This is inspired by a post over on PR Daily naming the 20 things a PR pro should know how to do.
This is my take on things PR pros should know NOT to do. A few obvious ones, but sometimes they’re the ones most easily forgotten.
Anything to add? Make your suggestions in the comments box….
- Phone journalists when you know they’re on deadline
- Be unprepared for questions when doing a sell in
- Miss a deadline
- Spam journalists with the same release, with no thoughts of what they actually want
- Fail to get interesting, exciting (and high res!) images to accompany stories
- Delete negative comments
- Focus on numbers, not engagement
- Not bother monitoring conversation
- Share nothing but links to your own website and offers
- Not familiarise yourself with analysis tools
- Fail to set clear targets, expectations and evaluation methods
- Not work out a clear approval process
- Do whatever your client asks even if you know it’s a waste of their time and money
- Not push for opinions and viewpoints
- Ignore situations if they go wrong, mistakes happen – it’s how you deal with them that count
- Churn out news releases with no strategy or reason behind them
- Get coverage for coverage’s sake
- Fail to make sure press, advertising, social media activity etc is joined up
- Not make the time to read the newspapers/blogs/magazines
- Not hold regular planning and brainstorming meetings
I’m not a lawyer, or a shopping centre owner, or an estate agent. I don’t manufacture printers or low carbon vehicles, and I’m not a small business owner.
Yet I have been involved in successful PR and marketing activity for all of these sectors.
Because the clients in question, and the people within their business, were engaged, focused, and had a clear view on what they wanted to achieve from their PR campaign.
On top of this, they wanted a PR agency who worked as an extension to their own team – they viewed us a consultant, trusted our opinion, and gave us what we needed to understand their business and get the best results.
There are many things that a PR agency or practitioner needs to do to make your campaign a success – but there are also things we need from you!
1). Your time
Perhaps the most important thing that we need from you, and one of the hardest for you to give. We understand that your time is precious – and PR and marketing is just one of the hats that you wear on a day-to-day basis. But regular and ongoing communication between client and agency is vital for success – we aren’t mind readers and we need you to tell us what’s happening within your business. The further in advance we know of events, appointments, news etc – the more mileage we can get out of them. We also need you to be available for quick approval and urgent press requests.
2). Your expertise and opinions
Just because we do the PR for a lion tamer, it doesn’t mean we know how to tame lions. We need you to tell us what the story is. What are your views, your opinions? What effect will this have on your industry? The longer we work with you the more of your expertise we glean, but you will always be the expert. Our job is to take your experience and knowledge and turn it into a newsworthy story that will capture the attention of journalists and audiences, and integrate it into an ongoing campaign.
3). Your honesty
We need you to be honest with us about everything; how do you like to work? Are we positioning your company how you want it to be positioned? Are the results what you expected? Let us know what you think and we can adapt as we go along. A successful relationship is two way though, and we will be honest with you too if we’re not getting what we need!
4). Your belief
We know what journalists want, and we know how people want to be communicated with. There may be times when you have a story you want to push, or an angle you’d like to exploit – which we don’t believe will work. We talk to journalists on a daily basis and know what they’re after, and we can talk from experience about what can and should be said. If we advise you that a change in approach is necessary, listen to our reasons and have trust in what we say.
5). Your patience
It takes time and consistent effort to get results and build a strong reputation for a brand (especially when it comes to social media, which is increasingly part of the PR mix). But it also takes time to build a relationship with you, and get to know your business and your way of working. Have patience and the results will be worth it in the end!
I read with interest a blog post on PR Moment which cites meetings as a waste of time.
Although the article, written by Hacked Off Flack, is tongue in cheek to some extent (at least I hope so – he states falling asleep as a way to keep your meetings short!) I can’t help but come back with a rebuttal.
Having started a new job two weeks ago, building client relationships is one of the most important things I need to do in order to effectively manage my client’s accounts. I am passionate that this can’t be done without regular face-to-face contact.
But I won’t disagree completely with Hacked Off Flack – I have been in many meetings which have proven to be a complete waste of time, turning into lengthy debates rather than short, sharp decision making sessions.
With that in mind, here some tips to ensure your meetings remain productive.
1). It’s all about the agenda
Draft a realistic agenda before the meeting and issue it to all parties for additions and reference (about a week before if possible). This will make sure that everyone is in agreement on what needs to be discussed, and will hopefully stop anything from being missed off, or tangents from taking over. Try and plan how long you think each item will last and decide your meeting length around this. Most importantly – stick to it and steer people back to the agenda if necessary.
2). Someone take notes
And by this I don’t mean illegible scribble (which is what I’m often guilty of!) but proper, detailed notes of decisions and actions. Note taking is actually a pretty hard skill to master – being able to filter the bullshit and capture the stuff that really matters should not be underestimated.
3). Clarify actions at the end of each meeting
How many times have you left a meeting still not knowing what you’re supposed to be doing, or wondering if your client is really clear about what you need them to do? At the end of the meeting have your dedicated note taker clarify each person’s actions, quickly and succinctly.
4). Circulate a contact report
Issue a contact report to all parties after the meeting, confirming in writing what has been agreed. In my view a written record is vital to ensure that everyone is clear on what needs to be achieved by when. It’s also a good tool to look back on when you’re nearing the next meeting, to make sure that everything has been actioned.
5). Think about who should attend
Most PROs and agencies charge per hour or day, and meetings can quickly eat into a retainer. Think carefully about who should be in the meeting – do you really need an account director, manager and two account executives? Only have those who will truly benefit from the meeting, both from your team and the client’s perspective.
6). Always schedule an end time
If you don’t have an end time you’re asking for trouble! Keep an eye on the time and give the odd countdown to remind people; e.g.: “We’ve got 15 minutes left, shall we move onto the next item?”
7). Get into a routine
Decide how often you need to have client meetings; monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, whatever. But whatever you choose – stick to it. It’s when meetings get cancelled and you try and roll six months worth into one meeting that things get a bit hectic! The last item on your agenda should always be ‘date of the next meeting’.
8). Get biscuits (or cookies for my American readers)
Sugar makes every meeting easier to bear. Trust me, it’s a well known fact.
I’m not really a girly girl. I don’t like the colour pink, fluffy dogs or babies.
But there are two things in my life that can make me go ‘ah’ and that’s my nieces, who are 4 and 5 years old.
Unfortunately, I don’t get to see them as often as I would like as they live a few hours away. But last weekend I had the pleasure of looking after them.
Between the reading, painting, Disney Princess snap, Dora the Explorer computer games and splashing through rivers in the forest, I realised that actually, as communicators, we could learn a lot from the younger (well, much younger) generation, and their way of viewing the world.
1). Don’t lie
Shame on me, but I might have told a couple of white lies over the weekend. ‘Yes, I’ll play Disney snap with you after dinner’, and then not following through because I had to go out. And there is nothing quite like a 5 year old to make you feel guilty!
Honesty should be a core trait for any communicator. Despite the reputation that the PR industry sometimes has as spin doctors, what we do, and the messages we send out should always be truthful. This should be the essence for everyone you deal with, from clients – telling them truthfully what results they can expect – to journalists. In fact, especially journalists. If you don’t know something, say so. If you can’t make a deadline, say so. It’s much better to be honest, and then try and rectify the situation, than it is to lie and be caught out when you don’t deliver.
2). Put your foot down
My nieces putting their foot down may have transpired into tantrums! But, they might well be onto something with their belief in what they were standing up for. Often clients ask us to do something which we know isn’t going to work. If you go ahead, simply to please your client, then you risk damaging your reputation with third parties (for example spamming newsdesks with crap, non-newsworthy press releases), and also the client, who will eventually wonder why your outputs aren’t getting results. We’re consultants, and should act as such.
3). Be creative
The weekend was full of reading, drawing and painting. Things I actually used to love to do but never make the time for anymore. Being creative is a core part of communication; no one wants the same tired approach over and over again. Make time for creative brainstorming with your team, and to read publications relevant to your clients for inspiration.
4). Pay attention to detail
It’s amazing what a 5 year old can notice. One of my favourite comments ever said by my youngest niece was ‘Your earrings don’t match your dress’. She was 3 at the time. Now, I personally believe that they matched fine, but this attention to detail can often be overlooked in a busy working environment. Always double or triple check everything you do – from ensuring you’ve got the right people CC’d into emails, making sure you’ve brought biscuits for that important meeting, and of course right the way down to written copy. This attention to details is what sets apart a great communicator from a good one.
5). Don’t give up
My eldest niece is an amazing reader, and when she got stuck at a word she stopped, took a long look at it and broke it into sounds. Nine out of ten times she got the word right. Seeing the attention paid to the task, and how determined she was to succeed was really inspiring. I know myself I often dread making certain calls, or doing certain things – that follow up call to a journalist, or that final chase to a client for approval – but it is important not to give up. The results are worth it in the end!