I love my job. But like everyone, I have those moments of banging my head on a desk wishing that clients understood some of the challenges in doing my job well and keeping them happy.
This post is not a rage against clients (see above, I love what I do!) but tips on how everyone can get the best out of working relationships. As I thought about things that I wish clients knew, I decided to reach out to a group of smart, seasoned pros for their answers to this question.
PR begins with YOU
Kris Vruno Huson: 1) PR starts internally. If those closest to your brand don’t love it, then you will have a hard time with the public loving it, as eventually they will find out. Companies need to hire brand champions and empower them to talk about their affinity. 2) It’s not about B2C, B2B it’s H2H – human to human. At the end of the day a brand has to inspire people.
Diane K. Rose, DKR Communications: I’m always frustrated when clients don’t see the need to invest the time and resources required to develop a set of consistent messages that their companies and their PR/marketing teams will use as a foundation for speaking to media and other external constituencies (influencers, current/potential customers, investors, etc.), for their employees who will use when talking to external constituencies, for integrating into website language, etc. Defining a brand presence and taking industry leadership is based, in part, on consistency in messaging and sharing stories that set an organization apart from its competitors.
Makasha Dorsey, Creative Director at Dorsey Group: I wish that clients knew how important internal practices are in relation to external perception. You can’t build a brand on a good external image alone. Your internal communications flow, product quality, hiring and training processes greatly impacts your ability to sell or resell a product or service.
Kim Alexander, Swoozie Kimmel Public Relations Strategies: Great PR cannot solve operational problems. In fact, a great PR strategy can hurt your business if it is not equipped to handle growth, if your service sucks or if your employees are not happy!
Niall Gillett It is critical that clients understand the value of their Reputation and how it relates to success in Public Relations. I always say, “If the goal of PR is Influence, the Power of PR is Reputation.”
Plan your success and how you will measure it
Carrie Zukoski, Open Road Communications: That having a plan, even if it’s “just” an outline, is important.
Mary Beth Huffman, Impact Marketing and Public Relations: I wish clients understood that you must have a long-term strategy no matter what tactics or tools we use.
Kami Huyse, Founder, Zoetica Media: That you must have measurable objectives up front and that they need to connect with business objectives, not just reach or likes. The objectives are what you want people to DO.
Aamaal Y. Abdul-Malik, THESAURI PR: I wish clients understood that poor strategy and organization will cause your brand to fail; no matter how much money you throw at it. If you do not have an engaging brand story, relatable messaging, quality imagery, and products that speak to your target audiences’ needs or lifestyles, no amount of PR is going to increase your brand recognition and bottom line. You must first know who you are, what you stand for, what you want to achieve, and commit to sticking to what you know or do better than anyone else.
You can trust us as subject matter experts
Betsy Decillis, BAD Consulting – I really wish (most) clients got that they don’t understand everything about Facebook. Every potential client call I have starts with, “Well, I get Facebook, so…” And by the end of the call, they realize there’s a whole new Facebook world they never knew about.
Rody Bajo, Whisper Media: I wish they knew that “user experience” across multiple platforms and channels is more important than a pretty website.
The details matter
Ebony Grimsley, Above Promotions: If you are a brand that sells products have a way for people to purchase or check out your products online. Even if I get a media outlet to glance at your brand, if there is nothing there online, a feature or mention may not happen. I am blown away by upset business owners that sell products with no e-commerce solutions in place. Even if Oprah wanted to feature you, she isn’t going to tell her fans to email you for an order!
PR is not a quick fix
Shelley Senai , Flypaper PR: The founder of Onboardly tweeted this great quote, which I thing sums up PR nicely – and is something I wish my clients truly understood. “PR isn’t a quick fix, it’s not a Band-Aid, it’s not a painkiller. PR is a vitamin.”
..and of course PR pros have plenty that we wish you knew about media relations…
Holly Donato, Donato Communications: Media relations is like planting a garden…not turning on a light switch.
Aamaal Y. Abdul-Malik, THESAURAI PR I wish clients understood that media placement in Tier 1 media isn’t a “Pitch, and they will cover” type of situation. Media relations requires strategic, over-time media coverage across various levels of audience engagement and persistence, persistence, persistence.
Tonita Perry, APR, Eaddy Perry & AssociatesI wish clients knew that quality trumps quantity when it comes to media relations. Understanding that if you have quality stories that are truly representative of your brand, from two respected media outlets with wonderful feedback and return from core publics, is worth more than mentions from 10K media outlets that your publics don’t even know exist. The whole point is to manage the relationships for which your success or failure depends and if you are not reaching those publics with quality media relations then it is moot.
We cannot do it alone
April Hanley Lynch, Lynchpin Strategic Communications: I wish clients knew that we need to know as much as we can, the good, the bad and the ugly! My best clients are the ones that share their success measures so that we are all working towards the same goal.
Mary Deming Barber, The Barber Group: I wish clients understood this is a partnership. We can’t do what we do without their buy-in, support and participation. While we learn their business pretty quickly, when there are interviews and they are the spokesperson, we expect them to be available. When we need to do a check-in to see where we are against goals, we expect them to be available.
Cheryl Tessier, APR, Finesse PR, LLC: Clients need to know that it is imperative to bring in PR at the front-end of planning, strategy, etc., rather than as a “next step” or, heaven forbid, an after thought/tactic.
And, that planning for (inevitable) crises is also imperative. Just because you don’t plan for crises doesn’t mean they can’t and won’t happen.
Alison Kenney, KPR Communications -Hiring a PR pro doesn’t mean you’re done. You need to keep communication channels open; your PR program is only as good as the resources you give to it. One other thing that I haven’t seen here, but that I believe to be true: PR can be a very effective, playing-field-leveling tactic and can be more effective than some more costly marketing tools. That being said doesn’t mean that it’s cheap!
I wish clients knew that it is about communication and collaboration. As PR pros we know our jobs but we cannot succeed without two-way communication and a commitment to work as a partner. You are the true secret sauce that brings it all together.
How about you, what would you add?