When PR and Communications Cannot Help

As much as PR professionals might wish otherwise, there are times and instances when PR simply can’t help, when engaging the services of a PR firm will not make a significant difference to your business. While we’d encourage you to contact SHIFT Communications for your PR and communications needs, here are a couple of examples of when, frankly, we probably can’t help.

Broken product

There’s no amount of PR that can help to fix a broken product or service. If you’re a restaurant and you’re serving literal garbage on a plate, nothing will stop your reputation from declining except to stop serving garbage. If you’ve got a piece of software that doesn’t work or a pharmaceutical that’s harmful instead of helpful, PR might actually make things worse by attracting people to your brand who then have a bad experience. While your product or service doesn’t have to be perfect, it does need to do what you say it does and deliver on its promise. If it doesn’t, engaging a PR firm won’t benefit your company.

Broken marketing/sales

Communications and PR sound like they’re a nicely boxed, modular piece of technology that fits in alongside the marketing box and the sales box. We delineate these different roles for scalability’s sake, but the reality is that communications is a broad spectrum, and no one piece operates truly independently of others. Communications is the top of the funnel that eventually ends in sales. If subsequent layers of the funnel are badly broken, then adding more audience and awareness isn’t going to move the needle for your business.

Here’s an example. Let’s say that you sell a widget for $1.


If you start out with an audience of 100,000 and you convert 10% of that audience into leads, prospective buyers, and 10% of those people go on to buy, then when you sell 1,000 widgets, you earn $1,000. If you double your audience, you double the income you’re making. Since no one part of the funnel is working any better or worse than other parts, you can apply an improvement (like PR) to any part of it to see increased results.

Now let’s say you’ve got a badly broken sales process. You convert 10% of your audience to prospective buyers, but only 0.1% of leads into sales. For every 10,000 people who walk in the door, you only sell 10 widgets.


In this case, doubling your audience or even doubling your lead conversion rate isn’t going to move the needle for your business. Instead of selling $10 of widgets, you’ll sell $20, which means that PR is not the place to start improving your business. Fix your badly broken sales process first before anything else.

Broken customer relations

Earned media is about much more than media interviews and placements in the papers. In the 21st century, every customer with a mobile phone is as good as a journalist for your company’s reputation. A bad review on Yelp, Facebook, or Google Local is just as damaging as a bad Zagat review. If you’re not willing or able to acknowledge and address customer concerns when they have a bad experience, then for every positive piece of earned media that a PR firm can earn you, legions of unhappy customers will work against you with their own voices. No PR firm in the world can suppress an unhappy customer (nor should they). Fix broken customer relations so that your PR and communications investment can be maximized by having fewer voices working against it.


We hope this brief look at the things that work against PR can help guide you as to what needs to be fixed in order to get the most out of your communications investment. Fix the most broken things first, and only then contact a PR firm to help boost your efforts once things are working again.

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