I remember the night he proposed to me vividly. There was a candlelight dinner, flowers, a little creativity with the pitch and, of course, a ring. When he asked me to marry him, I didn’t ask about his return on investment (ROI) or how much money or success he would bring me. I went into the marriage with only the relationship in mind and open to the possibility of how it could mutually benefit both of our lives. Successful marriages are deeply rooted in relationships. They require commitment, authenticity, time and patience, consistency and connection. When done well, over time, they can result in trust, credibility, access and increased demand for each other.
Public relations (PR) is much like a marriage. It’s a relationship you are continually building with your audiences, which include employees, customers, service providers and vendors. When done well, it can increase your trust, credibility, access and demand, much like a successful marriage. Regardless of whether you engage in a formal PR program, it exists in your business, because every day you are engaging with your public.
Not all marriages are successful; likewise, not all PR initiatives are successful either, especially when the goals for both are unrealistic or misinterpreted. Many companies will use PR as a tool for marketing, and while this can be done successfully, it can also create confusion in expectations and outcomes. Ideally, companies should do both marketing and PR, because synergistically they work well together. Marketing is focused on specific outcomes and, especially, selling. It can be tested in a short amount of time, the ROI can be tracked, and if it’s not working out, it’s relatively easy to ditch. Using PR as a tool for marketing to sell, sell, sell is not the ideal strategy, especially if the goal is to become an overnight success. It’s rare that a PR campaign will make a million dollars in a few short months.
In business, many companies expect fast, lucrative results. It’s sort of like serial dating. Get in, get results, get out and not have to commit to a long-term relationship. Before you get disillusioned with PR, remember it’s more like a marriage and less like serial dating. Most people wouldn’t dare ask a significant other about his or her ROI during a marriage proposal. Instead, successful partnerships are built with transparency, trust, consistency, taking time to learn about each other and a little humor never hurts. In time, the benefits of a healthy marriage are revealed—sometimes in unexpected ways. PR is much the same way. It’s nearly impossible to track specific ROI, but the benefits it can bring are priceless and something marketing can’t buy.
In relationships, if you want quick results with specific outcomes, stick with serial dating; it’s like marketing, where you can test the waters quickly and get out fast if it doesn’t work. But if you want exclusivity and commitment, marriage, like PR, takes time, consistency and trust to cultivate and grow. Both serial dating and marriage, like marketing and PR, have their pros and cons. What’s important is that you understand the strategy with both and don’t misuse them for the exact same goals.
Amy Summers launched Pitch Publicity in 2003 in the face of a rapidly changing climate for communication and media relations. She has 20 years of experience working with major clients in the natural products industry to increase visibility and exposure to targeted audiences through national publicity exposure across all mass media outlets, high-level fundraising campaigns and developing key strategic communication strategies. She serves on the board of directors of the University of Florida Alumni Association and the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications Public Relations Advisory Council. Pitch Publicity is based in New York City.
Hear an audio flash briefing preview of Amy Summers’ SupplySide East presentation: “Do Love and Marriage Go Together Like Marketing and PR?” then join her session, from Noon to 12:20 p.m., April 10 at the SupplySide East Presentation Theater.