Although Evolve Communications was founded to primarily help agencies enhance its digital marketing services, we quickly saw the need to offer public relations services. PR is an excellent compliment to other digital marketing tools, particularly social media (some would even argue that social media is public relations and not marketing, but that’s a different discussion).
However, some agencies don’t always know when to steer clients towards a PR solution, and as result, public relations is sometimes deployed to accomplish goals when there might be a tool that’s a better fit.
With that in mind, here are some guidelines for agencies that can help identify when public relations is a good fit for your client–and when it isn’t.
The client has a good story to tell
Some PR practitioners would argue that every company has a story to tell. And to some degree that’s true. The question is whether or not it’s an interesting story. Yes, it’s the PR practitioner’s job to make a story appealing to a company’s audiences. But let’s be honest: putting a “spin” on something less than appealing doesn’t serve anybody (not the agency, not the practitioner, and least of all, not the client).
What makes a good story? Several things: uniqueness, timeliness, relevancy. The client’s story should demonstrate the company’s differentiators, and it should be clear how the client relates to its clients and its industry.
We can certainly help a client articulate their story, but they need to have a story to begin with.
The client has data to back it up (or budget to buy data)
A story is only a work of fiction until you can back it up with data. Clients should have data to back up the claims in their story, or at least have budget to devote towards obtaining supporting data–either through secondary or primary research.
If a client doesn’t have this information, or isn’t interested in obtaining it, then PR may not be a good match for them.
The client has the assets to support it (or the budget to pay for it)
By assets, we mean images, infographics, videos, etc. If they don’t have this already, they need to be willing to pay for it. It doesn’t have to be a huge line item in the budget. But if the client wants to launch a new product, or wants to do a new hire release, or wants to promote a travel package or a destination, or whatever, they’re going to need assets.
Having quality images is integral to securing coverage much of the time, and the client needs to be made aware of that.
The client is open to working collaboratively
Like many marketing disciplines, PR is a collaborative process. It is often an ongoing, evolving process that shifts over time. In PR, the relationship with the client should not be a scenario where the client provides some information and guidelines about what they want to see, and then a few weeks later have an end-product. In PR, it sometimes takes time to develop a story, and that often means collaboration.
Successful public relations requires regular communication between the client and the agency. If a client feels like this is a burden, or they think that hearing from their PR person is just an annoyance, then its likely that they also will not want to talk to the media (see the next item).
The client is willing to talk to the media
We understand that every business has things that are considered proprietary and they don’t want to discuss them publicly. And that’s fine.
However, once we identify the story and how we want to tell it, the client must be willing to tell that story to the media. The client doesn’t have to be media-trained; we can train them to give great interviews. After all, its incumbent on the PR practitioner to prepare the client, including helping the client answer difficult questions that they might not want to answer.
But, if the client is afraid to talk to the media–regardless of training and preparation–then their expectation for obtaining coverage needs to be tempered. Journalists (and bloggers) want access–not necessarily to every detail of a business–but enough to get the story right.
You might be asking, “Does a client need to meet all of these criteria?” Our answer is Yes. But No. But Yes. Yes, ultimately clients need to be able to do all of these things. No because they don’t need to meet these criteria right off the bat. We can work with you to help get them up to speed. And yes, again, because ultimately, the client’s interest in obtaining coverage for their business must be matched by their willingness to contribute to the process.