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.

Social Media is a Fad … Like Websites Don’t Matter

Today I heard at least three different people comment that social media is a fad. Although they were positioning it in jest, there was also a bit of questioning in their tone. So let me ask you this:

– Do you use email?
– How often do you IM?
– Do you have a website? What about a blog?
– Are online ads still around?
– Do you Google?
– Have you tried Bing?

Social media isn’t any more of a fad than these very technologies that you and I and millions of others use every day. “It’s just a fad” – unless you’re talking about fashion and style – tends to come from resistant-to-change-and-scared-of-being-left-behind people. I remember when instant messaging was first used in the office of my PR agency back in the early 90s. A lot of people complained about it and said they’d never use it, what was the point when you could just pick up the phone, etc. Personally, I think they were just terrified of IM’ing messages to the wrong person (which was always an enlightening event usually resulting in insults), but eventually they came around to understanding that IM offered a different kind of value than the phone. And one that they wanted.

Similarly, we used to represent a provider of ad blocking software. This was hot stuff in the mid- to late 90s, as many people hate online ads and even more predicted the demise of the online ad market altogether. Yeah, I think we know how that worked out (if I had a dime for every start up business plan I’ve read where advertising is the revenue model….).

Social media isn’t going anywhere. It’s not a fad. Sure the hype will die down – but that’s a good thing. Once the novelty wears off and growth steadies, the market will shake out, the less useful technologies will fade away, the user demographics will be easier to plan around, and we’ll all have a clearer picture of what value it all brings to business.

What do you think?

What is Value? It Depends on Who You Ask

The word value might seem like a straight forward term but in
reality, it’s very subjective. Those of us in the PR agency business
can appreciate this as we balance multiple clients and work hard every
day to provide value to them – which can be, and often is, very
different from client to client. You  may experience this in your own
job if you’re a part of a larger division or company where multiple
decision makers need to see what you do every day as valuable. As you
look up the hierarchy, what constitutes as value can differ from layer
to layer, person to person. So how do you ensure that you are providing
the best value you can – and to the right people (the ones that
ultimately make the decision on your job, your future, your daily work

when you do figure out what each person in the decision tree sees as
valuable, it can change. For example, often times PR agencies are
replaced when a new addition  – usually a VP or Director of Marketing –
is hired by a client. Alternately, you may get a new boss who has been
assigned to come in and “shake things up.” Although you may have met
all of the objectives of value for your previous contact, the new one
will hold you to their own standards of value and ROI. If someone’s
been assigned to come in and do more than fill some shoes – but rather,
make change and find problems – they will be looking very carefully at
everything you do. And while a more experienced person wouldn’t make
sweeping changes without first truly understanding what needed to be
fixed – and wouldn’t make changes just for the sake of making changes –
often times no matter how hard you’ve worked or how many goals you
previously met, they just won’t meet the new boss’s expectations of
value and your job will change (or, worst case scenario, be eliminated).

So what can you do to ensure you are always adding value to the
myriad of decision makers in your work life? First – and most obvious –
is to communicate. Sit down with each person who is responsible for
providing input or making decisions about your job (or firm) and ask
them, “How do you define value?” and “What can I do to be more valuable
to you on a daily basis.?” More importantly, be ready to express some
of your own ideas on how you have provided value in the past – tie it
to specific ROI such as sales, customer retention or effective company
policies. Secondly, don’t stop asking. Do this often and repeat. Change
happens in the corporate world at a rapid pace (or sometimes, a snail’s
pace… which can mean you’re thinking and acting before your company
or client is ready) and you need to have your pulse on the pace. Tie
your performance to previous discussions and outlines of value provided
to you by your former client contact or boss – and ensure that they
clearly correlate “This is what I was told was valuable and needed;
here’s how I achieved it.” Next, ask questions – “If this value is no
longer important, what is? What changes are you making and why – I want
to understand so I can also make the appropriate changes and continue
to deliver the right value to this organization.”

The bottom line – don’t assume you know what’s valuable in the minds
of all decision makers. It takes constant communication, consistent
measurement of your own performance (don’t just rely on others to do
this for you) and a certain tact for tooting your own horn to ensure
that your value is clear to all decision makers. Don’t leave it up to
others to communicate how valuable you are – and don’t ever look at it
as a job that’s complete.

How do you ensure that  you understand the value expected of your
agency or your position, and how do you juggle the expectations of
multiple audiences?


Love Your Accountant? PR Firm? Vet? Last Day for Make A Referral Week to Help SMBs!

As a small business, and one that often promotes relevant technologies, product and services, we are passionate about supporting the SMB community. Small businesses are the crux of our economy – stimulating new ideas, new jobs and new creations every day. So we wanted to remind you that today marks the last day to make a referral on “Make a Referral Week” –  an entrepreneurial approach to stimulating the small business economy one referred business at a time.

“The goal for the week is to generate 1000 referred leads to 1000 deserving small businesses in an effort to highlight the impact of a simple action that could blossom into millions of dollars in new business,” writes John Jantsch, creator of the effort and author of Duct Tape Marketing. We couldn’t agree more, so please, join the cause – show the power of referrals and make one here, today.


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Can You Afford Not to Demand Excellence?

I recently had a conversation with an industry colleague who works on the client side. During that conversation, which took place at a marketing conference, he shared with me his experience at a certain other interactive conference last year: “One awesome week-long party paid for by my company. No real business takes place in terms of ROI. I can’t wait to go back.”

burning-wasting-money-600Huh? With that mentality, no wonder marketing is often the first line item when companies are facing budget cuts.

But wait a minute – aren’t you responsible for ensuring excellence for your company across the board at all times? In this day and age of record unemployment, pay cuts, “turning out the lights,” and more work with less resources, can you afford this sort of mentality on your workforce? Do you have any idea what the marketing department does with its budget? Are you assessing and measuring and demanding excellence on a weekly basis?

More importantly, if you have a marketing department spending money on events, travel, conferences and tradeshows, are you really measuring the ROI of such efforts? Do you assess the cost of the show (in full) and what it yielded for results? Do you pay attention to who’s going, what they’re doing and the expected results? Do you compare these investments to other marketing activities? Can you afford not to have such checks and balances in place these days?

Mind you, this was no multi-billion dollar company – although even they, too, are being affected by this global recession. This was a start up in a precarious and competitive industry. In other words, that kind of irresponsible mentality (like #11 here) shouldn’t be difficult to spot. But if you’re not paying attention – and not demanding results from every investment – then it could be missed. And such ignorance could cost you not only money, but perhaps a future layoff or worse.

Take the time to assess all of your  marketing activities – not just SEO or PR or advertising – but the dollars spent on every activity online and off. Demand excellence in everything and set parameters for employees. Prioritize in advance – know which activities yield the best results and which could easily be diminished with minimal impact.

Can you draw a direct line to results or positive ROI for each  marketing activity? If not, can you afford not to demand excellence and results across the board? I didn’t think so.