PR BS: What your PR firm says and what it really means

It is one of life’s great ironies: the public relations industry doesn’t exactly have a sterling reputation. Most of the time, the knocks against the industry are deserved.

When talking to potential new clients, its common for us to find that they’ve been burned in a previous relationship with a PR agency. That’s bad for the industry, and a big waste of money and time for clients.

Here are the lines that many PR agencies feed to their clients, and what they really mean:

“We have an extensive rolodex.” Some agencies will drop one reporter name after another during a new business pitch. While having contacts helps, the truth is that reporters change beats and outlets at a high rate. It’s more important to understand how the media works, to be able to identify just the right person to contact, to know how to develop content the reporter wants to cover, and to be able to quickly build solid relationships with reporters based on trust.

“We’ll get you in the Wall Street Journal.” There are two things wrong with this statement. First, no one can promise coverage in any publication. Certainly, some agencies have a better batting record in getting their clients covered than others, but promising coverage in a publication is misleading. Secondly, a good agency will counsel its clients on the best publications to achieve their specific goals. The Wall Street Journal is a fine publication, but if your audience doesn’t read it, what good is the effort?

“Our VP will be personally involved in your account.” It all depends on what the meaning of the word “involved” is. Will the VP be involved on a daily basis? Will senior executives be driving strategy and overseeing the day-to-day work? Or, as is often the case, will they appear during the sale and not be heard from again until renewal time? Ask the VP how much time he/she will spend on your account each day or month.

“We deliver results.” Everyone’s definition of results is different, and there’s a good chance that the PR agency’s idea of success is different from yours. Volume of clips is not a good indicator of results. Tie performance into your business objectives. If you are tasked with driving sales, measure the agency based on metrics such as growth of sales, increases in leads, average sale value and time to close.

What lines have you heard?

This entry was posted in Clarus Communications, Lead Generation, Media Relations, Outsourcing, PR, PR agency, PR measurement, Sales. Bookmark the permalink.

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