Book review: Myths of PR

Public relations is often misunderstood and the rapidly changing nature of the profession means there is more cross over with digital and marketing than ever before.

Thankfully a new book has hit the shelves. Myths of PR by Rich Leigh aims to dispel many of the popular misconceptions about the industry, including all publicity is good publicity.

Here are ten of my favourite quotes.


On public representation

Kiss and tell PR is a tiny and fatuous corner of our world – and something the majority of practitioners will never have experience of. However, throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Max Clifford, who specialized in this style of publicity, became the self-appointed face of PR.

Clifford’s face and the word ‘PR guru’ appeared together on-screen and in print regularly, each time creating a negative public association with the industry despite the fact he barely represented it at all.


On silence

Transparency is something we talk about a lot within communications on behalf of our clients, but there’s a reluctance to be transparent about our own tactics and work... This allows for myths and misconceptions – like the notion that all PR people lie – to propagate, unchecked.


On opportunity

In circumstances where there’s a choice to be made, the questions ‘How does this achieve the goals we’re working towards?’ and ‘’Really, who does this opportunity serve?’ have to be asked…

The opportunities you say no to are every bit as important as the ones you say yes to.


About the death of the press release

Just because there are other ways to communicate to and with our target audience, that isn’t the same as the press release being ‘dead’, redundant or obsolete, in the same way a cassette player is.

As a tactic, the press release has stood the test of time and continues to deliver results, but, with a host of new tactics at our fingertips, there’s simply more choice of how we achieve those results.


On social media

Social media marketing can and should fall under the remit of PR, in exactly the way media relations does. Social media is, organic reach issues aside, a much more democratic way to reach an audience… The most important element... is the idea itself, whether that’s a video, great image or a message that gets spread far and wide – or, if it’s working properly, to the intended audience.


On building an audience

Building and communicating with a relevant and beneficial audience takes time, commitment and can involve a small degree of trial and error. Clients and excitable bosses don’t often like to hear this. If you prefer to avoid the hard work…you can pay.


On making something go viral

Every time the word ‘viral’ is uttered and it isn’t in relation to the spread of disease, there is a PR person somewhere that falls down dead.


On why PR can’t improve a mediocre business

Some people come to PR agencies under the assumption that PR is the silver bullet. What I mean by that is, it’s the shot that will propel their business or themselves to dizzying heights of fame and popularity – and if that doesn’t happen, it’s because the agency wasn’t quite good enough. The problem is never closer to home.


On brand conversations

The fact is, consumers don’t owe brands anything, and the sooner the transactional relationship of marketing and customer service is not only accepted, but embraced, the better.


On hiring a PR agency

Ideas, evidence of previous results and execution where available, and/or an understanding of the market and the ways to reach and influence them should always trump the promise of relationships.