I recently participated as a guest on a marketing-related podcast. Nearing the end of the hour-long interview the host said, let’s play a game.

The host found four short videos on TikTok of people talking about public relations. Based on my 30 years of experience in marketing communications and as a public relations firm owner, he asked me to watch and comment on each and discuss their accuracy.

While three of the four were fairly on target, one totally missed the mark.

The young woman said that unless your public relations campaign is providing you with a fast ROI, and generating revenue, it isn’t working and should be dropped immediately.

This TikToker did not understand the role of public relations.

PR is not sales or marketing. It uses strategic communications to build brand recognition, trust, credibility, and mutually beneficial relationships with stakeholders.

The public relations plan should be carefully crafted by an experienced professional or team to coincide with a company’s messaging, goals, and objectives. It should be designed for both the near and long term.

The plan should be based on research from the CEO, key executives, and customers with input from marketing and sales, but not designed as a lead generation tool.

It should be constructed to build reliance and certitude in the marketplace which eventually helps tilt future competitive sales situations in your favor.

Depending on the needs of the business, the plan can include media relations or publicity, special events to interact one-on-one with targeted audiences, thought leadership to build recognition and reputation for the CEO, HR/recruiting strategies, content building, and crisis communications should a major event unfold.

Though a well-placed article or TV story can generate leads and sales (and has for several of our clients), its main purpose is to enhance relations with the communities and audiences the company serves.

It lays the groundwork for a company to build on its reputation as a good community citizen and inspires confidence and pride in the sales staff and the entire team.

One good example involves a client that specializes in commercial woodworking. An online article highlighting the then owner’s struggle with addiction and bipolar disorder, and how he dealt with it to build a multi-million-dollar business, caught the attention of an executive in the construction industry.

The article highlighted that the owner of the woodworking firm believes he got a second chance at life and employs a number of workers who were either incarcerated or had deep-rooted personal issues. Many would not be able to find employment elsewhere.

The construction executive contacted the woodworking firm. He apparently had a family member suffering from a similar addiction. A bond was formed between the two and business was discussed and consummated.

Another example is a by-product of sound public relations practices that often gets overlooked. A major national financial firm utilizes PR services to publicize financial representatives who achieve new milestones within their firm and industry. The resulting press not only builds recognition for the firm but also builds confidence with the honored individual. It also serves as a beacon of what others in the organization can accomplish through diligence and commitment to self-improvement.

Leaders also utilize public relations to differentiate themselves from competitors. A campaign focused on pre-written articles to targeted industry publications, podcast interviews, and long-form print interviews,  helps a business increase its brand recognition and share of voice within its niche. It also provides a library of media coverage that can be posted on the company website, used as content in the corporate newsletter, and adapted to attract recruits to the business.

While there are many lead-gen tools such as purchasing ads, enhancing SEO, and buying lists of prospects, PR is not one of them.

Those who are told a PR plan will provide a quick boost to sales are being greatly misled and will be greatly disappointed.