Public relations can do wonders for your business. It can make your brand more credible and visible which leads to more business growth. But, the ins and outs of public relations are very misunderstood and many business owners don't truly understand some aspects of it until it's too late.

A big part of public relations is media relations. In fact, it's the main reason small business owners invest in a public relations firm or a publicist--because they want media exposure. What many do not know when they make this investment is that just by hiring someone to earn you media exposure doesn't mean it's actually going to happen.

Before you hire a publicist, be sure to look out for these mistakes that tell you you're doing it all wrong.

Your brand is not newsworthy

Unless you have a story to tell, a newsworthy story, you will not earn media coverage. It is not the media's job to give you a free commercial. It's the media's job to educate and entertain readers and viewers with a story.

If you pitch that story right, it could shed a light on your brand. Now, this light isn't always a huge spotlight. Sometimes it's a little flashlight that turns on for a split second, but it's a light.

I once worked with a client and I explained this to him:

Me: Everyone thinks their business is the greatest ever and should be featured in most media outlets. That's not how journalists see things.

Client: But Christina, our business really is the greatest ever.

Those are not only unrealistic expectations, but the business owner had a mindset that you don't need a great story to earn coverage. You do.

You mistake marketing for sales

I hate it when people say "sales and marketing" like they are the same thing. They're not. In fact, they are very different.

Yes, they go hand in hand and one helps with the other, but they are very different.

For example, if you're a local restaurant and I earn you a cooking segment on the local NBC station, I did my job. I earned you a three-minute segment on TV in your local market in front of millions of potential customers. The part that comes after that is the sales part. I lead the horse to water. You making the horse drink the water is where sales come into play.

You want instant media coverage

If you want to earn media, you need to be patient. Convincing someone your brand has a great story takes time.

Speaking of time, timing is one of the biggest factors when it comes to a journalist answering the question, "Why should I cover this right now?" Just because something isn't a good fit now, doesn't mean it won't be in a month, three months, or even a year.

Here's an example. A publicist friend of mine received a "no" in response to a pitch she sent to a journalist at a popular, national magazine. When she asked why this is what she was told:

"Because I get 200 pitches a week and can't and don't want to read them all. My job is not to sit on my derrière waiting for pitches. I create my own pipeline of stories and it is full for months ahead of time."

You don't want to be involved in the process

Yes, a publicist will handle most of the work, but they need help too. When a member of the media comes knocking, you need to drop everything to earn coverage. Deadlines are tight.

When I was in TV news, I was given an assignment at 9:30 am and I had to have it done by 4:45pm. Many times after I was pitched, I would call the number at the bottom of the email and the conversation would go like this:

Me: "Okay, we're ready to talk to about this. Can we come by in 30 minutes?"

Publicist/Person who wants media exposure: "Oh no. We're not ready!"

Me: "Well, you just sent me this information and my assignment editor would like for me to cover this for the 5pm newscast."

Publicist/Person who wants media exposure: "Okay, well can you just give us the questions now and call back next week?"

When was the last time you watched the 5:00 news and saw something that was not relevant today, but instead looked like it was a week old? Never.

Journalists work on tight deadlines, so if you want to earn media exposure, you need to work that way too.

You're a control freak

When it comes to earning media, you do not control the final product.

It's a journalist's job to tell a story that will educate and entertain their audience. If all 10 of your quotes are boring, then a journalist may use three out of the 10. They may not be your favorite three.

If you want to control the media you earn, you need to buy an advertisement.

So, the next time you're considering hiring someone to handle your PR, ask yourself, "Am I ready for this?"