It Is Your Fault That Client Does Not Have A Single Media Placement- Best Practices For Delivering Results in PR
As the CEO and person in charge of sales for our boutique NYC PR firm, I see it happen all too often. A prospect comes across my desk and tells me that they are terrified to sign on because the last PR firm they engaged promised the world, and instead, handed them a large garbage bag of nothing. Every time I hear the tale I become slightly enraged, I feel awful for the prospect and then even worse because they want to attempt to pay us, the real experts that can deliver, in Trident layers. Is this right…of course not! Can I blame them? No.
Yes, it is true that PR can be a bit of catch and release. We are the paid middle men. We ensure that the message gets out but then at times many publicists shy away from the responsibility of actually locking the placement. I do get it. I know that stories fall through, products are sometimes not received well, and damn it if you did not tell the client that media would not show up to their event with a 9/11 date or on Xmas eve. However, where is the line in the sand drawn? Bypass all of our contract terms of how we are not responsible for the outcome of a project and lets truly think about this for a second.
Like most entrepreneur’s, I have many vendors that work for me on retainer. Teams like our legal, to IT, or our accounting firm. Though these are very different businesses, I will be damned if our legal team takes 5 cases to trial and loses each one of them and comes back to me and tells me “Whoops! We aren’t responsible for the success of the trials outcome. The judge has the final say.” Well then…. why the heck did I hire you? Why did I sit through endless meetings with legal teams and then decide on your practice, it was not because you could make the best smores. I can tell you that. I’m not a fan of marshmallows and we aren’t in the girls or boy scouts over here. I retained my legal team for the same reason that customers retain us as their PR Agency. It’s personal. business and PR is exceptionally personal. Anyone who says different is willing to toss ethical rules by the wayside. I chose my legal team because they appealed to my culture of business. They projected that though the judge could rule in someone else’s favor- they had the skill, know-how, and expertise to make that judge see the light in my favor. Including motions and evidence that I would not know how to present as someone who has not attended law school and put in 15 years of law practice. I signed because of referrals and case histories. So why is PR any different? Disturbing isn’t it?
When I hire at my PR firm we prescreen to the death. We look at writing samples, media angles, we throw creation scenarios at the applicants and so much more. Why? Because it is not ok to tell a client…well, it just didn’t pan out this contract. Public Relations by nature is about thinking on your feet. We spin, we twist, we get the story out and are reactive in ways other industries could only imagine. If you don’t have the contacts, you get them. Many small-time freelancers and two person firms nowadays will swiftly grab 40K contracts and sip martinis while their clients whirl in distress. Knowing that not only have they not tried everything that’s tried sand true, but they don’t know what those things are that actually should be done to get the media placements. These mishaps include:
- Sending out an insane amount of samples without placement returns
- Not applying the correct amount of effort in setting up desk-sides, lunches, drinks and face to face time with editors ( yes this still matters nowadays)
- Not investing in the PR firm tools needed such as Cision and PR Newswire.
- Avoiding any type of reporting. Reporting is key in any type of marketing practices- including Public relations.
- Not having access or being registered to write for any media outlets just in case a month slides by where a client was hard to place. There are way too many worthwhile outlets online where you can easily include a client if you have not locked the necessary placements.
- Not understanding the twist effect of placing a client within an expert or guest article.
- Not hopping on the phone to media call. This is also still insanely relevant nowadays.
- Creating pitches that are not on target and pitches that do not sing and sell to the media
Within the PR industry we need to hold ourselves accountable for client results and client satisfaction. That being said there are certainly times when there is a difficult project that simply is not receiving the traction that we initially intended. Yes as Publicist we need to pay the bills, however, we also need to maintain a high level of integrity. So how do you handle a situation when a contract has not panned out? Simple- you comp a month and work your behind off- or you extend the contract. I am not referring to the client that expects your PR firm to lock in the Today Show within one months time or sales to spike 25% within 30 days. I am referring to realistic clients with realistic expectations of secure media placements. If you delivered bupkis that is not OK. It should never be ok. Success is based on effort and if you delivered bupkis then as a responsible publicist it is your job to realize that you did not swerve and change course fast enough or when you needed to. it is your job to fix the issue.
We need to change the perception of the PR industry. Publicists are not rip off artists. We are brand ambassadors and cheerleaders on the front line. we work our behinds off to communicate messages and really assist in growing businesses. We need to be accountable cheerleaders and ensure that at all times we hold the highest standard of the business that is Public Relations.