Mark Naples has an excellent piece on iMedia Connection: 6 Ways To Sabotage Your PR Efforts. Anyone working with an agency, a contractor, a freelancer, or even with in-house PR should read this and take an honest look at how you work with these people; people like us at AHA!
In the piece, Naples focuses on interactive companies and/or start-ups, but what he writes applies to many organizations and industries. The first point that he makes touches on unrealistic expectations. I think that’s an important topic. I happen to be a strong believer that you need to reach high and go for the brass ring.
At AHA, we’ve had clients on CNN, The Today Show, The Late Late Show, Letterman, Canada AM, Maclean’s, and many other high profile media outlets. However, it doesn’t happen in the first week of our working with a client. It takes time to develop an effective pitch—one that is filled with facts, stats, anecdotes, information and interview opportunities. That means we need to work with you. Naples is dead on when he says great PR doesn’t happen in a vacuum. We need to work with you, as a part of a team. Before we pitch, we need to know what you are and are not ok with providing to the media. (If you won’t share your financials, there isn’t any point of us pitching business publications about the success or innovation of your organization.)
Another great point that he makes is not to drown us in administration. We recently had a client at AHA that spent a huge amount of their retainer time having us focus on reports, going over our media databases, reviewing our pitches and giving us input. Don’t get me wrong, input is a good thing, but this turned into 75% of our time being spent on justifying what we were planning to do. There needs to be a balance between educating the client, client input and letting us do what we do best.
There is another topic that Naples discusses, and that surrounds payment for services. Being aware of your budget is always crucial, but nickel and diming or trying to get a “reduced rate” from your agency doesn’t get you anywhere. If you don’t think the agency you are considering is worth what they are charging, that says something. We work with clients that have a range of budgets. Our role is to provide the most value for the budget provided. If a potential client comes to us with too small of a budget, it’s our responsibility to tell them that. We can do some amazing things, but we can’t work with nothing.
Budget and payment are a part of the relationship with your agency. That’s another important point in the piece by Naples. Pay your PR team on time. Don’t make us chase you for the money. Imagine how you feel when you aren’t paid on time for services or products that you provided in good faith. It doesn’t make for a good relationship with the people that you have hired to talk about you.
I’ve said it before, at AHA we’re quite fortunate. We have great clients. And, so far, a good radar about what will create a great client/agency relationship. If we get that twinge in a new client meeting that there is something wrong, we investigate it. We’ve worked hard to build a culture of collaboration at AHA—with our crew and with our clients. Partnering with a PR agency is an important component of an organization’s success and should be taken seriously. For us at AHA, choosing to work with a client is equally important and we take that very seriously.
I figure if you have read this far in this lengthy post, it’s because you are getting something out of this information. That’s great. I will let you in on another AHA secret. We have a no “jerks” rule in our company. No matter what the project, the budget or the company, if the potential client isn’t someone that we, as a team, are excited about working with, we respectfully turn down the work. There are too many great people and great companies out there to work with.