As a boutique PR practice, we often get calls from start-up companies, entrepreneurs or small businesses saying they want public relations. They engage us, but in some cases, the process does not turn out the way either party expected. One of the reasons is that many small businesses don’t understand what PR is, how it works or how best to work with PR consultants and firms.
1. The client doesn’t understand what PR is or what to expect (don’t worry, most people don’t), but is too afraid to ask.
Nobody really knows what PR is, so I have found that PR people need to educate clients. For example, many businesses want/expect to be on the front page of the Wall Street Journal or featured on the Today Show. While this is a possibility, it takes time — sometimes months, even years, so smaller placements should be considered. One of the best ways to get publicity and test the waters is with local publicity. Even if a client is a national company, the local newspaper, radio or TV outlet is a great place to start. This way the client can get comfortable with being interviewed by the media and can “practice” so they will be prepared for the big leagues.
2. The scope of work is not laid out and agreed upon by the business and PR consultant.
Over the years, I have learned that it is important to lay out a PR plan and be as precise as possible with how much things cost. For example, it is difficult to guarantee media placements, but if the PR person is clear about what the client gets for the time they are putting in, there will be less of a disconnect. It may be hard to guarantee three placements for 20 hours, for instance, but explaining that hours spent building media lists, identifying key media for a story, coming up with several media angles and contacting media are the necessary steps to take to get to that end goal. Also, understanding that the PR process includes time for conference calls to discuss strategy, ongoing progress and even media training can also help educate clients.
It’s important, too, for businesses to understand that PR is a long-term process and is labor-intensive. The PR person’s goal is to get media placements, which often takes many hours spent finding the right reporter and building relationships that lead to trust. Sometimes this means that the placement does not happen right away, but can occur two to three months after the PR person starts working with client.
To alleviate uncertainty, weekly or monthly progress reports help keep clients in the loop, so they don’t ask, “What have you done for us lately?”
In Part 2 of this series, I will discuss the next four PR Mistakes that most businesses make.
Tags: editorial, Front Page News, media, Media Pitching, media relations, news, PR, PR plan, PR professional, public relations, Wendy Alpine