Managing client expectations is one of the trickiest parts of public relations. That sounds ridiculous, when so much of what we do is predicated on editors being judge, jury and executioner for our lovingly crafted pitches, but it’s the reality.
PR is all about calculated risk – we offer our professional advice, craft, coordinate and pitch but, ultimately, you pay your money and take your chance. When things go to plan the pay-off can be exceptional. At other times, the best ideas sink without trace. When marketing budgets are pinched to the limit that may not be what you want to hear, but there it is.
So, some #truths about public relations are probably a great place to start….
Avoid nodding dogs
If your idea isn’t going to fly, you need to be prepared to hear that. Find people who are passionate about supporting you to achieve your goals, while recognising that there are no certainties. ‘Easy’ wins are usually found against a backdrop of relentless plugging and years of experience.
Get on the same page about PR
Bright ideas and great stories sometimes do come to you in a flash of inspiration, before being embraced by the ecstatic media. Sometimes. Alright, rarely.
PR is typically a long game. You deliberate – the right content, the right outlet, you craft – the right brand voice, the right tone for the outlet, you pitch – you try to find the right day, the right person. So many variables, so many ducks to coerce into a line.
As someone once said, PR is like a gym routine. You don’t get buff after one visit, but commitment and consistency will yield results. To stick with that analogy, it’s also about working with a professional who can give you an all-over workout – a strategic plan, not just a million repetitions of the same action.
Think strategically – don’t be tempted by big names
Ask yourself, why PR? Before you even begin, it’s vital that your PR goals are aligned with your overall business strategy. There is no reason for working your tail off to be featured in the Sydney Morning Herald Business section if your audience is reading Peppermint. Ego boosts don’t pay bills.
Define your ideal outcome – be it increased traffic, leads or revenue. Once set, identify the measures which will enable you to track success.
It’s a collaborative process
PR is an active process. You know your business, so you need to bring ideas and expertise to the table. You also need to be responsive when media do bite – be prepared to clarify, support or defend a position. I have had situations where a client wanted ‘all’ the media coverage and then panicked and refused to go on camera. If you go MIA, so will your results.
Be prepared to relinquish some control
Once your message is in the hands of the media, there are no guarantees as to what will come out the other end. Sometimes there are mistakes and sometime stories are deliberately taken in another direction to fit a news agenda. This is a cold, hard reality and it’s all part of the PR gamble. We mitigate against this by building strong relationships with journalists, by coaching them through your story, and by providing clear information. But the process is not infallible and the ultimate story cannot be controlled. Be prepared to live with that.
Get to grips with these #truths
I’ve realised that my expectations of media do not pass to the client by osmosis and that can leave people frustrated. So here are a few headlines:
- Stories can be fully developed and then dropped. Despite all the time you’ve ploughed into it, including interviews and photos, stories can disappear without trace. It happens, and it’s heartbreaking. The good news? You’ve still developed a relationship with the journalist, you’ve aired your brand messaging and given your PR muscles a workout. You’re all warmed up and ready for the next opportunity.
- Sometimes media don’t and won’t commit to a publication date. Journalists, as well as juggling competing priorities, can intentionally push back if you’re being a pain their proverbial. They don’t necessarily have control over the news agenda and, even if they did, covering 47 different stories a day means that they really don’t care that you’re sitting by your screen, refreshing it every 30 seconds. If we keep asking them, pretty soon all our contacts will be rebuffed.
- Good stories don’t always get picked up. Period.
Please be very clear on your needs and expectations and establish firm timelines for campaign deliverables. Suddenly moving a deadline, or the goalposts entirely, is difficult enough when it’s because of an unforeseen environmental factor. When it’s on a whim or because of an avoidable ‘uh oh’ it can look flaky and won’t endear your organisation to media.
It’s also critical that you’re available to respond to questions and meet approval timelines, which can often be needed urgently. ‘You snooze you lose’ is never more true than in the PR game.
Communicate – yes, you too
I’m only human and that means I won’t always get it right. Things might be going brilliantly, but perhaps you had different expectations. Or maybe they aren’t going perfectly, so it’s time to re-assess priorities or strategy. Either way, let’s talk – talking about it can only help. It’s my mission to help you succeed so, if anything isn’t working for you, let’s chat.
More talking – this time about results
The old marketing adage is that it takes multiple touches (how many depends on who you ask!) to get a prospect across the line. PR is no different. That steady flow of media activity builds relationships and credibility, but it takes time.
Use your measures – both in the longer view and in relation to specific campaigns, to identify outlets and angles that really work for your business – and you’ll start to see that PR is not only a complementary part of your marketing strategy, but an essential component.
Done well, PR can generate coverage that builds brand identity and equity in your sector – after that it’s time to turn PR gold into dollars.
Get in touch to find out how a media strategy could support your overall marketing and business goals – firstname.lastname@example.org.