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12 things to expect from a PR firm
By Beth Monaghan | Posted: January 25, 2013
How should I choose a PR firm?
Each time someone asks me this, dozens of answers flutter to the forefront of my mind, but I always choose two fairly tangible criteria: fit and experience.
On the surface, it can be easy for all agencies to sound similar, which makes fit and experience crucial. You need an agency that understands your audience and your market, and the reporters you need to reach. Fit is equally important. You’ll be working closely with the PR agency every single day (and many evenings), so you’ll need to be able to work well with the assigned account team.
However, fit and experience alone will not make your agency successful on your behalf. Here are some important qualities you should expect form an agency that is committed to your success. You need an agency that:
1. Owns the process. You want an agency that will never say, “Well, we sent you the guidelines for the Forbes contributed article three months ago and never heard back.” Your agency should be a professional nagger—they should never let you be the reason for a missed deadline.
2. Pushes back. You are hiring a PR firm for its expertise, so find one that provides firm recommendations. If your account team is constantly nodding their heads and yessing you, there is a problem. The success of your PR program requires a team leader who can adamantly say no in the face of tough scrutiny when something just won’t work.
3. Knows when to give in. There are times when other company goals, such as sales campaigns, take priority over PR (for example, when a sales team is under the gun to meet quarterly goals and needs to push out a direct email campaign in advance of the press release). Your PR firm should tell you the optimal plan for getting great media coverage, but should also accept it when PR is not at the top of the list.
4. Makes it happen. Only clients should have the luxury of asking big questions without offering solutions, such as, “How can we maximize our attendance at an upcoming trade show?” Good PR firms know that the right response is a list of viable options, not more questions.
5. Surprises you with unexpected and creative ideas. Your PR firm should march to the beat of the PR plan, but they should also bring you unexpected and creative ideas. This demonstrates that they are paying active attention. Only intellectually hungry people will tie the right pieces together to make you relevant in a way that matters to the press.
6. Owns mistakes. If your agency needs to be right all of the time, it’s a problem. You need an agency that abides by the rules of crisis PR (even when the crisis is a very small one): tell it all, truthfully, and tell it now. This takes confidence and humility, but it is the sign of a great communicator.
7. Hustles. Look for an agency that is pushing you, not the other way around.
8. Writes well. Content marketing has changed PR forever. Adequate press release writing skills are no longer enough. You need an agency that can sift through mountains of information, zero in on the interesting angle, and ghost author an article for your spokesperson. Ask for samples, and look at the agency’s blog.
9. Listens intently. PR people are renowned great talkers. We need to be. However, we need to know how to listen, too. You need a PR agency full of the kind of analytical and open minds that can scan the conversation for points of interest, drive the discussion toward them and relate them to your broader industry.
10. Empathizes. You need a PR agency team that can imagine what it’s like to be you. What pressures do you face internally, from your board, from competitors, others? Is PR central to your role or tangential? Coincidentally, this skill also makes PR people great at media relations—we must imagine what it’s like to be each reporter if we have a prayer of selling a story.
11. Navigates options and contingencies like an attorney. There are many decisions we must make along the winding route between the pitch and the placement. You need an agency that understands the media landscape—which outlets (and journalists) compete, which reporters require exclusives, which ones care about embargoes, and which angles will compel coverage.
Sifting through these and responding appropriately when an embargo is broken or an exclusive falls through tests the skills of the best PR professionals, so make sure you have a team that can bend gracefully when a critical relationship is at stake, and hold firm when your company goals require it.
12. Thick skin. PR people sit in the middle of two constituents whose goals are not always aligned: the media and our clients. Finding the common ground that creates successful outcomes for both requires an ability to handle discord well.
Journalists identify the worst PR jargon
By Gini Dietrich | Posted: January 17, 2013
In little time, terms such as “at the end of the day,” “with all due respect,” “frankly,” and “win win” became the top culprits.
In fact, we filled up that whiteboard and added big sheets of poster paper on either side to keep the game going.
MBAs and wannabe executives were often the ones uttering these mind-numbing words, but they’re not the only professionals who speak this language.
According to a report by twelve thirty eight, PR professionals are the worst at using buzzwords that have no real meaning. Each year, the firm surveys 500 journalists to find out which buzzwords, jargon, and terms PR pros use when working with them.
The survey taps British reporters and editors from media outlets such as the BBC, The Telegraph, the Financial Times, the Daily Mail, and more.
The results of the survey revealed what twelve thirty eight calls the “hipsterization” of PR terminology, exemplified by the rise of words such as “awesome” and “super excited.” I have a journalist friend who shares this feeling; she’s fed up with “amazing” (which, of course, makes me use it every other word when I email her).
Journalists in the U.K. also bemoaned the influx of American terminology, including “circle back” or “reach out.”
Twelve thirty eight compiled this list of the top 20 buzzwords identified in the survey. The words and phrases in parenthesis are an attempt to define the meaning.
1. Issues (problems)
2. Dynamic (likely not to be)
3. Paradigm (a “silk purse” word)
4. Elite (you wouldn’t normally get to attend)
5. Hotly anticipated (never heard of it)
6. End-user (customer)
7. Influencer (a person who probably doesn’t have influence)
8. Evangelist (a tendency to tweet with loads of hashtags)
9. Deliverables (tasks)
10. Icon/iconic (use before 01.01.01 or never)
11. Rocketed (made modest progress)
12. “An astonishing x per cent” (it rarely is astonishing)
13. Marquee event/marquee client (probably “very local”)
14. Going forward (in the future)
15. Ongoing (a bit behind schedule)
16. Optimized (changed by consultants then changed back)
17. Horizontal, vertical, etc. (two words in lieu of a strategy)
18. Phygital (easy to press or swipe, we guess)
19. SoLoMo (no idea)
20. Well-positioned (hopeful but a bit scared)
And one of my very favorites: I loathe it when a business is described as “providing solutions.” We see this time and again and it tells us nothing.
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Yes, free PR. It is an oxymoron in a way, because if you are not paying someone to spearhead PR efforts for you, you are spending time (which equals money) to do PR activities yourself. However it is correct in the sense that the field of PR does refer to activities that do not include paid media, that is, advertising.
Most PR practitioners would probably bristle at something promising Free PR, but the book I just published does just that. What I mean is that “121 Ways to Build Buzz and Make Big Bucks” (please see dedicated page on this blog for details) takes the best ideas from big brands and boils them down to ideas that are essentially no cost or low cost to implement.
That is the great thing about the world we live in today. We have so much available to us that’s essentially free. It’s like the democratization of marketing, in a sense. It’s a wonderful time to be an entrepreneur.