve them as the trusted advisor they don’t even realize they need.
This list was inspired by my mission to help PR pros gain the skills, frameworks, and confidence to work more strategically. I believe doing so elevates our entire profession. 👉 Join me on Clubhouse in the Strategic Communicators club, connect with me on LinkedIn, or follow me on Instagram to engage more with me on these issues.
Tune in next week for more myth-busting! 😏