Public relations (or PR, for short), much like the Kardashians’ meteoric rise to fame, often leaves us scratching our heads, feeling dazed and confused. The thought process and line of questioning can range from:

“How did that nothing turn into that something?”

“How does that add value?”

“How can I do that, in order to get to that?”

For all the things people will tell you about PR– and believe me, if you’re a small business, founder or entrepreneur, someone somewhere has shared their two cents about how you should approach PR – times are a-changin’ and PR no longer means what is used to mean. Subsequently, many of the folks who are giving you advice about PR are likely providing you with one aspect of the PR puzzle, which is “media relations.”

Simply put: media relations is when X media publication writes about your company, resulting in Y number of visitors to your site or store, resulting in a range of Z’s from qualified leads, to conversion, to investment, to a variety of other things that matter to you staying in business.

In today’s multi-channel, multi-dimensional, multi-optional environment, this paradigm for PR no longer holds. I would like to suggest (certainly open for debate) that we shift the conversation about PR as a media relations conduit to PR as a relationship marketing practice.

With this “holistic view” of PR in mind, let’s talk about some things about today’s PR environment that you may not know:

#1 – PR begins and ends with relationships. As a founder, at least at the beginning, these relationships are formed by you and only you: with influencers, with media, with your target audience and with your customers. Do not hire an agency to do your dirty work. They will fail. And it won’t be their fault. And P.S. as a female, we are relationship and community builders. PR should be easy for us.

#2 – PR is not about spin. In fact, as my good friend Gini Dietrich can attest to (from her blog and book of the same name): “Spin Sucks.”  This is an old PR tactic and it DOES NOT work in today’s citizen journalist environment where information is as free flowing as wine at an Italian wedding. Ya feel me? PR is about building a narrative around a product or service that has merit.

#3 – PR is not a cost center, it’s a profit center. If you do not know why you are doing PR other than your best friend’s mom has offered to do it for free, or you read in a business book that you must do PR in order to launch your company DO NOT DO IT. At least not yet. Be very clear about what your objectives are and shift your thinking that PR cannot and will not be a waste. You must see a return. You should gain something – brand or revenue wise – from your activities. Otherwise, you’ll be very very very very very … upset.

#4 – PR is about listening. Keeping this idea of relationship marketing in mind, it becomes markedly easier to understand the vital role technology (particularly social media) plays in PR success. We are no longer relegated to one-way communication whereby we send out a press release to anyone who will listen. We have the distinct advantage (enabled by technology platforms) of building two-way, conversational relationships with media, influencers, and customers, listening to their thoughts/concerns and then making real-time adjustments. A process that used to take weeks and months can now be accomplished within hours.

 #5 – PR has more influence than advertising when it comes to customers decision-making. There, I said it. And it’s true. And I have data to back this up. PR, if applied correctly with all of its various components (media relations, social media, content marketing, and influencer relations, to name a few) is perhaps the most powerful untapped opportunity to accelerate the customer buying journey. PR’s power resides in its ability to leverage authoritative sources in order to sway decision-making. Advertising alone cannot do that.

Now that you’ve got the inside scoop, go forth and make some PR magic happen!