PR: We do not "pay to play"

A cameraman points a camera at a talk show host.

Public relations is much more than relating to the public.

According to the Public Relations Society of America, “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” defines PR as, “Using the news or business press to carry positive stories about your company or your products; cultivating a good relationship with local press representatives.”

We do not “pay to play.”

One of the key points that differentiates PR from advertising, marketing, and journalism is the fact that public relations professionals work tirelessly to get their clients free publicity, placement, or earned media coverage.  (Yes, F-R-E-E).
This means that PR professionals do not work towards having clients’ ads in the local newspaper, do not brainstorm annoying radio commercials, do not hand out free samples in crowded areas, and do not pay journalists to report clients’ stories (#unethical). All of these things can be done, but they fall under the advertising and marketing  realms because they are paid placements (again, not F-R-E-E).

Why buy ‘friends’?

Public relations boils down to forging relationships with the media by establishing a sense of trust and reliability. Before earned media placement can occur, the media must know that the PR pro and the client are going to produce quality work under a deadline (It’s a two way street – The media needs PR pros to do their job, just as much as PR pros need the media to do their jobs).
Once a relationship is established between the PR pro, client, and the media, the concept of purchasing placements by marketing or advertising efforts is out-the-door. Think of it this way … You now have an actual friend, instead of having to pay for them to be your friend. It may sound silly, but that’s how it works.
Not only will you, the client, not have to pay for placement within the media (which can cost upwards of $10,000 for a monthly stint on your local news station) but you’ll be able to position yourself as an expert in your field. Media will come to you for stories, not the other way around.
Here’s more quick tips on how to master the art of PR:

Don’t be the kid who pays people to be their friend.
For more info on figuring out what the hell PR is, or for getting your organization local, regional, or national media coverage, email our PR pro, Emma Thibault ( or stalk her on social media (@EmmaAThibault).

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