If you search the phrase “do-it-yourself public relations,” Google returns over 27 million results.

Blog posts addressing the subject offer loads of encouragement, with titles like “Everything you need to know about public relations to do-it-yourself,” “7 steps to better do-it-yourself PR” and “DIY PR: 13 things you must do.”

Why do-it-yourself public relations is an urban legend

Do-it-yourself PR may sound enticing to you . . . a good way to save a few dollars. However, as someone who has spent 20+ years working in the PR trenches, I’m here to strongly discourage you from taking the bait.

The notion that anybody can do their own PR is an urban legend promulgated by folks who think they know what they’re talking about (they don’t). In many cases, they’re actually in the business of selling media lists and related PR products.

At best, DIY PR will lead you to waste a portion of your communications budget. At worst, it’s a recipe for corporate disaster.

PR is more than just media relations

One of the key fundamentals that do-it-yourselfers fail to understand is that public relations is more than just media coverage or publicity.

PR encompasses all forms of business communication. A professional practitioner helps clients with internal communications, community engagement, social media best practices, speech writing, investor relations . . . the list goes on.

For a PR pro, publicity is just one small part of managing a company’s reputation.

While we’re busy trying to get a CEO an interview on a popular business show, we’re also:

  • Helping her understand the industry issues of interest to journalists and editors
  • Sharing the pros and cons of holding regular town hall meetings with employees, or
  • Outlining the benefits of having a stronger PR presence in the communities where she does business

A PR professional helps you avoid trouble

A business that tries to handle PR on its own can quickly land in hot water.

It’s easy to permanently burn bridges with important journalists in your industry niche. If you don’t get back to them when you say you will, arrive unprepared for an interview or make claims you can’t substantiate, reputable journalists are unlikely to take your call a second time.

And if your business is faced with an issue, one misstep could turn it into a full-blown crisis that threatens your organization’s very existence. A PR professional will help you stick handle those issues by developing appropriate strategies and constructing honest messages.

Media relations is time consuming

The decision to handle public relations yourself is “penny wise but pound foolish.” Sure, you may save a bit of money, but you definitely won’t save yourself any time.

And in business, time is money, right?

Media relations definitely takes time. Relevant publications and journalists need to be identified, messages developed, the overall story honed . . . all before you arrange a single interview.

If you’re a smart businessperson, you’ll quickly realize your time is better spent doing what you do best (and what your board of directors expects you to do): build your business.

Crafting a useful story

People who advocate do-it-yourself public relations typically don’t realize the importance of crafting the right story.

Do you understand what’s important and newsworthy about your business? What is the hook that will interest each journalist on your list? Have you considered an interesting visual that will appeal to broadcast and print outlets alike?

PR professionals have “news judgement.” Experienced pros have developed and pitched countless stories in their careers. They know how to bring out the personal or emphasize the business trend that will help your business get noticed—and get coverage.

Professional public relations help doesn’t have to be expensive

Many proponents of do-it-yourself PR claim hiring professionals is just too expensive. They cite examples of start-up companies that were charged $10,000 per month (or more) for PR services.

You can certainly pay that much to retain a large multinational PR agency. But there are more affordable alternatives. Depending on your needs, you could consider a hiring a boutique or mid-sized public relations company. These firms typically have lower operating costs, and they pass this advantage on to their clients.

Another benefit of smaller PR firms is they’re generally owner-operated and pride themselves in delivering more attentive customer service and better results.

The amateur is never the best choice

If your company is thinking of doing its own PR without the help of someone experienced in the field, one word: DON’T.

The downside far outweighs any potential upside. And with all the PR professionals available for hire, there is most definitely someone to fit your budget.

Remember, if you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, just wait until you add up all the costs of hiring an amateur.

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