In My Opinion: Scott Douglas: Don’t believe the hype

GET rich quick. Look ten years younger with one, simple trick. Develop rock hard abs in just six weeks.

Yawn. Just like the one I encounter now and again: Use the power of free PR to grow your business.

My quizzical eyebrow started twitching again this week, when an email crossed my desk from a client. They’d been messaged, promising untold PR success – for free.

The email recounted a tale involving wildly successful TV and Press coverage, all achieved for no cost and without any help or involvement from a PR advisor or professional.

In fact, the message went further, claiming this PR success wasn’t just free, it was easy. Unbelievably so.

We media folks tend to be a cynical, jaded and hard-bitten bunch. But just in case there are any wide-eyes naifs out there, I’m going to let you in a wee secret:

There are no shortcuts. No foolproof way to make a fortune in the blink of an eye. No ten-minute secrets to looking a decade younger. No pain-free way to get a stomach like a washboard in a few short weeks.

And there is absolutely no free or unbelievably easy way to use PR to grow a business.

It’s not the first time I’ve heard this stuff and, sadly, it’s unlikely to be the last because, somewhat ironically, public relations has traditionally suffered from a wee perception problem – the belief that it’s easy and anyone can do it while barely breaking sweat.

Nobody disputes that a person with a compelling story which the media like can find themselves enjoying a quick and easy PR win. However, sustaining that over the long haul to actually make an impact on the bottom line of a business? That takes graft, commitment, experience, guile and creativity.

Any prospective PR client should be encouraged to ask serious questions about the service they’ll receive.

* Where will a constant stream of stories come from?

* Who’s going to identify them?

* How best to package them for different audiences?

* What’s the right message?

* Where to look for bear traps and avoid pitfalls?

* How to tie results to business metrics and how to measure and evaluate success?

* Not to mention what do you do and who do you turn to if things go suddenly and spectacularly wrong?

None of this involves ‘free’ or ‘unbelievably easy’.

It’s tempting to dream that somewhere, alluringly just out of reach, there’s a magical solution to some of life’s difficult wee challenges. A way to live comfortably without the burden of a job or to have the body of Brad Pitt without the monotonous hours in the gym.

Reality is more prosaic. Few ‘get rich quick’ schemes stand up to scrutiny, because genuine business success actually requires years of hard graft and/or a killer product or service.

I’ve seen Channel 4’s 10 Years Younger. Unless you’ve been blessed with lucky genes, then knocking a decade off your age requires costly cosmetic surgery and dentistry, celebrity hairdressing, Hollywood make-up assistance and a professional wardrobe adviser.

Rock hard abs in six weeks? Not with just a few sit ups, a simple dietary supplement or the latest muscle-building kit. In fact, if you devote yourself to a punishing gym routine and advanced nutrition you might see abs in six months.

And as for the enormous power of free PR? Well I’ll be more than happy to share all my insider tips.

Just sign up for my (completely non-spammy) daily email newsletter, send £5 (purely for P&P, you understand) for my instructional CD and subscribe to my monthly webinars.

No need to read the small print.

Scott Douglas is a director of Holyrood PR. He is also the founder of Deadline News Agency and a former reporter with the Daily Record, The Journal and the Edinburgh Evening News.