PR – A Great Thing, but Not a Miracle Worker

It’s a funny thing about PR…sometimes it’s viewed like other professions that people have a love/hate relationship with – like law enforcement, insurance providers, lawyers. Or like those that people expect magic from – beauticians, plastic surgeons, teachers.

Here’s the thing. Anything can be branded, marketed, promoted. Anything can get a first look. But public relations won’t make or break your business without a little help from you.

Stop making your PR department/firm/executive the scapegoat for your crappy products.

It’s not our job to convince people that your products are good when they aren’t. We don’t “dumb people down.” PR isn’t to blame if you can’t sell. PR isn’t to blame if your product doesn’t do what you promised – or told us to promise. Even Apple can’t pull that off.

I’m not being over sensitive. I’ve been in this business long enough – heading into my 15th year of owning my own firm – to recognize the unbelievable expectations that executives can have about PR. And I’ve seen many executives that don’t get PR at all – who have no idea that their CMOs are throwing money out the door jumping from agency to agency trying to find the right match.

I also know that PR agencies can seem like a dime a dozen. There’s one on every block like Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts. I know that it can be tough to find the right match – chemistry with the team – on your first try. But if you or your marketing head have gone through more than two agencies in 12 months, maybe it’s time to take a look inside.

Here’s a few things you can expect a good PR team to accomplish:

  • Get your products in front of the “right people” – those can vary, but for most companies it means reporters, bloggers, analysts and others who influence the buying decisions of your prospects.
  • Connect executives with these folks for personal meetings/briefings/interviews – beginning and helping to maintain a more personal relationship.
  • Get these influencers to listen – based on long standing relationships and/or the talent to understand what they want, how they want to be connected with, what they care about, etc.
  • Give you inside views on where to be (events, online and off) to connect with the right folks who can help you – whether it’s media, VCs, analysts, customer/prospects, partners – a good PR team can help with all of those, making sure your valuable time isn’t wasted, and that you’re not missing anything crucial.
  • Help you write, message, brand and promote what you want to say in a more eloquent manner.
  • Help “roll out the red carpet” for sales by spreading awareness of you, your company, your products consistently, and in the right places. Ideally, PR sets the stage so that when a sales executive walks into a deal, the prospect says, “Oh yeah, I’ve heard of you – I see you guys everywhere.” That’s always a nice start.

Here’s you should not expect PR to do:

  • Get people to keep using your product if it’s not working right.
  • Cover up bad customer service – certainly we can try to help fix a crisis, but this shouldn’t be the ongoing plan.
  • Work in a black hole – share information with your PR team and trust them to help you come up with the best, most strategic plan on what information should be communicated, to who, how, where and when.
  • Make reporters personally like you.
  • Tell reporters what to write. We can give them facts, we can encourage certain angles. But they’re not puppets and we’re not puppet masters.
  • Be responsible for repeat buyers. That’s your job – through great customer service, good products, stellar relationship management. We’re matchmakers of sorts – we get people interested but it’s up to you to maintain the relationship.

Of course, good PR executives can help with more than these things – it’s just a quick list. We can help you maintain relationships to a certain degree. But we’re not miracle workers. If your product or service isn’t working right or your customer service team isn’t treating customers well, don’t blame PR. Understand – and manage – the difference between positioning communications and information, vs product development, customer service and executive management. Too often, PR is blamed when all three don’t come together well.

What do you expect from PR?

 

 

 

“Trading cards here! Get your trading cards here!”

New PR Tips Collection to be Featured Weekly; Ultimately Producing a PR “Bible”

 

What do baseball and PR have to do with one another? Other than individual performances adding up to a team win, maybe not much (although it could be a fun subject for a future blog post). Regardless, PerkettPR is hoping to create some fun with its new “PR Trading Cards,” which will be featured on our Pinterest and Facebook pages starting this week.

Remember collecting baseball cards as a child – trading and sharing and trying to obtain them all?  We wanted to create some similar fun – while also sharing some best PR practices – by showcasing our own “trading card collection” of PR Tips, by way of trading cards that you can trade, share or just keep handy.  You can even print each trading card off and stick in the spokes of your bicycle if you like. ;) We’ll be featuring two trading cards each week with our top PR and marketing tips.

In addition to sharing and trading them, we’d love for you to submit your own PR tips – we’ll design the best tips into a trading card to be featured in the collection.  A fan-contributed PR Tip trading card will be featured each Friday on our Pinterest and Facebook pages and included in an upcoming “PR Bible” as well.  This “PR Bible” will include the first 50 PR tips submitted, along with your name as the contributor.

To add to the fun, if you collect and share 10 tips or more, you can win a PerkettPR coffee mug. So be sure to like, follow, plus, view or read us and let us know that you’ve been sharing!

Are you ready for some fun? Head on over to our Pinterest and Facebook pages and check them out! To contribute a PR tip, please email your idea to prtips@perkettpr.com.

 

Top 10 Do’s & Don’ts: A PR Executive’s Crib Sheet

It’s easy to play up the adversarial relationship between “Hacks” and “Flacks,” but the truth of this perennial love/hate relationship is that that we really do need one other. Although the value of PR professionals to journalists is often called into question, as this article points out, “the popularity of services like HARO and ProfNet should be proof enough that journalists have a need for PR professionals.”

That said, as PR professionals, our jobs are two-fold: Not only are we advocates for our clients, but we’re also here to make life easier on our journalist comrades. Between a non-stop news cycle, scary budget cuts and mounting competition for clicks, there’s a good chance they’re working in a pressure cooker environment, so the best thing we can do is to think from their perspective and assist rather than annoy. After all, it comes down to relationships, and there’s nothing worse than trying to work with someone who makes your job harder.

So, without further ado, here are our “Top 10 Yeas and Nays” for better PR practices. Although some may seem pretty obvious, those are often the ones that are first forgotten.

DON’T even think about…

  1. Not doing your research/reading a journalist’s articles before pitching. Know who you’re targeting, and only send something to them that you think would be of interest.
  2. Sending a pitch via email blast. The shotgun-spray approach is not appreciated; rather, think like a sniper.
  3. Asking if you can see and/or edit an article before it’s published. This is a huge no-no!
  4. Making up a response if you don’t know the answer. It’s perfectly acceptable to say, “I’m not sure. Let me check and get back to you.”
  5. Disregarding deadlines. Your journalist friend has theirs, so make sure you meet yours.

If you want to develop good working relationships, DO try…

  1. Respecting the journalist’s preferences. If they’re an email person, and you’re more comfortable on the phone, adapt. Work their way.
  2. Keeping pitches and releases short and to-the-point (and as buzz-free as possible). Repeat after me: Less is more.
  3. Thinking about how to streamline the process. Have assets and answers ready, and be available when the reporter is writing and may have a question. (Package the story beforehand as much as possible: angle, visual content, facts, references, spokespersons, etc.)
  4. Proofread, proofread, proofread. And when in doubt, hit spell check again before sending that pitch – perhaps even send to a colleague to review with fresh eyes before contacting the reporter.
  5. Focusing on relationships. I said it above, and I’ll say it again – it’s all about relationships. They make the job easier and a whole lot more fun! For example, interact with, read, comment on, share and praise a reporter’s work that you find of interest –  not just when it’s a story about your company or client.

And, as always, there’s often no better place to hear it than from the horse’s mouth. So unless you don’t mind finding yourself mocked publicly (yep, we’re quite aware of the conversations going on here, here or here), we also suggest checking out (and heeding!) veteran reporter Rafe Needleman’s Pro PR Tips: http://proprtips.com/

Which tips would you add to the list? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Running a PR Agency – Big or Small, Challenges Remain the Same

Last week I was fortunate enough to be invited to the Council of PR Firms‘ Boston roundtable, to discuss industry and agency issues with fellow Boston agency leaders. This was my second time attending this annual event, and I again came away inspired, energized, reassured and enthusiastic. The folks I was lucky enough to sit around the “asylum white” Board room with at Weber Shandwick included agency leaders in executive management, HR and business development from large, global firms such as Porter Novelli, Weber and Fleishman-Hillard, to midsize and smaller agencies such as CHEN PR and March Public Relations. In all, there were about 20 of us who talked about what’s looking up in the PR industry, how PR has evolved since the advent of social and digital media, HR and recruitment challenges, the integration of advertising, digital, social, mobile and video into PR campaigns and much more. We spent a great deal of time talking about measurement – what clients want, how we provide it and what tools and strategies we are using to get there.

The thing that I always find most interesting about meeting with my industry colleagues – some of them even competitors – is that we all face similar issues. Large or small, focused on tech or healthcare or consumer PR – the agency challenges are always along the same lines. As the owner of one of the smaller agencies, I love to hear that we are successfully navigating the same issues that agencies of any size do – how to motivate staff, how to identify and hire the right people for our culture, how to juggle client demands with realistic budgets. It reminds me that sometimes getting together with your “frenemies,” as I like to call them, benefits everyone. Here are some of the issues that resonated across the board:

Recruiting. Currently, the biggest challenge is finding social and digital experts who understand communications strategy and PR. It’s easy to find one or the other, but the combination of both is valuable and rare. PR folks –that’s an open invitation to you to hone your social and digital skills and surpass those “social media experts” for jobs that require knowing more than how to Tweet. What’s the real value in using these tools in a strategic communications campaign?

HR. One of the big issues on the table was telecommuting and virtual work. I am obviously – as an owner of one of the first and most successful virtual agencies – fortunate to not have to deal with a traditional office environment where executive staff is trying to figure out how to provide the opportunity for employees to work from home some of the time. That balancing act can get tricky – providing the perk without it getting out of control, managing expectations between management and staff and still keeping employees motivated and happy. Almost every agency provides the opportunity to work from home some of the time for some of their employees, but much was discussed about how this affects training of junior staff, expectations from clients, and the overall culture. Apparently the new wave of workers expects this perk, so agencies are navigating their way and trying some interesting combinations of integrating virtual work with traditional office environments. Other topics on the HR front were how to manage employee demands for more and better perks, investment in training and opportunities for growth from within, as well as the return of bloated salary requests. We were all enthusiastic about joining an HR roundtable next to continue to inform one another and discuss these issues – helping to keep the industry in check.

Client Expectations. This is always a topic of discussion and I was glad to hear that budgets all around are returning to a more realistic level to align with the results desired by clients. Remember, you really do get what you pay for in PR. You can’t expect to saturate the market if you don’t put the proper investment behind that (money, time and executive commitment and belief). Remember what Bill Gates allegedly said about his last dollar

Measurement and Proof of Value. Speaking of client expectations, the burden of proof of reaching those expectations continues to drive discussions within all agencies. We talked about using tools such as Radian 6 and (our PerkettPR client) uberVU. We discussed the value of measuring how our promotions are driving traffic, sales leads, brand awareness and more – but the challenge remains to find the exact best way to do this. There is no PR industry standard and furthermore, clients don’t want to pay extra for it. The burden of proof is on PR firms – and how the different agencies handle that is all over the place. (On a self promotional note, our agency is working on a tool that fellow firms will definitely find of value – stay tuned for our launch this Fall.)

Competition. A great deal of discussion was spent on how PR agencies are taking business not from each other, but from other entities such as advertising agencies, digital houses and even the new found “social media” agencies. The common belief – and trend we’re all seeing – is that the shiny new ball syndrome of hiring an entire agency to execute social media is quickly fading. Social media is simply a new set of tools, not an enlightenment of communications strategy for newbie professionals who have never dealt with brand strategy, corporate crisis and more. The competitive landscape is wider, but PR is holding its own, as effective communications that illicit the proper actions continues to be key. Also hot for PR agencies is adding staff for mobile, digital and video content. Most agencies are moving from outsourcing this type of position to owning it in-house with a dedicated team or position.

I do believe there were a few laughs when I mentioned that the telephone has been around for quite a while, but it certainly doesn’t make everyone good at communicating. It’s true – and neither do social media tools. This is why the PR industry is not dying. We’re thriving – and our 2012 budgets and client rosters continue to reflect that truth. I can’t wait to see what 2013 brings to us as an industry.

If you’re a PR executive or agency, what trends are you seeing in the above areas? How are you navigating the changes discussed (or the traditional issues we all still face)?

Thanks to Weber for hosting, and to Matthew Soriano and the Council for including me. And of course, to my industry colleagues for participating. It’s always a pleasure learning from you all.

PS Head on over to the Council’s website for more industry stats, insights and information! It’s  a great resource.

Say What? PR Slang – Defined

As PR professionals, we often find ourselves in interesting conversations trying to explain what we do for a living. Truth be told, the popularity of social media and its integration into the PR and marketing mix has made it a little easier to help our family and friends “get it,” but there are still a lot of curious looks when you answer the question, “So, what is PR and what do you do as a PR professional, anyway?”

To complicate matters, we use a lot of PR lingo that makes no sense to those outside of marketing. Some of our favorite PR slang includes:

Pubs – publications, as in “we need to get media coverage in 100 pubs”

Hits – media coverage

Opp – opportunity, as in an opportunity to get media coverage

Journo – a reporter (journalist)

Pitch – note to inform/gauge interest

Running/ran – article appeared

Traction – interest/coverage

Out of the box – think beyond the obvious

Open the kimono – reveal more details

Prezo – a PowerPoint presentation

Release – a news announcement (as opposed to a product release)

Launch – the public marketing announcement of a G/A product (G/A = generally available)

B-roll – “highlights” video of something we want to promote (company, person, event), often used to show broadcast outlets the potential for a story and/or provide them with footage for the story

Ed Cals – editorial calendars (predetermined story topics by media outlets)

Boilerplate – short description of a company, most often used at the end of a press release

Evergreen – story/pitch angle that won’t fade over time, could be pitched/published at any time (as opposed to news that is only relevant during a certain period of time)

In-house – a “corporate” job where one conducts PR inside a business, as opposed to an agency job where one services several clients at once

Flack - although defined as “a publicist or promoter,” it is also a derogatory reference – often used by journalists – to describe a bad PR executive

Hack - PR’s response to “flack,” often used to describe a poor journalist or reporting job

What slang terms do you use in your profession that others might not understand without explanation? What’d we miss on the PR front? We are pretty sure our former colleague Terry Frechette will have some to add!