Debunking Top 3 Wartime PR Marketing Myths
Throughout the Russian-Ukrainian war, people in Ukraine have been facing conflict on dual fronts — the actual battlefront and the distribution of information. The latter isn’t limited to Ukraine, as the Western world, too, witnessed the impact of Russian propaganda, the sleep of reason, and the resulting monsters they’ve created.
It just goes to show how powerful the presentation and perception of information can be. Through the chaos of war, we also firmly established the idea that everything in our lives is interconnected — from our private lives to businesses to politics. We can’t separate these aspects.
As a result, people are paying closer attention to the values businesses bring to society, making PR marketing more important than ever. By shaping how people think, PR can enhance or harm your company’s reputation.
As seasoned myth-busters, we at Retainly have already dispelled numerous myths, such as “Everyone wants to talk to a human and hates automated services” and “This digital marketing strategy worked for another company, so it will work for us.”
Now we’re back with another round of MythBusters, where we’ll debunk three pesky PR myths we’ve noticed circulating during wartime:
- PR is just about media relations
- PR is only for large enterprises
- PR isn’t measurable
Olha Olifirenko, our product marketing lead, recently had a fascinating discussion with Julia Petryk, the head of PR at MacPaw, a software development company that serves more than 30 million customers globally. Julia is also a co-founder of PR Army, a non-profit organization focused on bringing the real story of Ukraine to the world.
Julia is a great guest not only for her deep PR knowledge but also because she’s an ace at debunking any sort of false belief. Before we differentiate between PR fact and fiction once and for all, let’s take a moment to discover the origins of these myths.
Myth #1: PR is just about media relations
This myth likely has its roots in the early days of PR. In the past, PR marketing mainly centered around getting media coverage on TV and in print media because those were the only ways to communicate with the public.
Sure, media exposure is still important, but there’s so much more to a successful PR campaign than just a killer headline. Things have been shaken up quite a bit with the emergence of social media and influencer marketing. Plus, it seems like every other day, businesses are facing new PR scandals, which means their PR experts must also be ready for some serious crisis management.
Let’s get things straight
Julia gave us a fantastic starting point for tossing this myth out the window:
Picture this, you're running a local coffee shop. What should you consider when creating a PR campaign for it? First things first — who's your target audience? This is the key question. Do the regulars of your coffee shop flip through Forbes? Maybe a few tech-savvy MacBook users sipping their filter coffee, sure. But wouldn't it be wiser to steer the spotlight away from high-flying Forbes and towards local WhatsApp groups? And there's your answer…
There are situations where public relations with an audience can be established without the use of media. Especially now, when there are so many channels available that can bring even better results in your particular case.
While Julia already busted this myth, we thought we’d delve a little deeper. So how do non-media-related PR activities contribute to a brand’s overall PR strategy?
Julia made the excellent point that understanding where your target audience hangs out is crucial.
If our target audience is hanging out on forums, it just makes sense to be there too! Take MacPaw, for instance, as software developers within the Apple ecosystem. We once attended a conference for technology administrators. When admins were asked about their favorite media sources, they were seriously struggling to come up with anything! Instead, they mentioned a Slack channel specifically for Mac administrators. This is a central hub for over 20,000 participants, where they engage in professional discussions.
The moral of this story: don’t just make assumptions. Instead, focus on what customers care about.
Alright, let’s debunk another myth — the belief that PR is only for big enterprises. We’ll start by looking at where this misconception may have come from.
Myth #2: PR is only for large enterprises
This myth might have its roots in the perception that larger companies are often more visible in the media. They have bigger budgets for PR and marketing campaigns, so their presence is often more noticeable. Additionally, large corporations often have more newsworthy events (like product launches, mergers, or acquisitions), which naturally attract greater media attention.
However, size isn’t everything, and small businesses can make a significant impact too.
Making an impact
Actually, Julia has successfully shattered two misconceptions using the example of a coffee shop in the previous section. Indeed, although it’s a small place, it still needs to nurture its customer relationships.
What’s more, cancel culture can hit any business, despite its size. As we said, people are now increasingly attentive to how businesses portray themselves as well as what’s going on behind the scenes, considering not only the viewpoints of CEOs but even those of ordinary staff. The company’s PR efforts could backfire if it engages in unethical business practices or treats its employees badly. Sure, if you’re running that local coffee shop down the street, the losses might not be as huge as a major business like Starbucks, but no one wants a bad rep. That’s why a comprehensive PR marketing plan is a must-have for any business these days.
So, we’ve got an immediate question on our minds: how can small businesses or startups effectively leverage PR to build their brand and increase visibility without a huge budget?
Julia suggests that cooperating with larger, more relevant players can be a smart move. She also introduced a new term to Retainly’s vocab — newsjacking. Yep, it’s like carjacking in GTA but without a criminal record. You simply take over the news in your industry and put your own spin on it.
Julia gave us an awesome example to illustrate the point. Let’s say you’re running an AI startup, and suddenly there’s a huge buzz around AI products like ChatGPT. This is your chance to ride the wave of this news and create content relevant to your own product. It’s a clever way to get noticed and make your small business’s voice heard in all the excitement.
Another strategy is to cast your CEO in the role of a social media influencer. As they grow their social capital, it’ll become easier to attract reporters and followers. This reputational asset can also help you increase visibility without a huge budget.
Although we could go on listing more strategies, we know you’re eager for us to bust the myth that PR isn’t measurable, so we won’t keep you waiting any longer.
Myth #3: PR isn’t measurable
This myth stems from the idea that some parts of PR, like the strength of relationships or your brand’s reputation, are challenging to capture in straightforward numbers or statistics.
Plus, a PR campaign is more of a marathon than a sprint. Getting your brand out there and maintaining a good reputation can take a while to show results. This is slightly different from strategies like email marketing, where you can easily see quick results such as increased website traffic or sales.
This limitation has led some to believe that you can’t measure PR. But honestly, with the data tools currently available and with the constant emergence of new measurement methods, we’re becoming quite skilled at putting numbers to PR. It may not always be as straightforward or instant as other marketing techniques, but it’s certainly possible! Read on as Julia explains how.
So how can we actually measure our PR campaigns?
When we discuss digital PR, we often refer to a particular framework for evaluating communication, known as AMEC. This framework helps us measure the impact of communication, including aspects like reputation management, crisis communication, and more. Let's start with the inputs — your actions to make your PR campaign happen. This includes the posts you've created, press releases you've shared, and pitches you've sent out. Next, we have outputs. You might look at how many people visited your website, how often your app was downloaded, or how many pages were read to the end. After outputs, we have outtakes. Outtakes show a deeper level of engagement, like comments written or shares made, which indicate that a person didn't just visit your page — they interacted with it. Lastly, we have outcomes that show the impact of PR campaigns on the business, like sales.
When people respond positively to your message on social media, articles, or app store reviews, it’s a clear sign that your PR campaign is working and customers have truly connected with your brand.
And at times, you don’t even need to launch a high-powered PR campaign to see positive outcomes.
As our discussion was ending, one of our listeners voiced a question: are there any recommendations on how companies can start driving social impact initiatives?
The response to this question reveals how much broader PR marketing can be than you may have initially imagined. Julia shares a great example from MacPaw that demonstrates how you can simply follow your heart, contribute value, and earn the appreciation of your audience.
Ukrainian consumers genuinely appreciate if a company backs the Armed Forces of Ukraine or gives to charity. And it's completely alright to discuss these charitable activities openly. It's not about bragging; it's about expressing your core beliefs and showing you're compassionate and empathetic. Moreover, this demonstrates the behavior you hope will become more commonplace. And that's a significant aspect of PR's long-lasting influence — shaping people's actions. We announced that we're regularly sending financial help to a charity foundation supporting the Defence Forces of Ukraine named “Come Back Alive” (Ukrainian: “Повернись живим”). After this, a guy on Twitter confessed he had been using a pirated version of our software, “Clean My Mac.” But when he learned about our support for “Come Back Alive,” our social efforts touched him so much that he legitimately bought our software.
So, PR campaigns aren’t quite as precise a science as some other marketing strategies. While you may not see specific numbers, with the right mindset, you’re guaranteed to see a payoff and truly feel the impact.
Julia’s account of the MacPaw user choosing to buy the legitimate version of their product perfectly demonstrates how PR isn’t solely for large corporations dealing with the press. Its impact can be measured even by something as casual as a tweet.
PR marketing extends far beyond communication channels, the scale of the business, or the ways its impact can be assessed. It’s about values that can be reflected through every aspect of your business and even your personal life. MacPaw is doing something really cool without the specific aim to boost their PR, and it’s truly paying off. Their charitable initiative led to one user being so appreciative of their support for the army that he gave something back by buying their software. You can totally see the positive effect.
Thank you, Julia, for joining us to discuss this crucial topic. It’s essential to dispel myths, especially during a global conflict, to foster clear thinking and positive intentions for success in business and a harmonious social setting. At Retainly, we wholeheartedly support MacPaw and the PR Army and wish them continued prosperity!
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