Monday, February 1, 2010

Are You Making These Common Mistakes in PR Management? - Part 3

Three Mistakes That Can Make Your PR Less Effective – and How to Avoid Them

In my last two articles, I talked about two common and costly mistakes that businesses make in managing their public relations: leave the PR firm alone and treat PR as an afterthought.

In this final article in the series, I talk about a third common mistake that businesses make – treating your PR firm like an adversary, not a partner – and how to fix this mistake.

The Mistake

PR firms make money by selling you time and expertise, right? So, their main goal is to sell you as much time and expertise as possible, right? So, you shouldn’t do anything to help them sell you more time and expertise – particularly if you don’t think you need it, right? Wrong.

Good PR firms know their job is to make you wildly successful in meeting your marketing goals. First, they get paid for this. Second, they usually get “paid overtime” with customer loyalty from you and more business from your referrals. So, good PR firms act as your partner and invest themselves in your success – including investing some of their own time in learning your industry and business at the outset.

The Fix

Level with your PR firm. If you have a big need but think you don’t have the budget, present the problem and ask for their advice – you will often be pleasantly surprised. Remember, creativity is the hallmark of good PR people, and this creativity should extend to business and client relationships. PR is a relationship business: good PR people are experts at negotiation, compromise, and reaching consensus such that everyone involved feels good at the end of the process – and that they achieve the desired result.

The best results can’t happen if you treat your PR firm like an adversary.

Here’s a story. I once had client who routinely came to me at the last minute when he needed a news release written. By “last-minute,” I mean 6 PM, when he needed a draft by 10 AM the next morning. Until I figured out the game, I usually ended up staying up until midnight to produce a quality draft, so it could go through our editing/fact-checking/QA process first thing in the morning. My job was to produce something of sufficient quality that it would be of interest to journalists and get picked up (this was in the days before the Internet, direct-to-consumer news releases, and SEO). I was usually successful, but at a cost: aside from lost sleep, there was always the chance that the product would not be high-quality.

My detective work eventually identified the problem. The client feared that if he gave me a more reasonable lead time – say, three days – I would “use up” more hours and therefore charge him more dollars. If the client had just leveled with me in the beginning – “we can only spend XX dollars on this news release” – I would have promptly identified a solution that worked for both of us – thereby removing the risk of a poor product. I eventually did this, but look at the time we wasted. (The client stayed with me for many years, so all’s well that ends well.)

If you’re treating your PR firm as an adversary, ask yourself why. Unless it is because you really don’t trust your PR firm – and for legitimate not hypothetical reasons – talk to your PR firm. Working together, you can almost always come to a meeting of the minds – or at least know that you can’t. An adversarial relationship wastes everyone’s time, wastes your money and jeopardizes good results.

If your PR firm doesn’t rise to the occasion, get another firm.

Businesses continue to make three common mistakes when managing their PR firms. They leave their firms alone too much. They think of PR as an afterthought. And they treat their firms as adversaries instead of partners.

All of these problems can be solved, usually with easy fixes – by working with your PR firm and by taking advantage of their creativity, relationship skills and can-do attitudes.

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