The Top Ten Reasons Why PR Doesn’t Work

Margie Zable Fisher runs Every day someone tells her that he or she has been “burned” by a PR firm, and Margie’s goal is to help small business find the right PR firm. I asked her to provide the top ten reasons why PR doesn’t work:

  1. The client doesn’t understand the publicity process. PR folks need to better educate people about how publicity works. The first thing many clients ask is, “Can you get me on Oprah or the front page of the Wall Street Journal?” The answer might be “yes,” but the process to get to the “yes” may take months or years, and may first include a series of smaller placements.

  2. The scope of work is not detailed and agreed upon by both parties. Here’s a typical example: a client signs an agreement to spend $3,000 per month. Client expects to get three publicity placements per month. PR person expects to work 20 hours, regardless of the outcome. The inevitable disconnect leads to customer frustration and the feeling of being “burned.”

  3. The client has not been properly trained on how to communicate with the media. Proper training for interviews is crucial; otherwise, key messages can be misconstrued, and even negative stories can result. Clients seldom blame themselves when this happens.

  4. The client and the PR person or firm are not a good match. Example: Client hears about a local PR person, meets and likes the PR person, and figures it’s a good match. Or the client chooses the lowest price PR option. And the PR person, instead of referring the client to another practitioner who is a better fit, decides to take on the client—and the money.

  5. The client has not gotten results quickly enough and ends the relationship too soon. Client should plan on conducting a campaign for a minimum of six months. And even that is aggressive. A year should really be the bare minimum to commit to PR The media works on its own timetable, which is usually much longer than the client’s.

  6. PR people don’t explain the kind of publicity placements a client will most likely receive. Every client wants a big profile of the company on the cover of a major magazine or newspaper, but most stories are about a “trend,” several companies, or some recent news with quotes from experts. Profiles are few and far between. Yet, instead of explaining this, PR people often tell potential clients what they want to hear, in order to get the business.

  7. Clients don’t realize that what happens after you get the publicity coverage is sometimes more important than the actual placement. My smartest client didn’t care if he got a quote or a profile—he just wanted to be included in major media. When it was time to get an agent and publisher for his book, he handed them a list of all his media placements, and this clinched the deal. The agent and publisher figured that if all of the major media was willing to include him as a source, then he must have something important to say.

  8. Clients refuse to be flexible on their story angles. One of my clients once said to me, “We only want profiles.” When the media wasn’t interested, they refused to consider other story angles that the media was interested in. Now I make sure clients are willing to have us pitch three to four angles.

  9. Clients get upset when the media coverage is not 100% accurate or not the kind of coverage that they wanted. One of my former clients said, “That TV segment on me was only a minute long.” When I explained that length of time was impressive in TV Land, she refused to understand.

  10. Clients won’t change their schedules for the media. Clients need to drop everything if the media calls. This may be inconvenient, but the media waits for no one. If you want to be a “media darling,” then you need to make yourself available at any time. Those who do will reap the best benefits and placements.

By |2016-10-24T14:20:40+00:00May 24th, 2007|Categories: Marketing and Sales|Tags: , |70 Comments

About the Author:

Guy Kawasaki is the chief evangelist of Canva, an online graphic design tool. Formerly, he was an advisor to the Motorola business unit of Google and chief evangelist of Apple. He is also the author of The Art of Social Media, The Art of the Start, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur, Enchantment, and nine other books. Kawasaki has a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from UCLA as well as an honorary doctorate from Babson College.


  1. Josh Hermsmeyer May 24, 2007 at 11:41 pm - Reply

    So let’s get this straight: 7 out of the 10 reasons why PR fails is because the client is either impatient, ignorant or stupid?
    And, based on Margie’s wording of 2 of the remaining 3 reasons, I don’t think its a stretch to conclude that either miscommunication or a “bad fit” ultimately are the responsibility of the client as well.
    Only #6. lays any real blame at the feet of PR firms. How nice for them!
    “It’s all the customer’s fault” has quite the ring to it. I’ll have to write that down, and then promptly lose it.

  2. Jon May 24, 2007 at 11:54 pm - Reply

    I always through of PR firms like I think of real estate firms – if something doesn’t “sell”, then it’s the clients fault for various reasons. End result, spend more (PR) or drop the price (real estate)… either way, I have always seen them as middle men trying to justify their existence in the marketplace that is very slow in realizing how useless they really are.
    NOBODY can replace your personal ambition to make something succeed… no matter the size of the company.

  3. Gubatron May 25, 2007 at 12:40 am - Reply

    The Top Ten Reasons Why PR Doesn’t Work

    Hi Guy Kawaasaki!!!,Trackback from on The Top Ten Reasons Why PR Doesn’t Work at

  4. Todor Christov May 25, 2007 at 1:03 am - Reply

    Great Top Ten Reasons why PR does not work, but… from PR firm’s point of view, really. Anyway, I agree with the list.
    From the other hand, it will be very interesting to hear the Top 10 reasons from client’s perspective. I am pretty sure it’ll be a completely different list.
    Here’s one from me – PR companies often promise too much.

  5. Strive Notes May 25, 2007 at 1:12 am - Reply

    Fridays five 25 May 2007

    Things are starting to settle down now, and Im getting back into the swing of blogging. Here are my faves from this week:
    1. The top ten reasons why PR does work. Guy Kawasaki features a list compiled by Margie Zable Fisher. She seems to plac…

  6. Dave May 25, 2007 at 1:35 am - Reply

    hey guy –
    while i’m sure there’s some validity to the perspective on this top 10 list, you might want to do a followup top 10 on the same subject from the entrepreneur perspective.
    having been on both sides of the table, i’d suggest the problem is just as likely to be on the PR side as on the client side.
    in the meantime, here are my top 5 reasons PR doesn’t (always) work:
    1) The PR firm doesn’t understand the product or technology.
    especially with tech startups, it’s easy for the PR firm to not grasp the basics of the product or service, and subsequently they don’t get the best angle on how to present the company’s product. or they sound fuzzy or not confident, which can often lead to…
    2) The PR firm is seen as a spinner, blocker, or gatekeeper to get access to the CEO/CTO/company braintrust.
    while there are a few PR firms which are great about lining up reporters / bloggers / analysts and connecting them with company execs at just the right time, more often than not most media folks would rather bypass the PR firm and talk to someone knowledgeable at the company.
    3) the PR firm hasn’t been properly trained on how to communicate with bloggers or social media.
    again, there are a few great PR firms (but mostly just individuals) who get blogs & social networks, but most don’t. most don’t blog themselves, and aren’t really even casual users of many popular social media tools & services. this is a HUGE issue… sort of like doctors who smoke, or heart surgeons who aren’t aware of the benefits of exercise & a low-fat diet. practitioners should know their trade. PR firms should understand blogging, and bloggers. most don’t.
    4) the PR firm prefers doing big traditional media & offline events over smaller online media & online PR channels.
    while there’s no doubt that circulation for the NYT, the WSJ, and WaPO are much bigger than the readership for TechCrunch, GigaOm, and VentureBeat, i think most PR firms miss the fact that online PR *IS MORE VALUABLE* than offline PR, perhaps by as much as a factor of 10 or more, possibly 50 or more. Here’s a simple thought experiment: if you’re an online service, what are the chances someone reads a blog or website article, and clicks thru on a link? maybe 2-5%, perhaps higher if you’re lucky. what are the chances of someone reading a newspaper or magazine a clicking thru? PROBABLY ZERO. ok, maybe not zero, but they have to leave their current medium (paper), go to a computer, type in the URL (which they might misspell or misremember), and then MAYBE you see a customer. now obviously you want different demographics & reach, but there is a HUGE benefit to having online PR over offline PR simply because the likely conversion to your website is 1-2 orders greater magnitude.
    5) the PR firm doesn’t understand SEO, SEM, widgets, blogs, tags, social networks, pictures, video, or other online & viral methods.
    hell, you’re lucky if most PR folks actually understand how to write a clear & simple email, with a catchy subject line. but there’s hardly any chance AT ALL most have experience with all the new online marketing & communication channels noted above, or how to take advantage of them to reach new audience quickly, inexpensively, & effectively.
    ok, so i’ll stop at 5… i could go on, but hopefully the perspective is balanced with your top 10. i agree there are issues on both sides of the table, but there’s certainly more that most PR firms can do to keep up with the times & the technology.
    however, on the off chance you DO find a good PR firm or individual who gets the stuff above, by all means HIRE THEM. (and if you can, hire them in-house 😉
    they are certainly a few smart PR folks out there… but rather than naming them, if they’re monitoring TechMeme or their RSS feeds & readers, i bet we’ll seem them chime in here on the comments sometime in the next 24 hours.
    speaking of which, there’s another one…
    6) Most PR folks have no clue what the hell TechMeme is.
    anyway, i digress…

  7. Dario May 25, 2007 at 1:46 am - Reply

  8. Bad Language May 25, 2007 at 1:49 am - Reply

    Why PR doesnt work

    Guy Kawasaki, citing Margie Zable Fishers, has a good top ten list of Why PR doesnt work. (Actually, its pretty pro-PR but explains the reasons in terms of poor relationship management.)
    I think there are times …

  9. Gary Reid May 25, 2007 at 2:01 am - Reply

    Why PR does not work

    If you’re new here, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed or by Email. Thanks for visiting!Apparently its mainly because clients know jack shit!
    Or thats the general drift I got from Guy Kawasakis 10 questions with PR Gu…

  10. Kate May 25, 2007 at 2:08 am - Reply

    I agree with all your points Guy, but it misses the bigger picture. Too many PRs fall into the trap of being glorified administrators. Again and again I meet PRs that neither challenge nor advise their clients.
    What they want to do is organise and slog through whatever work the client gives them (I am not denying they work very hard). What they should do is learn their profession properly and consult. So many agencies call themselves consultancies, but never explain to the client the hows and whys. I have refused to issue a press release that I know will long-term damage the client, I have sat with a client and explained why not getting to the point will bore the press to death and I have refused work from companies that just want us to be press release monkeys. And every time I have given them the best advice I can from my 20 years in business.
    And Dave – absolutely agreed. We are hiring at the moment and struggle like mad to even find PRs who have read a blog, let alone pitched one!

  11. Master of 500 Hats May 25, 2007 at 3:16 am - Reply

    The Top 5 (or 6) reasons PR doesn’t work… if you’re a geek.

    DISCLAIMER 1: some of my best friends are black work in PR. really. including me, occasionally. DISCLAIMER 2: i started out as an engineer, then an entrepreneur, then an internet marketer. i probably still suck at all of them, but since 2001 i’ve done …

  12. Kyle May 25, 2007 at 4:16 am - Reply

    Ahhh yes another list that drives folks to bash PR firms, how refreshing. Josh is correct however, this should not be about how the client is NOT providing the correct scope, and that is how it is read (by me at least). Shame on any PR person (firm or individual) that allows the relationship to get to that point.
    As someone who has been on both ‘sides of the fence’ for a long time; you don’t need a top ten list on why PR relationships fail. All you need are two things for success:
    1) Set and re-set concrete expectations of each other from the very beginning and every day thereafter;
    2) Pure, unfiltered honesty every single day;
    The most fruitful relationships I have had with PR firms and as a member of a PR firm are when we treat each other like we would a trusted colleague. It’s a cliche for a reason…

  13. Mike Johnston May 25, 2007 at 4:29 am - Reply

    My experience with PR firms has been that a compelling product or service is something that only the company can produce. Only compelling products or services are going to get attention in the market (yes, I know there are exceptions but this is generally the rule).
    Dave makes some pretty interesting points. The main ones being that PR firms do not understand “internet marketing” nor do they understand the technology/product of some start-ups.
    First, I would never hire a PR firm to do SEO or Internet Marketing and vice versa. A PR firm’s role (to me) is to work through the traditional media channels such as TV and print (a necessary evil regardless of your personal opinions about blogs vs. WSJ).
    Second, the greatest piece of advice I was given about start-ups (other than from Guy) was from a former friend and marketing executive for McDonald’s… “If you can’t explain what your product/service does in less than three sentences, you will have a hard time marketing it- regardless of the channel.”
    This is sage advice that has served me well. No one cares about your paradigm shifting, Web 2.0 technology (sound familiar Guy?). They care if it is provides value to the world.
    Of course, that’s just my opinion. If you want more of it; contact my PR team. 🙂

  14. Bruce Pilgrim May 25, 2007 at 5:35 am - Reply

    While I enjoy flogging ignorant clients and crappy PR firms as much as anybody, I’d like to make one small point.
    The headline of this discussion is “The Top Ten Reasons Why PR Doesn’t Work.”
    Am I the only one who assumed this was going to be an indictment of PR as a viable strategy?
    The fact is, PR does work extremely well. It isn’t easy and it requires hard work, sound strategy and flawless execution. Most of all, it requires a true partnership between client and firm built on mutual trust and full disclosure.

  15. Stuart Bruce - BMA PR May 25, 2007 at 5:50 am - Reply

    While I don’t disagree with much on the list, it isn’t actually about PUBLIC RELATIONS. Just about everything on the list is about media relations, will is only part of what a real PR firm does.
    It doesn’t help companies to perpetuate the myth that PR is just media relations or even publicity. Number shouldn’t be “The client doesn’t understand th publicity process”, but instead “The consultancy has failed to successfully educate its client about public relations.”

  16. Results On TV May 25, 2007 at 6:03 am - Reply

    Results on Tv is the name of this great little firm that puts interesting ideas, products and services on national talk shows, morning shows and news programs, the cool thing about them is they only charge if you air! zero risk not a bad deal when they got us on dr. phil and we got 2 million hits on our website in the next 48 hours!!!! best bang for the buck i’ve ever come across—i was going to keep them a secret but it’s just nice to finally come across a company that over-delivers so there it is:

  17. Roark Pollock May 25, 2007 at 7:37 am - Reply

    From my experience, PR firms are nice for (1) companies with the money to spend to reach much of the mass media or (2) companies that really need some good consulting on how to conduct a public relations / media relations campaign. However, for small companies and start-ups on a tight budget, give me one good person on my staff and the two of us can produce great results using much of what we have learned about Guerrilla Marketing for a lot less money than a good PR firm.
    However, I agree with the previous posts that a really good PR firm should also be a good educator / consultant for the client.

  18. FiberGeneration May 25, 2007 at 8:58 am - Reply

    It’s about PR

    In my snail-mail box this morning, this flyer from… well, don’t know. Just that it’s for the next ECOC conference and exhibition on optical communications. See by yourself : no mention on the venue at all. Only solution to get

  19. Marketing with Microsoft for Partners... May 25, 2007 at 9:49 am - Reply

    The Top Ten Reasons Why PR Doesn’t Work

    Call out to Guy Kawaski for the Link to How to Change the World: The Top Ten Reasons Why PR Doesn’t Wor

  20. Shanna Swendson May 25, 2007 at 10:33 am - Reply

    I just had some scary flashbacks from my days working for a tech PR firm (and will probably have nightmares tonight) because I felt like I was caught in the middle between the worst of both worlds. I’ve experienced every one of the clueless client nightmares, and I’ve had the annoying boss who refused to provide a reality check and instead promised the client all kinds of things that they didn’t really need and that we couldn’t really deliver, and then I was stuck being the one who sounded “negative” when I told them that we probably couldn’t get them in Time or Newsweek, and that if they were making a product that would go in the CO on the network backbone and that most consumers or even businesses wouldn’t even know existed, they’d get better results (if less status) getting in the telecom trades rather than in the consumer or business press. But after they got their egos pumped by my boss, they had stars in their eyes. As a result, we spun our wheels, getting no results in a place that wouldn’t matter anyway and neglecting the areas that would help. I know those companies didn’t get their money’s worth from the PR firm.
    If you’re a tech company that wants good PR, you need to be willing to listen to the most realistic and knowledgable person on your PR team (and that probably isn’t the head of the company). You need to provide information about your product and technology to the PR team. This may mean taking the time to brief them and demonstrate the technology. Sending over the specs or a brochure isn’t enough. A human being may be required. That human being should not be a sales person and probably shouldn’t even be the marketing person. Someone who actually knows how the product works and can describe why it’s new, different or better is necessary.
    Before you even go after public relations, you need to know what your product does, what niche it fills in the market, who will buy it and what benefits they will see. When I was working with telecom companies coming up with Internet applications, they would talk a lot about end-user benefits, but could often not explain how that product would make money for the telecom or Internet companies that would have to buy the product and install it in their networks. Yeah, it was really cool, but how would it make anyone any money?
    It would be nice if the product actually existed somewhere other than in a PowerPoint presentation and could be produced and sold if someone found out about it and wanted it. That may sound obvious, but in my career I launched several products that turned out not to exist at all, that never did exist. The company was launching the idea of a product, getting publicity for it, and then using the response to the publicity to see if there was any market demand for the product before they actually bothered developing it. They neglected to mention this fact in dealing with the PR firm. On the rare occasion when they did actually end up developing the product, they expected to get the same amount of publicity for that launch, even though announcing “we really have a product now!” meant admitting they’d lied about having the product earlier.
    This would be why I’m now making my living writing fiction, and probably dealing with more truth than I did when I was doing tech PR in the late 90s/turn of the century.

  21. Eric Eggertson May 25, 2007 at 10:40 am - Reply

    Many of these reasons could also apply to buying a coffee at Starbucks, or going on a date.
    I think she’s right about the relationship between client and advisor is key to success. If there’s no understanding and trust, your chances of success go way down.
    Stuart’s comment above about this list limiting the scope to media relations is quite true. Good PR permeates the way on organization behaves – with customers, the public, employees, investors, etc. A PR campaign may succeed or fail due to one of those reasons, but a company’s public relations fail when it doesn’t know what it wants to say, to who, when, and in what context, and has no way of monitoring and managing its efforts.

  22. Kipp Bodnar May 25, 2007 at 11:47 am - Reply

    As a PR pro at a small firm, I agree with a lot of the comments posted here. It is sad that many people people do not understand social media or even how to use an RSS reader, let alone the pr impacts of applications like Twitter. Todd at Prsquared had a great post yesterday that had questions to ask your PR firm in to determine their social media knowledge.
    Here is the link:

  23. Scott May 25, 2007 at 11:57 am - Reply

    Like traditional advertising, PR is undergoing technology-driven changes that many traditional PR practioners don’t understand. PR is essentially the relationship that exists between the media and the PR practioner who knows how and when to pitch them. But the media are increasingly not getting their information through the traditional channels (phone, mail, fax, etc.). Today’s PR practioners have to master e-mail campaigns, blogging, RSS feeds and a host of other communications tools technology savvy and highly mobile media types are using. Another big change is the need to know how to construct a press release in a way that “optimizes” it for automated systems that scan the news media for keywords. By crafting a release that contains keywords you know are being searched for my certain news and industry websites, the release can quickly be picked up and spread far beyond the initial push.

  24. Dave Donohue May 25, 2007 at 11:59 am - Reply

    This is a good discussion you’ve started. Thank you. I also am happy that I now have been introduced to Margie Fisher (and Margie’s now introduced to the power of TechMeme).
    @ Dave – just commented on your take (PR people, his take is worth reading)

  25. Rob May 25, 2007 at 12:05 pm - Reply

    It seems like most (or all) of these problems could be solved simply by better communication between the firm and the potential client. The firm needs to spell out to the client exactly what they will provide, and what the client should expect and when. The client needs to spell out what they expect. Problems solved.

  26. Duane Benson May 25, 2007 at 1:13 pm - Reply

    I tend to get pretty good results with PR. If implemented properly, it can deliver some of the highest return on dollars spent for a small budget and, for a larger budget, can ad more power to the other marketing dollars spent.
    I was lucky enough to have engaged a great PR firm ( a few years back. They not only did excellent PR, but the also taught me how to act as a client.
    When I market, I target my end customer. The PR firm taught me to not only target the end customer, but also to target the media folks. Don’t try and make the media speak to my customer. Speak to the media and help them understand how what I do will excite their readership. It’s a different perspective.
    Duane Benson

  27. JamesBruni May 25, 2007 at 2:38 pm - Reply

    Been in the PR business since 1984 and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more accurate description of the problems facing both PR firms and their clients, especially when it comes to expectations about press coverage. My firm, Bruni PR, works with Net startups here in NYC and we face these problems and misunderstandings on an almost daily basis.

  28. John Koetsier May 25, 2007 at 3:01 pm - Reply

    In the grand tradition of shoeless cobblers’ kids, and do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do, Fisher’s personal PR is horrible.
    Her website features a ridiculous unprofessional Hollywood-cum-Barbara-Walters soft-focus photo, a tired and uninspiring design, a blog with a totally different look and feel …
    I wouldn’t hire her to promote my company’s image. She can’t competently create her own.
    . . .
    . . .
    (I’m feeling a little negative because of the pervasive blame-the-client theme running through the answers.)

  29. Patricia May 25, 2007 at 3:03 pm - Reply

    this should be required reading for ALL companies who hire firms.
    Awesome, Guy!

  30. Shameless In Silicon Valley May 25, 2007 at 3:09 pm - Reply

    Is it just me or is everyone clueless? Why send in a babe to suck up to TechCrunch when you can post a truemor on Guy’s new site to “sneak” your new product?
    I’ve watched Guy delete crap mercilessly, but if you position it as a truemor/news, it usually sticks. Get with it PR folks! You can control the message, the timing, and it’s free.

  31. Coral May 25, 2007 at 5:04 pm - Reply

    You have the gift of the GIST.
    I say good PR is an ability to communicate effectively, in other words, grist and grit for the mill or the mall.

  32. Glenn Nicholas May 26, 2007 at 12:05 am - Reply

    This is a great example of PR working (with an excellent headline).
    The #1 top reason for PR *succeeding* is that a story can have just the right angle at just the right time for a particular outlet (and I include blogs, social media etc in this). If a business doesn’t have a cut through angle and they really want publicity, then its time to ‘get better reality’ (thanks for that excellent quote Guy).
    Since we are mainly talking PR for business here, my 11th rule (for when PR doesn’t work) is that in terms of newsworthiness, negatives outweigh positives. Positive stories have to work a lot harder just to get on an equal footing with their negative cousins.

  33. Schweizer Ventures May 26, 2007 at 4:20 am - Reply

    How to Change the World: The Top Ten Reasons Why PR Doesn’t Work

    Interview of Guy Kawasaki with Margie Zable Fisher who runs Every day someone tells her that he or she has been “burned” by a PR firm, and Margie’s goal is to help small business find the right PR firm.

  34. Marketing & Strategy Innovation Blog May 26, 2007 at 5:27 am - Reply

    The Top Ten Reasons Why PR Doesn’t Work

    by: Guy Kawasaki Margie Zable Fisher runs Every day someone tells her that he or she has been burned by a PR firm, and Margies goal is to help small business find the right PR firm. I asked her…

  35. Singapore Entrepreneurs ~ Venture Capital Funding in Singapore May 26, 2007 at 9:33 am - Reply

    Entrepreneur Reads for the Day: 27 May 2007

    Here are some recommended entrepreneur reads for the day:
    The Top Ten Reasons Why PR Doesnt Work by Guy Kawasaki asks someone why some people get burned by PR firms.
    The Final Days of Google: It is going to be an inside job by …

  36. Caitlin May 26, 2007 at 9:58 am - Reply

    >> key messages can be misconstrued, and even negative stories can result.
    I love the way PR people / clients always interpret a negative story as the journalist “misconstruing the key message”. Journalists are not there simply to parrot the client’s “key message”. They probably completely understood the line the client was trying to feed them but perhaps it was irrelevant to the story they were researching at the time. Many negative stories are perfectly valid. There are two great quotes about journalism – one is that our job is to “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted” and the other is that “news is something that somebody doesn’t want you to know”.
    On another note, Stuart Bruce makes a good point that this post focus exclusively on ‘media relations’, which is a small subset of ‘public relations’.

  37. Coral May 26, 2007 at 3:59 pm - Reply

    That is a valid point about negative publicity. Does reverse psychology really work? If a reviewer on happened to state that a certain author’s work was a load of badly written twaddle, would that deter the majority from buying the book and judging for themselves? I would like to think not.
    Look at the negative publicity that happened surrounding Britney Spears shaving her head (which could be construed as having a negative effect on the public perception of her appearance and her sanity). It would be interesting to know what effect the bad publicity has had in her Britney products – the DVDs, the doll, and the perfumes? Is ALL publicity good?

  38. Candy Minx May 26, 2007 at 5:30 pm - Reply

    Good points especially about the media.
    I have your portrait for sale on eBay again:
    Have you experienced any changes for your rank, your blog with the recent changes in Technorati?

  39. Leo Piccioli May 27, 2007 at 2:34 pm - Reply

    I have just cancelled my contract with our PR firm.
    It probably could fit in reason #2; but basically was very disappointed with the way they worked, just like a press release machine, without adding value to them, or ideas… We had some coverage, but not aligned with the company’s needs.

  40. Conno May 27, 2007 at 7:15 pm - Reply

    The only issue with this piece is that PR does not equal publicity.
    PR is about multichannel management in an open and transparent environment. It’s about creating conversations, whether through new media, direct engagement and sometimes traditional media.
    Where PR fails is when people think PR = publicity. Publicity is only a small (and often inefficient way) of communciating.

  41. Cath Wood May 27, 2007 at 7:51 pm - Reply

    Being someone who suddenly needs a whole lot of media coverage and who has absolutely no idea at this stage how to go about it, nor any money to pay anyone to do it, I found this article very illuminating.
    Your blog, practical information for impractical people, sounds like it was created especially for me.
    Do you do requests? If so, would you please write an article called “What to do if you’re on Day 11 of a 90 day project to raise $2.75 million and things are going to get very bad if you don’t succeed, and you are crapping your pants about it”?
    If you could approach it from the angle of where to start in the whole media thing, that would be excellent. Thanks Guy!

  42. popxpop May 27, 2007 at 8:05 pm - Reply


    Guy Kawasakiさんのブログで「The Top Ten Reasons…

  43. Claire Celsi May 28, 2007 at 8:10 am - Reply

    When relationships between the PR agency and the client aren’t working out, there is usually blame on both sides. However, in my experience, it usually has to do with the client’s unwillingness to provide examples, testimonials, sales figures, or other fodder that reporters are interested in. Profiling executives and products that are still in the idea phase can only go so far. An executive being scripted by his legal department is also a huge barrier to good coverage of the company.

  44. Thom Singer May 28, 2007 at 8:34 am - Reply

    The points on this list are correct, but only from the side of the PR Firm. I agree with the other comments that you now need to do the “top 10 reasons PR does not work….from the company’s point of view”. This list makes it look like PR firms can do no wrong and that the clients are all at fault. The PR is as much an art as it is a science, and they get paid no matter what. Please do a list that shows the other side of the coin!!!

  45. Susan Gunelius ( May 28, 2007 at 9:38 am - Reply

    This is a great list of public relations problems from the agency’s perspective. I’d love to see the same list from the client’s perspective. Perhaps then the agency and client could find middle ground.

  46. Peter Himler May 28, 2007 at 2:44 pm - Reply

    Guy —
    Judging fromn the reaction, you certainly struck a resonant chord among the PR set by posting Margie’s “reasons why PR doesn’t work.”
    What’s missing from this Letterman-like approach to explaining a most complex dynamic: PR is a very subtle discipline. Success requires constant and caring application over a period of time for measurable results to become apparent. And I’m not talking about a quick hit in some MSM outlet. I refer to a marked change in the client’s business or reputation.
    Of course there are exceptions (think Apple’s 1984 commercial or its iPhone intro), but as a rule, the best relationships are those in which the PR pro knows this AND has the temerity to share it with his or her client.

  47. Morgan Ramsay May 28, 2007 at 4:45 pm - Reply

    Like others, I have to point out that public relations is not all about publicity, and sometimes publicity doesn’t factor into the equation.

    The client doesn’t understand the publicity process.

    Clients don’t need to understand the practice to be meaningfully involved in the process.

    The scope of work is not detailed and agreed upon by both parties.

    This problem is more related to contracts than public relations.

    The client has not been properly trained on how to communicate with the media.

    Or the client has been properly trained and performs poorly.

    The client and the PR person or firm are not a good match.

    Good matches are not made in heaven. Business is a human activity. “Good matches” are relationships that must be developed.

    The client has not gotten results quickly enough and ends the relationship too soon.

    This problem might stem from contracts or other human failings, such as impatience or lack of discipline. Not necessarily related to PR.

    PR people don’t explain the kind of publicity placements a client will most likely receive.

    Clients don’t need to know what placements will be made. Clients, however, do need to know whether the goals of the campaign have been, or will be, achieved. If this is a problem, it’s ego.

    Clients don’t realize that what happens after you get the publicity coverage is sometimes more important than the actual placement.

    Achieving campaign goals is always more important than the approach unless there are ethical problems with the approach.

    Clients refuse to be flexible on their story angles.

    This problem might indicate a failure to effectively inform or persuade on part of the PR professional, or that the client knows best. In the latter case, it’s the duty of the contractor to accept that the client is the expert on the client’s business and ensure that the client receives the appropriate services.

    Clients get upset when the media coverage is not 100% accurate or not the kind of coverage that they wanted.

    PR professionals are responsible for checking facts, too. If verified facts are misreported, the PR professional is not liable. As for the coverage desired, well, this could be a matter of ego, a matter of straying from the campaign trail, or a matter of environmental forces impacting the campaign. PR professionals are responsible for identifying what went wrong and selling the client on what went right or solutions to the problems. People get upset. Deal with it.

    Clients won’t change their schedules for the media.

    Uncooperative clients are just as much a problem as uncooperative PR professionals and uncooperative media. In these situations, someone has to mediate, preferably the people responsible for achieving campaign goals.

  48. Richard Bailey May 29, 2007 at 4:18 am - Reply

    But these aren’t reasons ‘why PR doesn’t work’. They’re reasons why client-consultancy relationships go wrong.

  49. Scatterbox by Steven Silvers May 29, 2007 at 9:01 am - Reply

    PR and the business of enthusiastic incompetence.

    Guy Kawasaki asked PR matchmaker Margie Zable to list the top ten reasons why small companies feel burned by PR firms they hired to generate media coverage: The client doesn’t understand the publicity process. The scope of work is not

  50. Brian Solis May 29, 2007 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    Guy, while this list doesn’t truly capture what’s wrong with PR, it still served as the spark for much-needed conversations.
    The list really is rather elementary and doesn’t really explain the details involved with PR ins and outs.
    At the end of the day, both PR and company executives are to blame when things don’t work.
    Ask anyone what’s wrong with PR and you’ll unintentionally draft a manifesto that consists of radically varied top 10 lists. The answers will collectively form the foundation for revolution in the communications
    Rather than highlight what’s wrong with PR or why it doesn’t work, let’s
    talk about how to fix it.

  51. The New Marketing May 30, 2007 at 2:52 am - Reply

    Its knock PR week

    I like topost links to blogs complaining about bad practice and annoying or dubious behaviour in…

  52. itsallaboutme May 30, 2007 at 4:33 pm - Reply

    Ironically, we hired Margie’s PR firm — and fired it about 6 months later…because of many of the reasons she listed. I think it is easier to “preach” than to put into practice…
    The ironic part (#2) is that we have grown to the point of round 2 for VC…and are interviewing tech PR firms this time around.
    I know more and understand what Margie is saying and will use it to better handle this relationship…

  53. Marketing & Strategy Innovation Blog May 31, 2007 at 8:27 am - Reply

    DIY PR

    by: Guy Kawasaki My buddy, Glenn Kelman, the CEO of Redfin, had a strong reaction to last weeks post about PR by Marge Zable Fisher. So much so that he penned an alternate solution to the challenge of a good…

  54. PR Chicago June 1, 2007 at 8:11 am - Reply

    Why PR needs some PR

    A couple of recent posts have led to a flurry of commentary that heaps even more criticism on PR’s value as a profession. It started with Guy Kawasaki’s blog, which references an article by Margie Zable Fisher on Why PR

  55. James Clark June 1, 2007 at 2:42 pm - Reply

    As a former PR Agency owner, I got feed up with PR’s inability to step up as a leader in the marketing strategy.
    I believe PR lacks the skills and knowledge necessary to drive publicity today.
    Which is why I wrote the Fire Your PR Firm white paper.
    Download it at:

  56. James Clark June 1, 2007 at 3:09 pm - Reply

    #7 – Clients don’t realize that what happens after you get the publicity coverage is sometimes more important than the actual placement.
    Actually this is a bigger problem on the PR agency side. The agency fails in its ability to understand the impact of, and capitalize on, the placement for the good of the client.
    I’ve written about this in detail in:
    The Placement Crash – The Failure of PR in the Conversation World.
    To summarize, here’s what happens, because I’ve been there on the PR side. The PR person works hard to get a placement in a major news outlet – say with Walt Mossberg in the WSJ. The placement happens and the PR team high fives and pats themselves on the back – which they should because it’s a big deal.
    What the PR team is missing, and where they are failing their client, is to capture the audience that comes in a flood to the corporate website. It is a fact that a great placement will drive a ton of people to client’s website (spikes for a day or two at most) – and what do they see when they get there? Most likely a stale boring corporate web page.
    What if there was an offer for a free webinar, or someway to drive some form of conversion (download a white paper, register for teleseminar, request a free assessment) for all these new potential customers that have shown up on the site?
    The problem is a majority of PR practitioners lack the skills and knowledge to continue on and capture the conversation online, thus not able to tie that placement to tangible result like 100 people signed up for a webinar that resulted in 30 sales.
    What they give the client is Ad Value Equivalency – which is a joke for true measurement.

  57. Jim Tobin June 1, 2007 at 6:59 pm - Reply

    I was inspired by this quote to write the Top Ten Ways to Be a Good Client. It’s for advertising clients more than PR, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.
    You can read it at:

  58. Jerald June 2, 2007 at 11:05 am - Reply

    A good one ! Thanks for the interesting and resourcful article …
    Deesha Communications

  59. Karen Anderson June 4, 2007 at 4:12 pm - Reply

    The writer’s comment about the client — “she refused to understand” — is priceless. What a great way to say “I don’t explain very well and didn’t explain in advance” or “I happily sign up clients who I know are going to be unhappy and badmouth me.”
    If you have a client who “refuses to understand” the basics of the service you are providing, that should be pretty obvious early on — and you are crazy to proceed to provide services for them.

  60. Darknebrijo June 5, 2007 at 1:11 am - Reply

    “So let’s get this straight: 7 out of the 10 reasons why PR fails is because the client is either impatient, ignorant or stupid?”
    Fully agree. Too much on the agency side; does not seem impartial. Ask a Marketing Manager for a similar analysis and compare. Any likeness will be pure coincidence.

  61. wow powerleveling June 5, 2007 at 3:15 am - Reply

    There’s an interesting conversation going on in the blogosphere. The most prominent is Guy Kawasaki’s The Top Ten Reasons Why PR Doesn’t Work post. Mike Manuel at Media Guerilla has this to say: “Personally, I have no retort, no counterpoints

  62. powerleveling June 5, 2007 at 3:55 am - Reply

    There’s an interesting conversation going on in the blogosphere. The most prominent is Guy Kawasaki’s The Top Ten Reasons Why PR Doesn’t Work post. Mike Manuel at Media Guerilla has this to say: “Personally, I have no retort, no counterpoints

  63. Proven PR Services with Advanced New Media Options June 5, 2007 at 5:44 am - Reply

    If it’s broke…fix it

    Recently, Guy Kawasaki published the top ten reasons why PR doesn’t work over

    Having run companies that have both used and dispensed with PR, I agree with some of what this says – but also I think PR has to “get real”.
    1. Companies don’t spend money without getting some idea of the output results or their timescales elsewhere – why would they for PR?
    2. Their people are darn busy and can’t “drop everything” – companies need PR to plan their resource usage as much as anyone else.

  64. Brian Glassman June 8, 2007 at 7:04 am - Reply

    Thank you for the usefull article on PR firms it will definately come in useful.
    Brian Glassman

  65. Kimberly Kubalek June 11, 2007 at 5:58 pm - Reply

    Educating clients, properly managing client expectations, and quantitativly measuring performance are all paramount to creating a successful campaign and a satisfied client. There are good PR firms out there, but you get what you pay for and good P.R. isn’t cheap! One of the top reasons most P.R. clients go away unhappy: unreasonable expectations, poor client education, poor client communication, skipping past crucial data analysis. Many P.R. Firms spend their time blaming clients rather than doing the above.

  66. ANDERS|denken Business Blog June 12, 2007 at 4:18 am - Reply

    Warum PR nicht funktioniert

    Einen hervorragenden Beitrag zum Thema PR gibts bei Guy Kawasaki zu lesen: The Top Ten Reasons Why PR Doesnt Work.
    Hier die Zusammenfassung der 10 Punkte und einige Ergnzungen.
    Der Kunde versteht den Prozess nicht.
    Kunde un…

  67. BlogWorks June 28, 2007 at 9:05 am - Reply

    What we have here is a failure to communicate…

    …Or, managing relationships, traditionally and digitally By Nichole Woodcock Reading Guy Kawasaki’s blog entry on “The Top Ten Reasons Why PR Doesn’t Work” is like rubbing salt in a wound. There is nothing worse than when a campaign is viewed…

  68. Ray Valek August 25, 2007 at 2:44 pm - Reply

    PR doesn’t work because it shouldn’t just be about publicity. All 10 reasons had something to do with publicity. That’s not right.
    We’ve done great PR programs that have had small or no publicity components.
    Some important publics are not best reached through the media.

  69. Ali Goldie August 31, 2007 at 3:32 am - Reply

    I love your discussion here.
    I have to agree, as mentioned by Rob – better communication between the firm and the potential client is one of the biggest key factor in PR which has caused many problems within the company.
    btw, i have put a link back to ur blog about this discussion.
    Thank you very much for the insight.

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