What’s Wrong With Your PR?

Do you know the answer to this before you start researching a new PR firm to hire? Have you taken a good look at your current program and working relationship and truly understand what needs to improve? Do you have a plan for integrating PR with other marketing elements?

In meetings with prospects I’ve found that many don’t. They don’t know what’s wrong with their PR, only that they “need something more.” They don’t have a plan for integrating PR with other forms of marketing – in fact, many times they’ve never even thought about the connection. But all marketing should be integrated and PR should support and work to promote every other element in your marketing arsenal.

If you head into a working relationship without a firm idea of what you want improved, it’s difficult to expect your PR firm to deliver results that will meet your – or the Board’s – expectations. Many times the C-suite has a very narrow view of what PR means to them – usually top of mind is media relations, although these days word-of-mouth is also becoming a unit of measurement for them, thanks to social media.

Every agency has been in a new business meeting where the prospect has brought out a list of what the last agency didn’t do. They don’t necessarily correlate this to what they thought the agency should have done – and I’ve found that rarely, if ever, do they have a clear and definitive overview on where the agency fell short in regards to specific metrics or promised goals.

Before you change agencies or look for a new firm for the first time, ask yourself:

- How do I define PR?

- What specifically has been missing that’s driving us to hire a PR firm?

- How do I expect PR to integrate into my overall marketing plan? What about sales? Customer service? Other areas of our business?

- What specific programs do I want in my PR campaign?

- How will I measure the success of those programs; of the campaign overall?

- How much do I expect the PR firm to manage and do my resources align with this expectation – honestly?

- What benchmark metrics do I have to give the PR firm to begin – so they can plan and measure accordingly?

- What characteristics do I want in my PR team? What do I like about the people I work with now?

- What attributes do I want in a PR firm? Big name? All senior team? Boutique or conglomerate? What’s my experience been in the past with each and what were the pros and cons?

- What have my trusted colleagues experienced – good and bad – in working with a PR firm and how can I avoid those same mistakes?

- What role do I want to play in managing the PR firm? Side-by-side colleague and teammate? Hands off manager?

- What matters most to me? What matters most to my boss(es)? Are we on the same page with how we’ll define success in working with a PR firm?

Many times this last point is one of the biggest snags in a successful agency/client relationship. Too many times the day-to-day executive tasked with managing the PR firm does not clearly understand how the CMO, VP of Marketing or other C-level executives will define success. And when they’re not on the same page, it’s pretty impossible for the PR firm to be successful. And that brings me to one final point – who’s in charge of your PR internally? Do you respect them? Do you trust them? Did you hire the right person for the job? Start there – because if you haven’t, you’re not only wasting money on their salary, but you’ll be throwing dollars out the window for a PR firm to fail, too.

So, what’s wrong with your PR? And how do you plan to fix it – or how have you in the past? Please share your experiences in the comments so our readers can benefit from your wisdom.

  • http://oneguysjourney.wordpress.com Jason Mollica

    I enjoyed this post for the reason that I'm passionate about providing great service to our clients. One of the most important things I can say for a company to look for is, “What will the firm offer us that's different than everyone else?”

    Our owner has an MBA, which I think helps our clients. We look at things from a business aspect as well as the strategic marketing/PR side.

    I also always would think about firm size and employees. What are their backgrounds? Does a firm tell you who their employees are? It all comes down to trust.

    Just a few ideas off the top of my head.

  • valeriesimon

    These are great questions Christine… I think that too often the biggest obstacle standing in the way of a successful relationship is clear communication. Taking the time to understand and clearly articulate goals and expectations at the start is essential.

    While several of your questions allude to this, I would recommend executives take a moment to clearly define what they hope to gain from hiring an agency. Strategic counsel? Project execution? Particular experience or expertise?

    Also, to elaborate on your questions regarding “What role do I want to play in managing the PR firm?” I would recommend considering not only the level of time & involvement, but overall communication style. Are you more comfortable with in person meetings or do you find electronic communications more convenient? What sort of flexibility and responsiveness does your business require and do you expect your agency to embrace?

    Finally I would suggest asking, “Is this a firm I am prepared to listen to and committed to working with?' Which brings things right to your final point… Do you respect them? Do you trust them? Did you hire the right person for the job?

  • http://www.SearchPerspective.com Cory Grassell

    PR firms should be proactive, helping to alleviate the work on behalf of your own company. While brainstorming sessions help and certainly outlining business objectives/goals is necessary, the PR firm should be hands on and offer ample suggestions to improve one's business. It shouldn't be up to the business to come up with fresh, new ideas AND carry them out.

  • http://www.mediasurvey.com/ Sam Whitmore

    Seems to me clients still have a myopic view of WSJ, NYT and the value they can bring. The reality, IMHO, is that these brands are status plays. Go direct-to-audience and reap the rewards of serving the constituencies you already know you have.

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