Guest Post by Howie Goldfarb
I’m back. Yes my “PR pro” series continues.
I had previously written a two piece series on hiring and working with a PR Pro from the brand side.
And I think the fact that this has become a series of posts v. just one post shows just how hard the process can be in finding the right fit for your business when it comes to public relations.
The saga continues
While the second PR pro my client and I worked with was better than the first, about two months in my client was feeling agitated again. So we had to talk about this and whether we should try yet a third PR pro.
The good news is I interviewed six of them initially. We actually liked three of them and the third was still willing to work with us.
What went wrong?
Not sure. While we don’t require the PR pro to be in every weekly team meeting, the new one started having prior commitments, and eventually had an intern sit in. We also had slow progress getting media coverage.
Now, if you read my last two posts, not being in PR myself often has me wondering how hard it is to get coverage. Obviously there are a myriad of factors that help, or possibly hinder, how fast they score some wins for you.
But in the end my client wasn’t feeling good about the choice and that is what matters.
So we brought on someone who we also liked during our initial interviews. When we first had a teleconference, she came across as confident and having a solid strategy. She has voluntarily attended our weekly team teleconferences and she actively participates. She also communicates well on opportunities, questions for information, and she is always throwing ideas my way for feedback.
In the eight weeks since then,
we have had success with a few media outlets, and also interest generated by several more. She has generated more activity than the two previous PRs combined over six months.
We also receive a monthly activity report showing all the media outlets she has contacted. She has been proactive about upcoming events and promotions we are contemplating so as to plan her pitches.
Hindsight, as they say, is 20-20. So here goes.
1. If you are a brand or a business and you feel you need someone in PR to help you out, setting some structure and goals is a good first step.
A way to ensure things go smoothly is to see how engaged they are on your behalf, not just with the media but with you and your business. If they are excited when they are working with you, media outlets will feel that.
And don’t be afraid to seek proof of effort (who are they pitching? for example) if you don’t have any hard placements yet. A truly confident PR pro will not be afraid to show what they are working on and where they are in the process.
On the flip side
2. If you are a PR pro and sense any distance with your client, you need to talk with them. Show them what you are doing for them. If this goes on, your account could be in jeopardy.
Often clients don’t know about a lot of activities you undertake on their behalf, all the emails, phone calls, pitch writing, etc.
If success is taking time be open and explain what the obstacles are and work on solutions.
It is June. There are not as many opportunities for a Snowboard Brand until late September, but here is how I am laying the ground work for some early season coverage.”
Your PR pro
3. Lastly, don’t over-commit your time up front and then not be able to follow through.
Offer some solution that ensures a solid flow of communication. The last thing you ever want anyone thinking is, “I don’t know what they are doing, but I think they are doing something… and that is ‘PR,’ which I am told is a whole other world.”
Image: John Drake Flickr, CC 2.0
Howie Goldfarb is Vice President of Marketing and Corporate Strategy at Web Choice Consulting, a full service integrated marketing and Internet agency. He had a 14-year career in direct B2B industrial sales before deciding to lighten up his dreary work life and move into advertising/marketing. He has a CFO’s view of marketing, bringing a dose of reality to the confusing world of jargon, spin, and hype. He currently lives in the Green Mountains of Vermont and is still seeking his first moose sighting.
Aah, I’m sorry I’m late to the party! It’s funny, @mdbarber , @HowieSPM and I have indeed had a lot of conversations around what “is” and “isn’t” “PR.” (Lots of quotation marks there!) I grew up, as it were, in the PR world by doing media relations, and I know what it takes, as @Soulati | PR points out – it’s not rocket science, as people love to say, but it’s also not as easy as a lot of people think. In many ways, MR is great training ground for sales, because what are we doing if not selling stories? (Don’t anyone write a blog post on that, I’ve got dibs!).
What is happening, as far as I can tell based on what Howie’s told me (and I also had a conversation with him and his client a while back) is that this is a great product, great idea, and excellent community relations that Howie is managing, particularly via SM… and to me, that’s no less good “PR” than straight-up media relations.
When it comes to media, there’s no denying that good media relations works… but to what end? What’s the point of it all, as you know I’m fond of saying? If you (speaking generally here) get a great placement in the NY Times, but your target audience is on Gawker, does it really matter? How are you correlating media outreach and placements to the business’ goals and objectives?
I’m not going to speak for Howie or his client and presume to know those, but I do know he is giving her very smart advice. And while we in PR are probably going to have to bear the cross of being confused with “publicity” for a while to come, I thought Howie’s tips on setting expectations, etc., will be helpful to not just a lot of pros, but business owners as well.
But that’s just me. I’d love to know what ericamallison mikinzie sacavero think, for starters.
@Shonali you are so funny saying you are late but at least I appreciate the background and kind words and bringing others in. You were late because bdorman264 was harassing you in Orlando. So glad you survived. I could just imagine the trauma.
@HowieSPM@Shonali It’s amazing how quick a restraining order can be obtained. I think she was able to tweet it in………go figure, huh?
@bdorman264@HowieSPM That’s what happens when one’s a “guru.” :p
@Shonali @HowieSPM The background is really helpful and I’m going to have to look for these ice cream bars. They sound wonderful.
As for a media relations strategy, I think you’re correct that we a need to make sure expectations are clear along with targets and messages. PR pros need to make sure to ask, understand and advise.
Chief Alien, I had no idea this GP was yours until I saw your half-smiling mug. And, I was thinking…Shonali is not in PR? Since when. Now it all makes sense.
I want to encourage you and your company exec to be highly aware what the news is, whether it’s “pitchable” and whether your expectation is just not real. In today’s world of instant new, what elements do you have to contribute to a story getting aired/published? Why do you want publicity, any way?
I’ve done media relations for 27 years; it remains one of the most challenging things I do as a PR person. It requires education on both sides of the fence, sleuthing, patience, data, something new, and perseverance. I’ve pitched BusinessWeek for years at a time and in the third year, they finally tossed in a mention of my client.
@Soulati | PR So many things to say Jayme.
The genesis is my client wants to grow and there are a few examples out there of businesses she wants to be like. One is the Grilled Cheese truck in Los Angeles. They often have over an hour wait for a line every single time they go somewhere. And they get a lot of press. Our direct competitor Coolhaus has a PR Pro helping them get media mentions and coverage in LA/ATX/NYC/Miami they started in SoCal but have expanded recently.
The difference is money. My client does not have the cash flow to achieve true scale for awareness. She knows this. We know the competitor has investors or some sort of deep pockets..
So we have had PR success considering how long the business has been around, the fact they are small (but have potential to be a national brick and mortar chain), and how much she can pay for this effort. The current PR person has been pitching travel, food, entertainment etc We have had some success with her.
On my end it has been very eye opening 1] Interviewing and 2] working with PR people directly (good and bad) it has expanded my knowledge so that I can give real consulting advice at least for small biz B2C so far. But when GE calls me in a massive crisis needing PR advice (and they will one day hehe) I will be calling Gini, Shonali, and yourself in a panic. Or maybe not I will just say do what Tiger Woods did. That will be $5,000 2/10 Net 30.
What I’m marveling at is the depth of knowledge you bring from being part of this exercise. All the obstacles you’ve raised are true proof points for your client to work around — based on experience, trial and error, chemical connections, results, etc.
Not all PR peeps are created equal. You know from reading all of the bloggers’ rants about bad PR this is true. At least you guys are not sowing the seeds of discontent on a wide scale, and for this I thank you.
My door is always open to help direct you on a pathway, be a sounding board or other…whether you’re in a panic or not!
You never cease to amaze me even though you’re from Mars.
@Soulati | PR Jayme thank you for the kind words. And you thought I am just a rabblerouser….but hey I am that too 8)
And yes we still need to do a Skype chat my bad for not following up with you! 8)
Interesting Howie because I read this from a different perspective. As a PR pro I always try to understand my client’s business and then what they might need from public relations. While it likely includes some media relations/publicity that’s definitely, especially today. I wonder if your relationships with PR pros might be hampered because it appears you’re only looking for ink. Are you involving your PR partners in the early planning stages so they can provide input in goal setting and strategies? I don’t know but it might help with the relationships if they are used as more than publicity people.
@mdbarber Hi Mary thanks for commenting and coming by!
I know @Shonali views this as publicity probably more than PR. It is a gourmet dessert business a start up with minimal budget for PR and Marketing. A competitor gets a ton of press in LA, NY and Austin. I do the marketing for this company and was asked by my client to help find a PR person. The challenge is the average person is clueless on PR (including me not long ago).I doubt many small businesses know what to look for when it comes to PR and wanted to share the journey my client and I have been on. It seems they often tell us they can do this and that and then nothing would happen. The first guy pitched a Mommy Blogger strategy then didn’t go after Mommy Bloggers LOL
Of course the flipside is someone in PR who does this as their life might not be aware of what is going on in the head of their clients thus my viewpoint.
So basically the PR person works on mostly national type press and I cultivate more local press (bloggers, local papers like LA Times, OC Register etc) but building friendships on Twitter.
@HowieSPM So maybe it’s the pitch — story — that needs to be told differently. I don’t know but it sounds as though there’s something odd/off in the story. Or maybe they should focus first on a couple of target markets, instead of national publicity. What makes them unique over similar products? How can they become more unique? Do they have a Facebook strategy? Unique events?
And, I’m confident @Shonali and I are on the same page here regarding publicity. We both believe that PR is so much more than getting ink but instead changing behaviors and even increasing sales.
@mdbarber@Shonali Hi Mary thanks for the nice response!
The issue of getting exposure and the working with/finding a PR person are two different monsters here. All the PR people pitched end results/or what they felt they could do. The current one she has been very good. And she has helped with local press. It is a high end product (Ice Cream Sandwich) that is unique for Los Angeles and Orange County though there are some similar ones around the country I have discovered via Google alerts. There are other local Ice Cream Sammys but not all natural with cookies served warm soft and gooey. The real issue is she is a small business and the goal is growing. And it is true that even a small business if very unique will get coverage. One day this could be a national chain especially if they expand the product offering. The cookies are very unique which Shonali can attest 8)
I agree with you about PR being more than publicity. But PR like in many ways Advertising and Social Media is a black box of voodoo. The people who do the work know what is inside the box but often the rest don’t.
@HowieSPM Good information Howie. It is interesting how many position themselves as publicists first. I guess that’s another cross some of us like @Shonali need to carry. I’m assuming you’ve given your client other folks she can share and get ideas from, but if they are looking for a food company they can share with my high school friend has started Twin Hens, making chicken pot pies — and not additional types of pies. They sell through Dean & Deluca and other retailers. Check them out at twinhens.com. Who knows…they might talk and help each other. If you want more details, email me at email@example.com
@mdbarber@Shonali Thank you Mary. Yes I saw those pot pies. They also seem to be made of gold filling LOL saw the prices. But then anyone daring to sell a $5 ice cream sandwich and is doing it successfully can be said the same of right? 8)
@KDillabough Good Morning Kaarina. Hope you are now rising up to a week full of healthy ideas & blossoming Vitality!
@TaraMarkus Hi Tara! I took myself offline/off the grid for a week, hence tardy response. My new blog post today’s at http://t.co/o1bWP6r5
@KDillabough Delighted you enjoyed some bright n sunny time off to connect & celebrate with your wonderful husband! I am a huge believer!