Monday, January 18, 2010

Are You Making These Common Mistakes in PR Management?

Three Mistakes That Can Make Your PR Less Effective - And How to Avoid Them

During my long career working in marketing and PR (as a client and an outside consultant), I have watched companies repeatedly make three common mistakes in how they manage PR.

These mistakes almost always make the PR program much less effective and therefore more expensive for the client. And they can usually be fixed easily and inexpensively.

The three mistakes are:

Leave your PR firm alone.

Treat PR as an afterthought.

Treat your PR consultant as an adversary instead of a partner.

I will address these mistakes one at a time, in this article and my next two articles.

Veteran PR people will have their own work-arounds for addressing these mistakes made by clients. But you as the client can help them by investing in small adjustments to your own behavior - and in the process, get more efficiencies and effectiveness from your PR consultants.

These common mistakes - and my suggestions for easy fixes - may be particularly important knowledge for smaller businesses that are hiring their first PR consultants.

The Mistake

The first common mistake is to leave your PR firm alone.

You've located and hired your PR firm - check. You've given them a brain-dump on your business - check. Now, it's their job to "make news." Wrong.

It's their job to increase traffic to your web site, acquire more sales leads, obtain donations, get you votes and so on - in short, help you meet your marketing and business goals. Your PR people can't do this effectively if they don't know your goals, your target audiences, and other basics about your business - and when these basics change.

The Fix

First, start with a firm foundation. Give your PR firm a thorough briefing at the beginning of the relationship. Have them prepare a plan - this can be as simple as a few PowerPoint slides - that lists your goals, target audiences, key corporate and marketing milestones for the next three to six months, the PR program(s) with intended results and roles & responsibilities (including how much time you, the client, will invest in the program), and a quick accounting of how they plan to spend your budget, with any anticipated outside expenses.

Second, work out a process for keeping your PR firm updated. This can be anything from a quick weekly call, to a customized intranet or internal social network that's run by your PR firm. It does not matter what the process is - just have a process and stick with it.

Third, working together, update the plan every quarter as necessary.

With this framework in place, you can then let your PR people do their jobs. But they will not be truly effective if you (1) do not approve the plan and (2) do not keep them apprised about what's happening with your business.

Good PR consultants have best practices and can help you set up a working relationship that meets the needs of your business - including making the best use of your limited time. Take their advice - or, if they do not have any advice or best practices, get another firm.

Next: why it's a bad mistake to treat PR as an afterthought.

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