April 15, 2009

Off the shelf PR

Posted in Industry Standards at 8:51 am by R

There was an announcement in the Phoenix Business Journal yesterday that the Valley of the Sun will soon have a PRStore.

This franchise touts itself as offering:

  • Logo design
  • Web development
  • Direct mail
  • Brochures
  • Promotional products
  • Press release
  • Media placement

…all in a one-stop-shop.

I feel fairly skeptical about a shop like this for two reasons:

  1. PR requires planning! You can’t just go in and do one-off press releases!! It’s not strategic. Press releases are a TACTIC!
  2. Several PRStore franchisees have recently  filed claims of fraud and racketeering against the franchise owners.

I understand that making public relations accessible to small business is important. We in the field all know the tremendous power of our craft…when executed appropriately.

It comes down to this — with what I’ve learned about PRStore, I don’t have confidence in the company (Anyone being sued for fraud doesn’t exactly inspire trust and confidence!) nor do I believe the their practices conducive to long-term strategy that ultimately serves clients best and drives business to them.

But don’t just take it from me. Several PR peers I look up to had similar opinions about the new “agency.”

Len Gutman of Valley PR Blog:

I really am not sure what to think. I can see where the centralization of graphic design, web sites, collateral development, printing and such can be cost effective for a small client. I could even be convinced that a franchisee in a strip mall can write a decent press release — although I’d like to see their degree and test them on their knowledge of AP Style. But I can’t believe they can craft a strategic public relations campaign with well thought out tactics across multiple platforms.

Abbie Fink of HMA Time:

Our industry has spent years convincing clients and our organizations that public relations is a strategic part of any good business plan.  That it must be well thought-out and budgeted for.  It is not something that can or should be purchased off the shelf.

Public relations is not a commodity, we shouldn’t sell it the same way as we sell shirts and ties.

It should be mentioned that the franchisees who are opening the Phoenix location do have marketing backgrounds.

Still…I’m skeptical.

~R

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4 Comments »

  1. Abbie said,

    Thanks for including me in your post. this has stirred quite a dialogue among the PR practitioners here in town.

  2. Ken said,

    It’s bad enough when a “credible” PR firm steps outside their skill set and attempts to position themselves as legitimate design and branding practitioners, but this is really scraping the bottom.

    Accessibility to computers, design software, fonts, etc., has created a proliferation of “off-the-shelf-graphic-gurus”. But, knowing how to use Photoshop doesn’t make someone a designer anymore than knowing how to scramble an egg makes someone a chef. Navigating the complexities and nuances of effective and compelling design and branding requires the acuity of trained, professional designers.

    It’s the same with effective PR.

    This franchise will offer templated, canned solutions. Canned solutions can be as memorable as original and unique ones. The customer needs to decide how they want their business to be remembered.

    Working with a professional graphic designer, or a professional public relations rep, is a capital investment, rather than an expense. Investing in quality up front generates greater dividends in the long run. Customers of this franchise are likely to learn the hard way the high cost of saving money.

  3. Buggy whip makers? I read it online somewhere but did not have Len Gutman’s perspective. They can have the contacts I get – “How much do you charge to get us into Businessweek.” “How much do you charge to get us on Oprah.” Buggy whip thinking in the 21st Century.

    Marketing sociology is about building relationships. For 20 years I’ve called reporters offering story ideas. Now Internet god Seth Godin recommends that tactic for building blog relationships. It works. It resulted in me being invited to write for Billboard Magazine, Arizona Republic, Associated Press and more.

    Glad to see this store will serve those who believe you can become famous overnight. It is like those who think you can go into a gym once and come out looking like Arnold in his prime. That thinking has lead to public relations becoming like buggy whip making. Ask 10 people what public relations is, they’ll say getting a story in the news. PR people – like newspapers – have done a great job of eliminating themselves.

    Similarly, I am finding those who promote SEO as a means of getting famous are as lame as those pushing press releases to a shrinking media.
    In six months my blog – unintentionally (so much for strategic planning) has moved from the bottom of the blog-o-sphere to being in the top 8 percent (marketingsociologist.blogspot.com – and its sister publications). I have two other blogs in the top 15 percent.

    In that six months, I have learned about pinging, Technorati, Alexa and other tools for building a following. I now scoff at people who tell me about how SEO is the end all. It is like telling a business they need press releases to build an image. Send them to the Wal-mart, I mean PRStore.

  4. Promotional said,

    It’s really Interesting, Some of the advertisements and promotional products gave them brand value.


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