Recently, I have been a little annoyed and at the same time, amused by the fact that many marketing managers who also oversee public relations for their companies and brands have absolutely no idea what public relations is all about and how PR can work for their companies and products. Sometimes, it makes me wonder why they are put in that position, but that’s not my topic for this post.
First of all, PR is not just about “publicity stunts” and definitely not about roadshows or promotions. I am sure PR agencies get alot of the weirdest requests from clients to (1) get media down to their event – which usually means roadshows that have nothing “news worthy” and not carefully thought out to reach out to the target audiences (2) have a BIG press conference to announce their erm, website launch that often looks like any other websites (3) insist of doing “publicity” stunts that are totally not relevant to their products or company.
Yes, it is then the job of the agency to EDUCATE, EDUCATE, EDUCATE! the clients that there is really no way any media or consumers who would pay attention to what they want to do. Unfortunately, many consultants fail to do that for various reasons. At times, the clients fail to listen to advices. The result – a bad relationship and a lot of money wasted on a bad “PR activity”.
I have been in both agency and in-house positions and i know of many clients who complained about their PR agencies all the time and consultants in agencies curse behind their clients every other day. So, this post has nothing to do with new media and nothing 2.0 but it is going back to basic as I ponder and read some experts’ views on how the two can better work together to achieve better results.
One of the reasons states:
The client doesn’t understand the publicity process. PR folks need to better educate people about how publicity works. The first thing many clients ask is, “Can you get me on Oprah or the front page of the Wall Street Journal?” The answer might be “yes,” but the process to get to the “yes” may take months or years, and may first include a series of smaller activities to get there.
Brian not only listed why PR doesn’t work, he gave suggestions on HOW to fix it and in his post, he wrote the following advice to the companies’ executives:
Understand first, what PR is and isn’t. All too often, businesses expect PR to perform miracles simply because they confuse it with advertising, online marketing, media buying, search marketing, etc. PR can’t guarantee legitimate coverage in industry publications – no matter how tight the relationship. If PR promises it, then they’re lying. I leverage relationships daily to consider stories that I package in a way that’s most relevant to them. Most of the time it works because I take the time to make it valuable to respective markets. If I took advantage of my contacts to force coverage whenever I needed to deliver on a promise, then it would mark the beginning of the end of my relationships.
On Andy Lark‘s blog, he wrote his views some months back on how he believes that PR works but at times the relationship between client and consultants are worsened because of the client that doesn’t grok their audience, what they read, or what their circle of influence is… PR Works where everyone groks the audience and understands how to communicate effectively with them – and that might mean skipping the media altogether.
…. could someone please define the term “public relations.” I think every person in business needs to have relationships with members of their communities. You (Jeremiah) are superb at having those public relationships. The problem with so many alleged “PR Practitioners,”is they are really working on client relationships or maybe even press relationships, but it seems to me the field is really about something very different. You understand communities better than almost any traditional PR practitioner I know. So I guess you are my kind of PR guy.
It is interesting that although Jeremiah has no former training in PR and not a public relations professional, many of his blog fans and experts in the field look to him as one. The reason is probably because he has an influential reach to alot of audiences. As Shel mentioned, he understands the consumers, the communities better than many PR professionals.
So, to the people who work with me and are complaining about the clients or my friends who are clients and complaining about the agencies, instead of blaming one another, work towards understanding the problems and needs of the other.
There is often an objective in running a PR campaign and it is definitely not pissing one another off. Before we even start throwing in the tech/ PR/ Web 2.0 social and new media stuff, get the basic of PR in place.
Educate the client. Build the relationship. Help the client understand what works for the company or product. Look at your target consumers, understand them. The keywords now are to involve and get participation and not just sending out gospel-like key messages that are often a monologue rather than a dialogue. THEN, let’s talk about the cool 2.0 tools to build your campaign.
My good friend, Walter Lim, the communications director of a government body in Singapore wrote the following in his blog … (and I agree)
Any effective PR strategy needs to look at the relationships, processes and dynamics that all three parties have with each other. Just pointing the finger at the client alone will not solve the problem if there isn’t enough effort to educate him or her.
In addition, understanding and working together must be a two-way win-win thing. While publicity is good, it isn’t the be-all and end-all in the business world. Sometimes, one needs to see if one’s business strategy and tactics lends itself favourably to publicity or should employ other approaches instead.