The last two years have not been great for the Public Relations industry Worldwide. Considered a ‘frill’ addition for business, public relations agencies, had to face a lot of hardships in the name of recession, from fee cuts to contract pre-closures to working for a non-fee just to retain the account. As a new decade ushers in, it seems the industry can finally look at some good times ahead. But like in life, it is the toughest of times that leave you with the strongest of learnings….
For those who managed to survive the recession, here are my 5 commandments of Public Relations for success in the coming years and for surviving another bad phase, if it ever strikes again.
Thou shalt love thy Clients as thyself
This should be the most important and most basic rule for any PR person. If you love your client and work for them like you would work for your own company or your own self, you will definitely be loved back. Clients will then stop treating you as ‘frill’ material and more like an insider. And when crisis strikes – the rule book says, ‘families should stick together as one through thick and thin’.
Thou shalt be honest in thy approach
Being honest here means, you will be honest in how you interact with your client. As an expert the onus lies on you to protect your client from PR pitfalls. If you believe that, however passionate a client might be about a product, service or feature update, there is no story value in there from a media or reader perspective – put it down.
Suggest other marketing alternatives, but do not go out pitching and sending out mindless press notes, if you see no value in doing so. It might miff the client, but it is your job to show him you are the expert here and know what is best for him. He will understand, eventually and respect you more for being upfront, rather than wasting his resources on another mindless exercise.
Thou shalt not send senseless pitches to journalists
I firmly believe that one of the reasons PR people are often considered insignificant by the journalists is because the focus is always on building contacts to get out a story at some point of time. Imagine yourself in their shoes – would you be comfortable in establishing a relationship based on trust and mutual understanding, knowing well the selfish intentions of the other person?
It is not too difficult to understand what kind of stories might excite a journalist. You just have to read up the work done by him/her in the past, make note of areas they cover and then evaluate your own pitch – is it newsworthy? I used to be a journalist and probably that is why I value this process the most. I do not approach a journalist ever, unless I feel confident, that I would like to read something like what I propose in a newspaper or blog – as a reader and not as a PR representative looking for client related news clippings.
Thou shalt not make false claims
PR agencies are cognizant of what they can promise and deliver to their clients. But many still go that extra mile of promising the extra length of promising the moon and stars and end up maligning the reputation of PR fraternity. Promising what you can deliver and working towards the deliverables is going to ensure, happier clients and more referrals for the agency. False claims can win you some quick buck in the short run, but you will be the first to go off the vendor list in case your client decides to optimize his spending.
Thou shalt not shy away from doing thy bit in the hour of crisis
In bad times people look for advice and support from people they trust. If you feel your client is reeling under recession and financial problems – try being considerate. If you can, offer help in the form of a fee cut (voluntarily) or additional efforts for the same fee so that they make the right sounds while trying to overcome the crisis. With one such move, you will ensure your entry into your client’s trusted circle of friends.
Most companies want their employees and service providers to be patient and support them when going through a crisis, instead of adding to their problems by reminding about contract clauses and payment deadlines etc. It also depends on the equation you have shared with the client till date. Companies value service providers who stand by them in difficult times.
The fundamentals of PR are simple - PR thrives on relationships and appreciating the needs, be it that of a client or a journalist.
Wish you a successful 2011!
This guest post was written by LeadFormix. LeadFormix is the leader in next-generation marketing automation, known as Marketing Automation 2.0. LeadFormix delivers a game-changing real-time marketing automation solution for enterprises that converts anonymous online visits into qualified sales leads, determines website visitor interest and intent, and enables sales teams to reach decision-makers more effectively and close deals faster using patented business intelligence and data mining technology.
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