Why You Should Think Beyond Media Relations

For a company founded by a woman with a classic PR background, B does a surprising amount of non-traditional PR work.

It wasn’t always this way, especially in our first year offering client service.

Most people know B as a PR agency, and to most people, PR means media placements. That’s what nearly everyone who comes to us asks for.

In the early days, I thought, “Clients know best,” and I gave them exactly what they asked for — media placements.

A lot of these first clients were in the early stages of building up their media presence, so we laid the groundwork with contributions, guest posts, podcasts, and help them build relationships with larger media outlets.

If a client was a bit more established, we might pitch print magazines or bigger online outlets. Sometimes we even got to do TV (my favorite!).

Maggie and I have a lot of experience working with media, so naturally we’ve lined up a lot of media for our clients. We worked with Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Inc., Mantra, Real Simple, Design*Sponge and scores of podcasts.


You can see a lot of our placements on Pinterest.

But despite all this media success, something wasn’t sitting right.

A big priority for me has always been understanding what a successful PR campaign looks like for each particular client. We find out which media outlets you’d like to be in, and how you’d measure success.

Because I know how important traffic is to growing businesses, I always make a point to say something to the effect of, “This first round of media placements won’t get you a lot of traffic. Are you okay with that?”

I almost always hear back, “Yes, I want to do this, because some other reason.”

Four-to-six months later, the discussion would change…

“I’m surprised I’m not getting more traffic from PR,” they’d say.

“We talked about this,” I’d remind them.

When this started happening, I wasted a lot of time listening to recordings of those early meetings, trying to figure out if I’d misled our clients.

I worried that the issue was something I’d said, or didn’t say.

After listening to hours upon hours of recordings, I can confidently share that disclosure isn’t the issue. I always initiated the traffic talk.

The perception gap was getting in the way.

perception gap

The perception gap is a common obstacle in business. Essentially, the more of an expert you are, the harder it is to communicate with your customers. Your deep expertise gets in the way of you meeting your audience on their wavelength.

It’s so common that we offer an entire package that’s just about working on clients’ messaging, so we can be sure they’re communicating in a way that their audience can hear and receive them.

Here’s what I now realize was playing out.

As a longtime PR veteran, I know it takes a LOT of media coverage for you to see any sort of traffic coming your way.

****There are a lot of reasons the traffic doesn’t live up to the hype, and I can get into them in a later piece. Suffice to say, this is true in most cases. 

But our clients come to us believing that PR is a magic bullet for their traffic problems. When I say, “you won’t see much traffic,” I now understand clients think I’m just managing their expectations.

That’s because what I’m saying doesn’t line up with what most small business owners believe.

Looking back at these projects, our clients weren’t wrong in wanting PR, and our firm wasn’t wrong in getting it for them. Media relations can do a lot for your business. 

My mistake was in not honoring that, in many cases, I know more about what will help clients reach their goals than they do!

This is also true in your business! Customers wouldn’t be coming to us if they could easily solve their problems themselves.

When our clients say they want PR, they’re giving us short-hand for a whole host of goals and aspirations.

Often media is part of the package. But maybe the client also has their own perception gap problem and needs messaging support. Or perhaps you could use some Facebook ads to reach your list-building goals.

Nowadays, we’re more often than not creating fully integrated packages that offer things like SEO, content strategy, and Facebook advertising. We advise on funnels, and we’ll help you create an optin.

Ever since I started honoring the expertise I bring to our clients, they’ve been a lot happier.

We’ve been bred to believe the customer knows best (at least in the US), and our clients absolutely know what their goals, challenges and wins are much better than I do.

But I like to think clients hire me because they value all the experience and knowledge I bring to the table. And that’s not limited to media these days.