Random Thoughts on Public Relations

All politics is local,” Thomas “Tip” O’Neill, the longtime Speaker of the House in the U.S. Congress.

How well is a company served in public relations when an account manager is not local and perhaps thousands of miles or more away? Rarely do non-local public relations firms have the knowledge of, or relationships with decision makers in a company’s local media and constituencies.

Free Advertising?

The announcement of a new client by a public relations firm can have an adverse impact on the client and its goals: For a company in crisis, with layoffs or salary reductions in the wind, what’s the impact on employees of such a proud announcement; on shareholders or investors if a company’s stock is on the decline. Beyond this, clients compensate public relations firms for services; and ostensibly to effect their campaigns transparently. Stern And Company’s advice, if your new agency wants to issue a news release on its conquest, ask for a fee accommodation for the privilege. 

Beware the phrase: “We have personal relationships with the media.”

PR professionals are paid to be nice to journalists, and members of the media have no reason to discourage a friendly relationship. They hope to benefit by being given an early look at a press release, getting a little more information than is contained in the release, or obtaining quick cooperation when they call on deadline.

But professional journalists respond to a PR “pitch” based solely on how they think their readers and their editors will view the story. If they happen to know the PR person well but don’t like the story, the only difference will be a somewhat more cordial rejection.

We believe that the only significant determinant of the success of media relations activity is a firm’s ability to identify a story that a journalist will recognize as newsworthy, and to present it in a way that editors find compelling.

Who’s handling the account?

Ensure that whoever led the “pitch” team is hands on; and that the firm’s “senior staff” is experienced.

Many firms sell well but lack in execution because of a lack of experience. There’s nothing inherently wrong with having a senior level marketer on your account, if your campaign is marketing.

However, it’s not alright to have a professional who lacks news experience on your account if straight media relations is what you’re seeking. And beware the firm that presents its principal, who then is not “hands on” for the tactical side of your account.

 Other thoughts:

 Long media lists in proposed campaigns are generally a given that the agency is going for “ink” in a shotgun fashion, rather than using the highly sophisticated tools available to virtually all public relations firm that allow them to create highly targeted client-specific lists.

  • 24/7 availability. How long does it take you to reach your account executive on the weekend, especially in a crisis mode? The dog ate my cell phone is not an excuse.
  • If your firm schedules speaking engagements for you, are they before “decision makers?” If not, why bother?

Stern And Company
Public Relations
info @ sdsternpr.com