Crenshaw, D. (2014, May 09). “7 media relations rules you might want to break.” PR Daily. Retrieved 27 Aug. 2014 from http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/16527.aspx
The title of this article caught my eye. As PR students, we are taught these structured sets of do’s and don’t’s that we hope will bring success to our PR endeavors in the future. This article, however, addresses the gray areas of PR – and the idea that some of the rules should be bent or broken in order to create a more effective campaign or impression.
Dorothy Crenshaw’s first rule-to-be-broken is that you should forbid your client from saying, “No comment.” If a company spokesperson is uninformed about an issue and does not have the chance to understand all of the facts of the matter, it would be unproductive and perhaps even hurtful for the company to give false information to the press. In this regard, it’s appropriate to refrain on a response to the media.
Her following rule is to leave journalists alone unless you have a newsworthy issue to bring to their attention. Although this generally is the case, utilizing other news that may not be your own (newsjacking) in conjunction with your client’s perspective could provide an interesting point of view to the article. In this case, you could bother the journalist with a twist to a current story, if it is in the best interest of your client.
Crenshaw’s third rule-to-be-broken addresses the idea that a story, product or service must be special or notable to be considered valuable in the media world. This is not so much the case in our current society – few ideas are completely original. She addresses the concept that although you may not have something that stands on its own, a combination of two products or ideas could be considered a broader category that interests your public.
This summer, I worked at a PR firm where much of the focus was on tailoring the message specifically to the individual to which it pertained. Crenshaw’s fourth rule-to-break is that your story should be thrown out widely to as many people as will listen. This is something I have been specifically taught against during my time at Austin Peay. We learn that PR should be targeted and intentional. Using software like Vocus allows a PR professional to look specifically at whom he or she would like to reach, as well as the beat of reporters or subject area of editors. If the net is cast widely, chances are the story will be disregarded by many of the recipients. You also could end up with the negative effect of having an interesting story that is disregarded by the right people, because they’ve been bombarded with irrelevant messages from you in the past.
Crenshaw’s fifth rule to break is one that I believe should have more emphasis in the world of PR. This states that by training your company spokesperson, you are guaranteed to get the message across. Unfortunately, there are times that a speaker is not meant to be in front of the media. A PR pro does not want their company spokesperson to sound insincere, overly commercial, or fake in their responses. This would definitely take a toll on the effectiveness of the message, and could even hurt them or their reputation as the public could deem a hesitant speaker as dishonest.
The sixth rule-to-break is one I also had some experience with this summer; Crenshaw writes that the PR person should be making it happen in the background. I worked with a very “upfront” PR professional. She believed her presence was necessary at every city commissioner meeting, ribbon cutting, and company event. In having her presence at the forefront of company events, she built a much more successful relationship with the company’s executives, and they felt confident that she knew what she was talking about. In providing that level of support – in essence, the feeling that if something happened, she would be ready – my boss increased her own value to the company. Isn’t that what it’s about?
Finally, Crenshaw’s seventh rule-to-break is that whenever you are in doubt about the media’s perception of your event, issue or story – hold a press conference. This is unrealistic for many companies, as a press conference may not achieve the desired result. Press conferences have the ability to be successful, but often times they cost the client much more than they are worth. Instead of automatically leaning on the idea that journalists will be attracted to a press briefing, Crenshaw suggests that a company pursues a strategic media approach – where the message can be tailored and intentional.
This article was very interesting because it somewhat goes against what we are taught as students. As our class focuses on the strategic elements of PR campaigns, I’m sure that we will take more time to examine how different plans of action will be relevant in various circumstances; there is not a cookie-cutter answer to fit all companies’ problems. I believe that there is no absolute right answer as to how to approach a client’s issue, and it will take some adjustment of these PR “rules” to come up with an individualized, effective plan to bring success to your client.