The advertising, marketing and communications industry has seen massive changes and evolution mostly thanks to digital. And while that has created increased importance for digital, media, and now even, creative agencies, PR tends to be treated as the stepchild.
So, we spoke to over six PR agencies – including boutique and network ones – to hear what they’d like to tell their clients but sometimes are too afraid to.
Here we go:
- It’s up to the editor’s discretion
“We don’t order journalists to write stories for our client,” says one PR agency CEO. While PR professionals have great media relations, it’s not enough to secure coverage. The story needs to be timely, relevant and newsworthy.
- We can NOT guarantee coverage
Even if all of the above criteria are met, PR cannot guarantee coverage, as there are several factors on the editorial side, which are out of the PR’s hands. Understaffed media houses, tight deadlines, changing schedules, are just some of them. Also, as mentioned above, ultimately it is up to the editor’s discretion.
- PR is NOT advertising
“Advertising is paid media, public relations is earned media,” says the founder of a boutique PR agency. “Advertising is what you pay for, PR is what you pray for!” adds another PR exec. This means that not only can PR not guarantee coverage, it also cannot guarantee or push for ‘positive’ coverage. Another thing to bear in mind is that stories pushed by PR are considered more credible since they would appear in the editorial section, and not in the sponsored section.
- Respect PR
PR professionals have massive experience across verticals and different clients. Some of them are also ex-journalists, which puts them in a unique position of truly understanding what journalists and editors look for and using that knowledge to tailor strategies for their clients.
- Treat us like partners, not suppliers
“It’s our job to make clients look good and this is always our top priority!” says another PR exec. The more clients treat PR like partners right from the start and involve them in the initial stages of a campaign with clarity on what other agencies are also doing, the more they will get out of their PR agency. “PR does not work in isolation; it has to form part of a wider marketing strategy and the more insight we have into this, the more impactful our results,” says one PR professional. As another exec points out, “PR does not stand for ‘press release’”. It’s a lot more.
- Understand the changing media dynamics
Regional media – especially print – is suffering.
The rise of digital media is changing factors like turnaround time, visual assets required, relevance of the story, etc.
Many publications are shutting down.All of this is resulting in a smaller media circle, which requires the PR pitch to be more compelling than ever before.
- Be honest
This is especially important during crisis communications. Regardless of the situation, be honest and transparent with your PR agency. The more the agency knows, the better they can deliver.
- Be nice. Say Thank You.
As one PR professional put it, “Take time to celebrate – sometimes PR can be a bit of a thankless task. When it goes wrong, it’s always the PR’s fault – when it goes well, it’s straight onto the next task. For junior team members a simple “thank you” can make their day.”
- Pay us on time
Many smaller agencies and freelancers work on tight budgets and need to pay their suppliers and staff to avoid cashflow issues, which in turn affect client delivery. Please bear that in mind when it comes to paying your PR agency.
- Also, you are paying us for our ‘time’
“Time is what you buy from us. And we need to be able to peg deliverables and a return on that time – it’s not an unlimited return for a monthly fee,” states a PR exec.
- Editors and journalists make mistakes and that’s not PR’s fault
Cost-cutting and the general media dynamics means media professionals are often understaffed, overworked, and on the receiving end of hundreds of pitches. Also, they’re human. So yes, they make copy mistakes. Usually, PR can liaise with them to fix it, more so if it’s online but again, there’s no guarantee and it might take longer than the client would like.
- PR requires ‘relationship building’
“Gifting is getting harder and you shouldn’t expect to see a solid return just on the basis of sending an unrequested gift – it should be seen as a relationship builder only,” says one exec. And while relationship building does not guarantee coverage or positive coverage, it does help the media build a stronger affinity with your brand and have top-of-mind recall when they are working on stories that could be relevant to your brand.
- It’s a two-way relationship
Many clients push their PR agencies to reach out to media only when they have a message to relay. However, when journalists reach out for comments on a sensitive story or a story not directly pertaining to your brand, clients decline to comment. PR needs to be a two-way relationship wherein the client needs to respect and work with the media to add value to their stories – and not think of them only when they want media to add value to their brand.