PR Fails in a Vacuum

By John Meng

Whether it’s in the chilled confines of space or a competitive business environment, a vacuum stifles growth. And, when business managers don’t communicate with their PR people, it creates a communication vacuum that chokes off profits faster than a Winona Ryder shopping spree.

I’ve seen business owners and marketing managers that acted as though hiring a public relations company freed them of public relations forever. The instant they hired a PR firm, they happily wiped their hands of all public relations. Their work was done. They had uncorked the bottle and the PR genie was going to grant their every wish.

Many times, PR firms receive little or no communication with the company’s principle managers. Not surprising, these clients often ask for detailed reports on the PR firm’s efforts. They want to know what’s been done and they wonder why there has not been a rapid increase in sales. Often their conclusion is that public relations are a waste of money. It’s very much like a person who buys a Mercedes and parks it in the garage for months on end. He makes monthly payments and then questions the real value of having a Mercedes.

But good public relations firms are not genies, not mind readers and, most importantly, they are not surrogate mothers that can give birth to your business’s marketing success without you. Rather, good public relations firms work side-by-side, day-after-day to nurture and foster your company’s brand position within the public arena.

I say ‘Partner Up.’ Any public relations professional should be treated as a partner in your business. Bring them into your inner circle and share information. What may seem to be mundane daily drivel for you may be priceless background information that can help developing a strategy for your company’s message. Even the routine task of hiring a new manager can lead to a well-publicized press release to local business news publications.

So, when hiring a public relations firm, be clear on what you want from the effort. Some things a PR firm can do for you are to get you positive and frequent exposure in the media, create and conduct special events, and help you build and maintain solid brand awareness. But none of it is possible if you don’t ‘partner up.’

Please Feed The Editor

By John Meng

Whether in print, television, radio or web, all editors share a common trait - an insatiable hunger for news. Like a pack of hyenas at a weeny roast, the media consumes information so rapidly that it sometimes cannot intellectually digest it all. (I say this with great fondness for editors as I was one for 14 years.) But, this need for news is a good thing. By feeding the media’s appetite for news, a saavy marketer can build brand awareness.

For brand building, public relations is more potent over time than advertising, so working with the media is a key ingredient to a successful public relations campaign. Lane Kirkland, former president of the AFL-CIO, once advised against “getting into an argument with people who buy ink by the barrel.” Not only was this good advice for managing public opinion in the political sense, but it was solid marketing advice. In short, business owners and marketing managers who want to build brands are better off gaining the media’s respect and feeding them a steady diet of press releases.

This follows an anonymous quote I once read that makes the point nicely: “Reporters are like alligators. You don’t have to love them. You don’t necessarily have to like them. But you do have to feed them.”

The more you feed the media with useful information, the more they will turn to you as an expert resource and for story ideas. Everyone benefits. Of course, it’s not an equal relationship because the media always takes more then they give, but that’s the price of playing the game and, in most instances, that price is a good value for building and strengthening a brand.

Unfortunately, some would-be brand-makers care nothing for the proper care and feeding of editors. For example, I once had a client who resisted working with the media. He routinely dismissed their thirst for information and he demonstrated no desire to build a relationship. All too often, I would prepare or recommend a press release that announced a new product or service, and the client would argue that the media wouldn’t be interested. “This news is really for my customers, not the media,” he would say. Unfortunately, the debate almost always ended the same. At the end of the day, no press release was sent, no one read about my client’s new product and I grew another gray hair (or six).

The point that is often lost in public relations is that you are marketing yourself and your product/service to the media, just as much if not more than to the public. The editors and writers are the gate-keepers and you often must first impress them with your product and your expertise in the subject matter. Of course, you will never have all of your press releases published. In fact, it may take several press releases before you see yourself in print. But the more contact you have with editors, the greater the chance they will rely on you for news and information.

For example, when you announce to the media that you introducing a new product; that you’ve hired a new manager; that you set new quarterly sales records; that you are a speaker at a business conference; and/or any other news, you are building a relationship with that editor. Just like building a brand for a product among consumers, you are building a brand of your business in the minds of the editors, and they will begin to perceive you as a leader in the industry .

Why? Because they are reading about you more than others.

We write and distribute press releases almost every day, and we’ve developed relationships and direct lines of communication with thousands editors and writers across the country. I know firsthand that they want to be fed news and information they can trust because it makes their jobs easier. When we do, they give more weight to that information because they have learned to trust the source.

Press releases provide a chance that your news or product will catch someone’s attention, and the marketing reality is that if you don’t feed the editors — the people you are trying to reach will never hear about you.

So, next time you review your marketing strategy, don’t forget press releases. Throw the media a few morsels, and then feast on the results.

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John Meng has proven himself, going well over and above compensation to execute his duties for the Texas Bison Association. Here in the great State of Texas, we judge predicated upon performance and are, as an association, looking forward to the next level(s) of association function and credibility that John, his company and his skill set can bring to, and avail us of, in the Texas effort. We got lucky with Meng & Company.

Tim Frasier, President, Texas Bison Association
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Meng & Company is an important part of our marketing communications initiatives, now and in the future. John Meng and his team have helped us significantly in developing our brands, executing an integrated communications plan, and providing valuable input in our strategic planning. Plus, their creative is some of the best we’ve ever had. The service is exemplary, and we are very satisfied with the results.

Ray Lucas, VP of Global Sales, True Temper Sports
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Meng & Company is one of the premier PR firms. Unlike some agencies that pass off their customers to account reps, John Meng personally worked one-on-one with us to coordinate the services we needed to build awareness for our golf education program.

Paul Zagnoni, Golf Education Company
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John Meng is dedicated to his work and his customers. His work ethic is strong and you can be assured that projects will be completed successfully and on time. It has truly been a pleasure working with him, and I look forward to a continued working relationship in the future.

Gene Simpson, VP of Sales & Marketing, United Sports Technologies
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We decided to upgrade our public relations activities and retained Meng & Company. They went to work immediately, and we are enjoying a very positive increase in exposure, which is translating to a 300 percent increase in sales from a year ago.

Terry Koehler, President, Eidolon Golf
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I offer my highest recommendation for Meng & Company. Quite simply, in my 23 years in the golf club component industry, I have not had the chance to work with anyone who was any better in the collective arts of ad creation, publication layout and article and marketing copywriting than John Meng.

Tom Wishon, President, Tom Wishon Golf Technology
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John’s work has always been several steps ahead of others. He is constantly coming up with new and unique ideas of how to get the same point across to his readers not only in words, but in pictures and graphics. He is very thorough in his understanding of technical issues, but somehow always finds a way for the reader to easily understand his subject matter. I am most pleased to recommend John Meng for any publishing need.

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