Anyone who works in PR has been on the receiving end of a client request that is ridiculous. Yes, ridiculous.
From the ‘We need to offer them a story about the colour of our latest widget to stop them running the one about a complete screw up on our part’ to ‘It needs a call to action – not a news angle.’
That’s when PR doesn’t work, when the people commissioning PR don’t understand what it can and can’t do for their business.
Rather than take advice, these are generally the people who feel they could do it better than you if they didn’t have to attend quite so many meetings for important people.
We’ve had a few of those cross our path at GLR Public Relations and it prompted us to have a jolly good look at ourselves and how we pitch for and manage business. No-one likes being treated as if they are stupid by a client and it’s a big red flag that the relationship is going to fail, which isn’t good for anyone involved.
After looking at our brand and how we talk about ourselves as a PR business we implemented a few changes.
Possibly the biggest one was how we now talk about us and our services on our website and in our pitches.
We updated our values and have one that is ‘fit to collaborate’. We tried it out in a pitch at the end of March.
We stated up front that we work with our clients not for them, that their success is our success and if a business isn’t able to collaborate then it’s not fit to be our client.
Fast forward two weeks and we were appointed by the organisation holding the pitch and received some valuable feedback.
There were five agencies at the start of the process, it was whittled down to two by the final pitch and we won because the company felt they could work with us, that we would bring a healthy amount of challenge to their ideas and that we’d always be straight.
They also liked the agency that didn’t win the business but felt their ideas, while different, would be difficult to deliver and had more than a touch of PR fluff about them.
The changes we’ve made aren’t rocket science, but they do shift the boundaries of the PR agency/client relationship and the dynamic in a pitch.
They also ensure that everyone knows what they’re getting into up front.
Here’s some tips for anyone looking to engage a PR agency to make sure they get the best out of the relationship.
- If you think PR is easy and you could do it yourself, do it yourself – don’t make someone else’s life miserable.
- Know what you want to achieve and be specific – a PR agency is only as good as the objectives it is given, if you don’t know what your objectives are, or don’t have a business plan you can share, PR isn’t for you.
- Beware of false promises – if you’re told a story that sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If three agencies are saying they can get your catering business in the Grocer and the fourth is touting the Wall Street Journal, chances are they’ll never deliver – even if the possibility strokes enough egos internally to influence the decision to buy.
- Trust your gut – people buy from people and if the chemistry is all wrong in a pitch it’s not going to get better just because you’re paying them – this applies equally to a PR agency pitching, we get to say no as well.
- Be open – it’s OK to say you want to boost your reputation as an employer but if you forget to mention the six tribunal cases of harassment against someone who’s still in the business you won’t get the results you want. The harasser has to go before PR can help you.