Insider tips – what the PR Agencies don’t want you to know

February 17, 2009

The point of this post is not to slate or put down other PR providers and Agencies – far from it. Simply to pass on some of the insider tips which are utilised by PR professionals for your advantage when dealing with the Press.

1. Contacts: this is where PRs will utilise insider knowledge to bag clients, but don’t be fooled. The Press only allow contact from a PR Agency which will assist their publications and readerships. Unsolicited, poorly-constructed PR Campaigns will always fail, whether delivered by a business director inexperienced in media relations or a PR Account Executive who’s been badly briefed by their Account Director. It is irrelevant if the Account Director has liased with the journalist numerous times in the past – poor PR is hardly ever accepted by the Press, and the pitch will drop into the rejected pile.

Don’t be fooled by PR Agencies who go into great lengths to impress clients with their extensive and close-knit databases of media contacts: the truth is, media databases can be bought from companies such as Mediadisk – expensive, but utilised by many medium and larger PR Agencies. The client always foots the bill, of course, but the Agency does not have close Press contacts. They are just tapping into a database.

2. PR results take time: I heard a story recently from a business contact who had a colleague who was told by a PR Agency that they shouldn’t expect any media relations results for the first six months of a Campaign, as the Agency were ‘bedding in’ the client with the target Press. Awful, awful, awful. And quite simply not true.

If the story is strong enough, the press release has been collated and formatted then issued in the preferred way for the media contact, within their deadline schedule, and it is clearly relevant to the readership, with a solid image, there is no reason why publication shouldn’t happen: we had a client who had a press release published within 24 hours of issuing to the target media, and another client who sold out of a product promoted in an editorial piece within 48 hours of it being published by the Press – if the media relations is conducted with the Media in mind, the ‘bedding in’ line is totally irrelevant.

3. Account Management is always carried out by the person you report to: clients can often find that they are wooed, impressed and generally won over by senior PRs at director level in business pitches, who are there quite simply to pull in clients. The clients then find their Account is managed and run by PR members in the Agency without the high-level of experience, and who do not have the same experience and skill set of the senior guys who won the business in the first place.

The Agency, of course, are winning because they now deliver profitable PR work from cheaper Team members whilst the pitch-winners go out and do their thing with new clients into the grinder.

Cynical? Perhaps, but don’t forget a PR Agency is a business concern looking to make a profit. Often, a small or boutique PR Agency will provide better Account Management delivery, as the high-level Team members are also conducting the lower-lever duties, such as press release production and media relations.

A rule of thumb is this: ascertain who is doing your Account work for your business from the start and make them accountable. Simple really.

4. PR will make your phones ring off the hook with sales enquiries: There is a misconception, particularly in the SME sector, that PR will make inquiries flood into your business: that is usually not the case. Placing these kind of expectations on PR will lead to disappointment.

PR is all about visibility, credibility and reputation/brand-building, which helps inquiries and sales to happen. So, if you get a PR Provider making empty promises around PR delivering hundreds of calls from coverage – walk away! It’s an astonishingly-clear example of Blah Blah Blah.

Great PR focuses on making you seen, heard and talked about: the rest is up to your Marketing. A PR Provider that gets consistent and significant coverage for a client is usually actually delivering well, working hard and talking to the Press, following up, tweaking and re-submitting PR material to keep the Editors’ interested and asking for more.

So, before you ring PR Providers, do us all a favour: review your marketing mix and make sure it is in place and able to deal with good PR delivery. Sales will come from PR if you ensure the right overall mix of buying messages are in place and out there. PR will help the process.

Saying that, we had a PLC client in the health supplements sector who sold out of a product within 48 hours last year after gaining a page-profile in a daily newspaper: the journalist’s mother is still using the product, and the newsroom was inundated with calls at the time. If only every Press Release could achieve that result – you can never guess what readerships will do.

5. Public Holidays are a bad time to conduct PR Campaigns: Absolutely NOT! Think about it…As an SME business owner, hitting the Christmas holidays, for example, you may be looking to submit a piece of news or a snappy picture story into selected Media and industry magazines.

The larger PR Agencies, servicing the corporate competition in your sector are winding down, whilst many ease off on media relations activities during these perceived ‘quiet spells’ – often referred to by journalists as The Silly Season, when news sources are far, far slower than normal. A good journalist is always on the look-out for a good story. A perfect time for you to get publication – if you’re on the ball.

Christmas, Summer, Easter: all these are great times to submit PR material for additional publication and awareness building of your commercial concern – as long as you submit effectively and in a timely fashion. Again, think about it…Business owners, employees, customers and potential customers are on holiday – but they have more time on their hands to relax, wind-down, catch-up on publications they are usually way to busy to read and digest fully.

Their concentration levels are good, they are receptive. So, if you really, really, really have to engage in trying to do your own PR, look at the holiday times to engage.

6. PR is best carried out by professional Agencies only: this is a particularly pertinent subject at the moment, given the combination of increasing sources of knowledge, expertise and information online (via news feeds, blogs and the like) and the ongoing economic situation – both of which are adding impetus to the dilemma facing many small business owners in the UK.

Do you deliver your own PR, or outsource it to the experts? As the ‘guru’ in your commercial field, pitching to the Media is never going to be an easy proposition, unless you’ve received training and are comfortable and confident.

It comes down to basics: do you have three things. 1. Time 2. Confidence 3. Something worthwhile to say.

As the media arena focuses more on more on the voices of a limited number of editorial experts, it is going to be more important to understand the rules of engagement in the media relations game.

If you fail once, you fail forever with that journalist. Tough stakes indeed.


2 Responses to “Insider tips – what the PR Agencies don’t want you to know”

  1. I have to agree with #2 the most.

    Like you mentioned if the story is good enough it should get “hits” far more quickly than six months. It really depends on how good the agency is and the content they are producing for you.


  2. bristoleditor said

    Hi Timothy

    Many thanks for your inputs – much appreciated.

    I have always advocated a people-based approach to PR: make sure the story or angle is all about people and the rest is usually up to the editorial judgement of the target journalist.

    After all, News IS people, as my Lecturer told me at journalism college a number of years ago.

    Seeing as he was the Editor on a UK daily newspaper for best part of 20 years, I continue to follow his advice today.

    Thanks again Tim

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