The secrets to working with a PR Firm

February 25, 2014
post-it note with Respect written

PR 101: The first step to a successful partnership with your PR firm is showing appreciation and respect.

Say please and thank you. Recognize good work. Build a relationship with the account services team. Don’t be a jerk. Sounds simple doesn’t it? In a world where everyone is squeezing to get every drip of juice from the PR orange, the real secret to getting the absolute most value from your public relations agency is to show respect, appreciate the effort, listen to their advice, and consider your firm to be a full partner in advancing your company’s business objectives.

It never ceases to amaze me how some of our clients manage to get bigger, better results than others. Even those with complex, difficult-to-tell stories sometimes come out on top — gaining a quality of product and level of exposure many times more than the investment made. The reason is simple: PR firms tend to attract outgoing, vivacious personalities — the kind that want to connect with their peers and colleagues, individuals who in many ways define the term, “people person.” They like the interplay and value personal relationships. They long for recognition and often turn to clients to judge their self-worth.

All too often, clients view their needs as a pressure point — a way to get more by playing to a PR professional’s inherent insecurity. After all, agencies always sit more vulnerable than insiders — convenient targets for when a sales quota is missed or quarterly earnings wane. It breeds a certain insecurity in all of us … a runner’s mentality that if you lose, you should have won, and if you win, you should have run faster.

Clients can play to these anxieties in ways that are simply self-destructive to their own goals. Imagine landing a major feature article in The Wall Street Journal or USA Today, and then listening to a client complain that the article also included a quote from their competitor. Of course it did. It’s the application of third-party due diligence that makes media coverage the most potent credibility builder of all. Never mind that the very fact that an outside arbitrator — in this case, a reporter — took time to investigate and balance the article is what makes it more believable. Rather, by complaining some clients wrongfully believe they can push harder and achieve more, and never realize they are simply demoralizing a team dedicated to the same goals as their own.

Now add to this the rejection that is an inherent part of the PR game. It’s never easy to pick up the phone and ingratiate yourself to media that is often rushed, skeptical, and antagonist to the very source they rely on for story angles and ideas. PR, like gold mining, requires a lot of sluicing before striking upon a gem of a media opportunity.

That’s why clients would do well to understand that the key to squeezing value from their agency has everything to do with a good attitude and nothing to do with turpitude. By partnering with an agency, making them part of the mission, recognizing their wins, and maintaining a wholesome relationship that works together to forge results, well, that’s the secret to playing well in the PR sandbox.

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