PR ‘noise’ can buzz off

It will never cease to amaze me how businesses can invest millions of dollars and years in technology, innovation, production and processes to bring a new product or service to market, only to fundamentally undermine everything they’ve achieved by hinging their launch on the whimsical, abstract notion of ‘creating buzz’, or worse still, ‘noise’. 
 
Further wonderment occurs each time I have a discussion with a brand manager or executive who believes that the only way to drive sign-ups, click throughs or purchases is to score a 90 second segment on breakfast TV, despite knowing their target audience doesn’t watch free-to-air TV, period.   
 
Afterall, who needs to invest in a considered or targeted launch strategy when you can just get that front-page story up with one phone call, babes?! (Yes, that is sarcasm you detect.) 
 
In a post-social media, AI-fuelled, globally-connected (if somewhat dystopian) world – with truckloads of data, insights and behavioural science at our fingertips – the last thing I expect to receive is a brief calling for a “quick campaign to generate buzz and noise around the launch of XYZ”. It doesn’t happen often, but every now and then one slides into my DMs from a prospect who thinks they need ‘a bit of PR’. 
 
Don’t get me wrong; media relations continues to play a critical role in raising awareness, consideration and acquisition of customers. But not all media coverage is created equal. It is EARNED media not because you worked to get it for ‘free’, but because a third party has considered the news value, innovation, credibility, human interest and relevance to the audience they reach through their publication and channels. 
  
Journalists have integrity, and very few seek out the opportunity to spruik products just because they owe their mate in PR a ‘favour’. If they do run something that resembles an advertorial, good luck finding an audience that will be interested in listening to, reading or watching it; let alone it prompting the desired action. 
  
If brands or executives are looking for ‘yes’ people in their communications and PR professionals, they’re missing the point.  
 
If your communications team only tells what you want to hear and promises immediate ‘buzz’, then it is most likely in lieu of strategy, brand building and reputation management.  
 
Instead, welcome the challenge of answering the tough questions about your brand, products, services and business objectives. Find a partner with the vision and ‘know how’ to align strategic thinking with activity to reach and resonate with your target audience or customers. Be prepared to test your narrative and messaging to ensure it connects and drives action. 
 
Perhaps, as I near the end of my second decade in the marketing and communications industry, I’m feeling a little #triggered (someone did use PR as a verb the other day), but calls to drum up some PR ‘noise’ can buzz right off.  
 
Brands can achieve impressive media coverage results and build on the longer-term, sustainable, and credible brand awareness piece too – you can, and you should, have both.  

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