Catherine is President at Ketner Group Communications, a PR and communications agency working with innovative B2B companies.
Making a financial investment is an important decision for any company. As a business owner myself, I understand that every investment I make in my business should be mission-critical to the company and my employees. That’s why when I’m talking with prospective clients, I understand and sympathize with their hesitation when it comes to hiring a PR agency. It can be a big line item in their yearly budget and a pivotal investment in both short-term wins and long-term successes — especially for new or little-known companies.
Let’s look at the top three reasons why executive teams can be hesitant to hire PR agencies, and how PR professionals can turn the tide.
1. They’ve been burned by PR before.
If I had a dollar for every time we’ve heard a CMO or CEO say, “I’ve worked with a PR agency in the past, and it was a very bad experience,” I wouldn’t necessarily be a millionaire, but I’d be able to treat my family to a nice steak dinner. As a career PR person, I just cringe every time I hear this sentiment from a prospect, but I also take it with a grain of salt. What’s true is that there are a ton of amazingly talented PR folks out there, but it only takes a few bad apples to give the rest of us a bad name. What’s also true, however, is that a PR program can end badly if expectations and goals weren’t clear from the beginning of the partnership.
When a prospect tells me they’ve had a bad experience with PR, I always ask them to tell me what didn’t work. I can often tell right away whether it was truly a bad agency experience or whether there were unrealistic expectations involved. A bad agency experience often means that the client was given the bait and switch (senior-level folks handled the new business process and then handed the client over to a junior team), paid a very high retainer with little to no results or reporting or worked with an agency not experienced in their industry.
MORE FOR YOU
To turn a PR-weary CMO or CEO into your biggest cheerleader, make sure you and your client are always on the same page with regard to the overall goals of the partnership. This is often where good PR relationships can go bad. This could mean setting specific media coverage goals, not offering guarantees. It’s bad practice for a PR agency to guarantee media coverage. At the end of the day, it’s up to the editor or reporter whether they want to cover a company. As well, both you and your client should always be open and transparent about what is working and what isn’t working and adjust accordingly. It’s a partnership, after all.
2. They don’t want to spend their budget on PR.
Understandably, many prospects we talk to aren’t completely sold on PR because of budgeting reasons, coupled with believing that they can better be served by someone in-house. After all, an in-house PR team knows the business backward and forward, has the necessary relationships with marketing, sales and business development and is 100% dedicated to that company.
When you talk to prospects about why they may want to hire an agency, lead with your experience in their space and why it’s important to invest in a team that has direct knowledge in a specific industry. For example, our agency’s focus is working with clients in the retail technology space. Our team has years of proficiency working in that industry. We’ve developed an extensive list of influencers, and we have a pulse on what’s going on each day — giving our clients more of an edge when it comes to unique storytelling and pitching.
As well, stress how hiring an agency, led by seasoned senior-level team members, can help a client hear thoughts and opinions outside of the company, giving them a fresh perspective on how to differentiate themselves from the competition and break through the noise.
3. They don’t understand the role of PR.
To this day, many of my closest friends and family members still don’t quite understand what I do for a living. I’m sure that many PR professionals can relate to this. It’s never surprising to me that PR gets pushed to the backburner simply because the executive team probably doesn’t understand the role PR can play, and the unique influence it can have on a business. As a PR person, I always love the opportunity to educate my clients on the power of PR.
Tell your prospects how PR can turn an unknown company into a huge success, how it can take a new technology and make it mainstream and credible and how it can influence the way the masses feel about an organization. It’s all about telling stories that resonate and that are relevant.
Tell them how you’ll develop a solid PR strategy that supports their company’s overarching goals and objectives. Next, walk them through how you’ll create a PR program with tactics that will help them achieve their goals and objectives. This could include media and analyst relations, editorial content development, speaking opportunities and awards, blogging, attendance at events and much more.
Above all, make sure the prospective client understands that the key to a successful PR program is finding the right team to tell their story in a way that’s different from the rest. Whether they ultimately choose your agency or not, help them see how PR agencies can not only bring unique talents to the table but also fresh voices that have an immediate impact with optimum results.
Forbes Agency Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?
Go to Source
Author: Catherine Seeds, Forbes Councils Member