We’re halfway through the first month of 2015 and no doubt many of us have already abandoned our resolutions. Despite the best intentions, old habits get in the way.  Sure, we tried to wipe the slate clean, but like an overused whiteboard, the shadows of some markers just won’t go away.

Maybe it’s a panicked, deadline-driven request from a client or co-worker. Or your boss doesn’t want to hear any ideas about streamlining the process or trying things a new way. Boom. Your back in old-you mode again.

So how can a communicator who wants to practice new PR avoid that trap?

Here are three things to consider: Pray, don’t prey and pay for play. 

Of course that’s the punchline to the old joke about the difference between advertising and PR (in advertising you pay, in PR you pray). But it pretty much sums up the profession because in the earned media landscape, we’ve always relied on ‘the kindness of strangers’.

That’s something I both loved about PR and which drove me around the bend. The challenge of getting a story to the person who brings it to life is a real high. However, the difference between PR success and failure is often one or two: as in, two more media showing up at an event or one feature article or post. Couple that with the constant media upheaval and it’s no wonder our prayers are going unanswered more often than not.

What can we do? It’s time we changed our liturgy and altar. Let go of our monotheistic above-the-fold print media worship once and for all. We need a more pantheistic – OK integrated – model where we reimagine our old prayers (the release) and rewrite our creation story with a lot more visuals. We’ll also have to revisit a few commandments and redefine the value we’re offering, what we’re measuring and what success looks like in our modernized system of belief.

Don’t prey
Many journalists, bloggers and other influencers have experienced the sickening feeling of dread from being in the crosshairs of a notorious PR stalker – pelted by pointless, impersonalized pitches, and caught in an irrelevant PR trap.

Stop. This. Now. It’s an abhorrent practice and gives all of us a bad name. If you’re a young person and you’re instructed by your manager to spam people, just say no! And if that means you have to look for a new job, that’s probably a good thing in the long run.

Instead of an aggressive hunter/hunted relationship, we should create a one of a kind feast of a story that entices the right people rather than a bland fast food buffet that appeals to none.

Pay for play
It always bugs me when people refer to PR as free. There’s a lot of human capital that goes into it from the PR and journalistic/blogger sides. And I never liked it when PR smugly considered itself superior to advertising because we didn’t pay for placement.

There were always paid elements of PR like newswire distribution, matte stories, and events. And while we griped about it, we had to familiarize ourselves with the cost of ads when we determined ad value. Now, it’s time to dust off our calculators and figure out how to design a strategic program that combines paid, earned, owned and shared media. Does that mean we need to compete with media buyers?

Sort of.

Look at where we are: Twitter Canada claims some brands pay them a million dollars a year to advertise. Facebook tells organizations that unless they ante up, next to no one will see their posts. Snapchat ads are getting good recall.

All you need is some unbillable time to spend on the free how to webinars social networks and ad platforms offer and a willingness to test the dashboards, sharpen your skills and carve the budget in a new way.

So before you give up your good intentions in 2015, resolve to change your prayers, stop preying and learn how and when to pay. If not, we’ll be left in the dust with nothing but our prayers and a rusty trap.

What do you think?

A version of this post was first published in Marketing Magazine.

About Martin Waxman

Martin Waxman conducts social media and online crisis training workshops, is a digital and communications strategist and speaks at events across North America. He's the co-founder of three PR agencies, president of a consultancy and has worked in the industry for over 25+ years. Martin is a LinkedIn Learning and Lynda.com author, teaches digital strategy and social media at University of Toronto SCS and Seneca College, and is a past-chair of PRSA Counselors Academy.

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