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May 24, 2007

The Top Ten Reasons Why PR Doesn't Work

ThePRSite.com.jpg

Margie Zable Fisher runs theprsite.com. Every day someone tells her that he or she has been “burned” by a PR firm, and Margie’s goal is to help small business find the right PR firm. I asked her to provide the top ten reasons why PR doesn’t work:

  1. The client doesn’t understand the publicity process. PR folks need to better educate people about how publicity works. The first thing many clients ask is, “Can you get me on Oprah or the front page of the Wall Street Journal?” The answer might be “yes,” but the process to get to the “yes” may take months or years, and may first include a series of smaller placements.

  2. The scope of work is not detailed and agreed upon by both parties. Here’s a typical example: a client signs an agreement to spend $3,000 per month. Client expects to get three publicity placements per month. PR person expects to work 20 hours, regardless of the outcome. The inevitable disconnect leads to customer frustration and the feeling of being “burned.”

  3. The client has not been properly trained on how to communicate with the media. Proper training for interviews is crucial; otherwise, key messages can be misconstrued, and even negative stories can result. Clients seldom blame themselves when this happens.

  4. The client and the PR person or firm are not a good match. Example: Client hears about a local PR person, meets and likes the PR person, and figures it’s a good match. Or the client chooses the lowest price PR option. And the PR person, instead of referring the client to another practitioner who is a better fit, decides to take on the client—and the money.

  5. The client has not gotten results quickly enough and ends the relationship too soon. Client should plan on conducting a campaign for a minimum of six months. And even that is aggressive. A year should really be the bare minimum to commit to PR The media works on its own timetable, which is usually much longer than the client’s.

  6. PR people don’t explain the kind of publicity placements a client will most likely receive. Every client wants a big profile of the company on the cover of a major magazine or newspaper, but most stories are about a “trend,” several companies, or some recent news with quotes from experts. Profiles are few and far between. Yet, instead of explaining this, PR people often tell potential clients what they want to hear, in order to get the business.

  7. Clients don’t realize that what happens after you get the publicity coverage is sometimes more important than the actual placement. My smartest client didn’t care if he got a quote or a profile—he just wanted to be included in major media. When it was time to get an agent and publisher for his book, he handed them a list of all his media placements, and this clinched the deal. The agent and publisher figured that if all of the major media was willing to include him as a source, then he must have something important to say.

  8. Clients refuse to be flexible on their story angles. One of my clients once said to me, “We only want profiles.” When the media wasn’t interested, they refused to consider other story angles that the media was interested in. Now I make sure clients are willing to have us pitch three to four angles.

  9. Clients get upset when the media coverage is not 100% accurate or not the kind of coverage that they wanted. One of my former clients said, “That TV segment on me was only a minute long.” When I explained that length of time was impressive in TV Land, she refused to understand.

  10. Clients won’t change their schedules for the media. Clients need to drop everything if the media calls. This may be inconvenient, but the media waits for no one. If you want to be a “media darling,” then you need to make yourself available at any time. Those who do will reap the best benefits and placements.

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Comments

I love your discussion here.

I have to agree, as mentioned by Rob - better communication between the firm and the potential client is one of the biggest key factor in PR which has caused many problems within the company.

btw, i have put a link back to ur blog about this discussion.
Thank you very much for the insight.

PR doesn't work because it shouldn't just be about publicity. All 10 reasons had something to do with publicity. That's not right.

We've done great PR programs that have had small or no publicity components.

Some important publics are not best reached through the media.

Educating clients, properly managing client expectations, and quantitativly measuring performance are all paramount to creating a successful campaign and a satisfied client. There are good PR firms out there, but you get what you pay for and good P.R. isn't cheap! One of the top reasons most P.R. clients go away unhappy: unreasonable expectations, poor client education, poor client communication, skipping past crucial data analysis. Many P.R. Firms spend their time blaming clients rather than doing the above.

www.kubalek.com

Thank you for the usefull article on PR firms it will definately come in useful.
Brian Glassman www.techrd.com

Having run companies that have both used and dispensed with PR, I agree with some of what this says - but also I think PR has to "get real".

1. Companies don't spend money without getting some idea of the output results or their timescales elsewhere - why would they for PR?

2. Their people are darn busy and can't "drop everything" - companies need PR to plan their resource usage as much as anyone else.

There's an interesting conversation going on in the blogosphere. The most prominent is Guy Kawasaki's The Top Ten Reasons Why PR Doesn't Work post. Mike Manuel at Media Guerilla has this to say: "Personally, I have no retort, no counterpoints

There's an interesting conversation going on in the blogosphere. The most prominent is Guy Kawasaki's The Top Ten Reasons Why PR Doesn't Work post. Mike Manuel at Media Guerilla has this to say: "Personally, I have no retort, no counterpoints

"So let's get this straight: 7 out of the 10 reasons why PR fails is because the client is either impatient, ignorant or stupid?"

Fully agree. Too much on the agency side; does not seem impartial. Ask a Marketing Manager for a similar analysis and compare. Any likeness will be pure coincidence.

The writer's comment about the client -- "she refused to understand" -- is priceless. What a great way to say "I don't explain very well and didn't explain in advance" or "I happily sign up clients who I know are going to be unhappy and badmouth me."

If you have a client who "refuses to understand" the basics of the service you are providing, that should be pretty obvious early on -- and you are crazy to proceed to provide services for them.

A good one ! Thanks for the interesting and resourcful article ...

Deesha Communications

I was inspired by this quote to write the Top Ten Ways to Be a Good Client. It's for advertising clients more than PR, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.

You can read it at: http://www.lifeismarketing.com/2007/06/what-makes-good-advertising-client.html

~Jim

#7 - Clients don’t realize that what happens after you get the publicity coverage is sometimes more important than the actual placement.

Actually this is a bigger problem on the PR agency side. The agency fails in its ability to understand the impact of, and capitalize on, the placement for the good of the client.

I've written about this in detail in:

The Placement Crash - The Failure of PR in the Conversation World.

http://snipurl.com/1n147

To summarize, here's what happens, because I've been there on the PR side. The PR person works hard to get a placement in a major news outlet - say with Walt Mossberg in the WSJ. The placement happens and the PR team high fives and pats themselves on the back - which they should because it's a big deal.

What the PR team is missing, and where they are failing their client, is to capture the audience that comes in a flood to the corporate website. It is a fact that a great placement will drive a ton of people to client's website (spikes for a day or two at most) - and what do they see when they get there? Most likely a stale boring corporate web page.

What if there was an offer for a free webinar, or someway to drive some form of conversion (download a white paper, register for teleseminar, request a free assessment) for all these new potential customers that have shown up on the site?

The problem is a majority of PR practitioners lack the skills and knowledge to continue on and capture the conversation online, thus not able to tie that placement to tangible result like 100 people signed up for a webinar that resulted in 30 sales.

What they give the client is Ad Value Equivalency - which is a joke for true measurement.

As a former PR Agency owner, I got feed up with PR's inability to step up as a leader in the marketing strategy.

I believe PR lacks the skills and knowledge necessary to drive publicity today.

Which is why I wrote the Fire Your PR Firm white paper.

Download it at:

http://www.capturetheconversation.com

Ironically, we hired Margie's PR firm -- and fired it about 6 months later...because of many of the reasons she listed. I think it is easier to "preach" than to put into practice...

The ironic part (#2) is that we have grown to the point of round 2 for VC...and are interviewing tech PR firms this time around.

I know more and understand what Margie is saying and will use it to better handle this relationship...

Guy, while this list doesn't truly capture what's wrong with PR, it still served as the spark for much-needed conversations.

The list really is rather elementary and doesn't really explain the details involved with PR ins and outs.

At the end of the day, both PR and company executives are to blame when things don't work.

Ask anyone what's wrong with PR and you'll unintentionally draft a manifesto that consists of radically varied top 10 lists. The answers will collectively form the foundation for revolution in the communications
business.

Rather than highlight what's wrong with PR or why it doesn't work, let's
talk about how to fix it.

http://urltea.com/nks

But these aren't reasons 'why PR doesn't work'. They're reasons why client-consultancy relationships go wrong.

Like others, I have to point out that public relations is not all about publicity, and sometimes publicity doesn't factor into the equation.

The client doesn’t understand the publicity process.
Clients don't need to understand the practice to be meaningfully involved in the process.
The scope of work is not detailed and agreed upon by both parties.
This problem is more related to contracts than public relations.
The client has not been properly trained on how to communicate with the media.
Or the client has been properly trained and performs poorly.
The client and the PR person or firm are not a good match.
Good matches are not made in heaven. Business is a human activity. "Good matches" are relationships that must be developed.
The client has not gotten results quickly enough and ends the relationship too soon.
This problem might stem from contracts or other human failings, such as impatience or lack of discipline. Not necessarily related to PR.
PR people don’t explain the kind of publicity placements a client will most likely receive.
Clients don't need to know what placements will be made. Clients, however, do need to know whether the goals of the campaign have been, or will be, achieved. If this is a problem, it's ego.
Clients don’t realize that what happens after you get the publicity coverage is sometimes more important than the actual placement.
Achieving campaign goals is always more important than the approach unless there are ethical problems with the approach.
Clients refuse to be flexible on their story angles.
This problem might indicate a failure to effectively inform or persuade on part of the PR professional, or that the client knows best. In the latter case, it's the duty of the contractor to accept that the client is the expert on the client's business and ensure that the client receives the appropriate services.
Clients get upset when the media coverage is not 100% accurate or not the kind of coverage that they wanted.
PR professionals are responsible for checking facts, too. If verified facts are misreported, the PR professional is not liable. As for the coverage desired, well, this could be a matter of ego, a matter of straying from the campaign trail, or a matter of environmental forces impacting the campaign. PR professionals are responsible for identifying what went wrong and selling the client on what went right or solutions to the problems. People get upset. Deal with it.
Clients won’t change their schedules for the media.
Uncooperative clients are just as much a problem as uncooperative PR professionals and uncooperative media. In these situations, someone has to mediate, preferably the people responsible for achieving campaign goals.

Guy --

Judging fromn the reaction, you certainly struck a resonant chord among the PR set by posting Margie's "reasons why PR doesn't work."

What's missing from this Letterman-like approach to explaining a most complex dynamic: PR is a very subtle discipline. Success requires constant and caring application over a period of time for measurable results to become apparent. And I'm not talking about a quick hit in some MSM outlet. I refer to a marked change in the client's business or reputation.

Of course there are exceptions (think Apple's 1984 commercial or its iPhone intro), but as a rule, the best relationships are those in which the PR pro knows this AND has the temerity to share it with his or her client.

This is a great list of public relations problems from the agency's perspective. I'd love to see the same list from the client's perspective. Perhaps then the agency and client could find middle ground.

The points on this list are correct, but only from the side of the PR Firm. I agree with the other comments that you now need to do the "top 10 reasons PR does not work....from the company's point of view". This list makes it look like PR firms can do no wrong and that the clients are all at fault. The PR is as much an art as it is a science, and they get paid no matter what. Please do a list that shows the other side of the coin!!!

When relationships between the PR agency and the client aren't working out, there is usually blame on both sides. However, in my experience, it usually has to do with the client's unwillingness to provide examples, testimonials, sales figures, or other fodder that reporters are interested in. Profiling executives and products that are still in the idea phase can only go so far. An executive being scripted by his legal department is also a huge barrier to good coverage of the company.

Being someone who suddenly needs a whole lot of media coverage and who has absolutely no idea at this stage how to go about it, nor any money to pay anyone to do it, I found this article very illuminating.

Your blog, practical information for impractical people, sounds like it was created especially for me.

Do you do requests? If so, would you please write an article called "What to do if you're on Day 11 of a 90 day project to raise $2.75 million and things are going to get very bad if you don't succeed, and you are crapping your pants about it"?

If you could approach it from the angle of where to start in the whole media thing, that would be excellent. Thanks Guy!

www.cathwood.com
www.cathwood.blogspot.com

The only issue with this piece is that PR does not equal publicity.

PR is about multichannel management in an open and transparent environment. It's about creating conversations, whether through new media, direct engagement and sometimes traditional media.

Where PR fails is when people think PR = publicity. Publicity is only a small (and often inefficient way) of communciating.

I have just cancelled my contract with our PR firm.
It probably could fit in reason #2; but basically was very disappointed with the way they worked, just like a press release machine, without adding value to them, or ideas... We had some coverage, but not aligned with the company's needs.

Good points especially about the media.

I have your portrait for sale on eBay again:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=180123513117

Have you experienced any changes for your rank, your blog with the recent changes in Technorati?

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