Whenever I lectured or workshopped on PR related topics, one recurring pain-point that accelerated white hair growth was the management or mismanagement of the PR agency.
It gets worse when comparing PR to other marketing disciplines; since we are doused daily with waterfalls of digital data, that can be tracked, monitored and monetized in real time, the “low-tech” services based on, dare I say, age-old writing, networking and creative skills are raising some serious measurement queries.
So…if advertising can go programmatic, with almost every pixel, CPM and CPA accounted for, how come public relations gets away with the “soft data”?
Hold on, before you nod away in agreement (if you’re on the marketer side), PR is transforming digitally, integrating with social media and converging with other content marketing sources, making it easier to track and follow. Nevertheless, there will always be PR deliverables that will not be as directly accountable.
The right skills for choosing the right partner, understanding PR consultancy speak and navigating through digital pulp are crucial. After experiencing the PR, media and IT industry from almost every perspective; journalist, consultancy executive, to inside IT marketing roles, I am happy to share some takeaways:
In 2015 PR is becoming more relevant.
If PR is right for you, then the decision to avoid a decision can trap you into your industry’s best kept secret file. Professional PR will expose you to the communities you want to engage with and influence. It will generate far greater credibility and conversion power than advertising, and when integrated synergistically with digital content, will spearhead the compound effect, landing you with investors, partners and customers that alternative tactics struggle to deliver at higher costs.
Choosing the right partner is key
Identifying and partnering with the right PR consultancy can be a make or break decision. Even though this insight is border-line cliché, so many companies, particularly in the technology niche, get it wrong, no matter how many recommendations, or how much research and briefings they run.
How come? Most PR agencies tend to follow a similar media relations formula. They’ll research your company and eco-system, and draw on their experience as well as other client’s data and connections to conjure up a strategy suited to your goals. The methods are not usually unique, and the results can vary widely, leaving marketers to question the value of PR in the first place.
No one size fits all.
Are you a small startup chasing the mid-to- large consultancies? If you’re part of a lean team under 25 players, consider a small consultancy or freelance PR consultant that can tailor a project or campaign to your needs and scale up or down during the off-peak periods.
Chemistry plays a large part
Say you found the firm for you; their website glistens with case studies, impressive client logos and awards. You have brought them in countlessly for presentations and meetings, but then you find yourself putting off the phone conferences and avoiding face time at all costs. Before signing, ask yourself if you would send your team members to train with them, would you consult with them on career issues, or if would share a cubicle with them? Pay attention to your intuition. Did they just agree to everything you said? Did they make you and your team feel energized after meetings?
The old dichotomy behind passion and professionalism
What makes a better fit; a PR practitioner with all the connections in the world but lacking in passion, or a professional low on connections but high on passion, willing to go the extra mile? Of course it helps if your partner has already trudged through the industry trenches and is well versed in every turn. But writers, in particular tech journalists tend to move around a lot. The skills and drive needed to plan and elicit the right publication at the right time can make or break a campaign or venture.
A good PR professional will know how to catch the right contact and make a strong connection. During my stint inside IT startups I have worked with large global agencies boasting of global contacts. I have also experienced the other side both as an internal PR person, and a small-agency PR consultant. Contacts help, but it takes tenacity and persistence to get results.
Prepare to bulk up your visual and premium content.
Publishers are focusing more on press releases that integrate visuals, or video, and e-paper links, and the more impactful, the better. A PR partner is not a magician who can wave a magic content wand. Nevertheless, a good PR partner will consult with you how to create and leverage powerful content without making you work full time on a production line. Still the quality of the partnership will depend sometimes on you to do the heavy lifting when it comes to background content. The upside is preparing fodder that can repurposed for your website, branded material, RFPs, presentations and email campaigns.
PR metrics and reporting
Impressions, social media mentions, story counts, competitive analysis and the traditional coverage in inches are just some of the sample metrics tracked and measured in PR campaigns. You can easily be bombarded with cover-your-back data.
Most importantly though is asking the right questions. For instance: Were the right audiences reached, engaged with and influenced?
On a day-to-day basis consider sharing a calendar, even Google docs can be do the trick and from time to time, don’t be afraid of sharing a coffee.