Bad PR experiences should not put you off the value of good PR. Many new clients are nervous when they come to us because they’ve been burnt by their previous agency.
The best way to assuage any feelings of anxiety is to set exactly what to expect of a PR agency when you sign on. This way you can make sure charlatans don’t rip you off but also set reasonable expectations for PR elements such as media coverage, social media engagement and return on investment.
One common issue with burnt clients is around media coverage: not having received any or much, or perhaps media coverage that was off-target, out of the zone where potential customers and/or important stakeholders were likely to notice it, like a two-page spread in International Animal Husbandry China magazine (yes, that magazine does exist!).
A note here: PR agents cannot guarantee media coverage, customer/audience sentiment, social media engagement, winning awards, website traffic, or sales enquiries, or any of the other measurements that can be used to assess PR effectiveness.
However, a good PR agent will be able to evaluate what you are promoting such as a product, your business, your expertise or your campaign, and have a fair idea of how labour intensive it will be to get traction in your PR, and what kind of results you are likely to get.
When engaging someone in a profession where results cannot be guaranteed, should you expect certain results each month from your PR agency? The short answer is yes, you can expect results. If you are spending money on having a PR agency, I believe you should have an expectation of a return on investment!
Your PR expectations
To prevent a disappointing PR experience, the first step is to discuss anticipated results with your PR agent or account manager to foster an understanding of what’s possible and in what timeframe. A seasoned PR agent will be able to give you a realistic picture of the media environment and help you set expectations before you sign on, before the PR program begins.
Of course there are still variables and unpredictable elements that can impact on your results, such as a more newsworthy event, for example, a big, unforeseen political announcement, a natural disaster, major business collapse or birth of a celebrity baby, that steals the limelight from your media announcement or at the same time as your feature was scheduled to be published by a magazine, or job cuts at a key media outlet. Again, no results can be guaranteed. But provided you and the PR agency have understood this risk, then you should be able to form an idea of possible results.
Some clients are what you might call a ‘hard sell’ when it comes to securing media coverage, or are not going to find it easy to generate engagement on social media. We will acknowledge this from the get-go and make sure the client understands this before we agree to do their PR. We can then set expectations that are realistic so the client knows what sort of results are reasonable to expect.
And while results cannot be guaranteed, we have always generated impressive results for every one of our clients. Firstly, we only take on clients that we know we can get results for, in fairness to them. Secondly, we have a great reputation that comes from our integrity: journalists know that we don’t annoy them with irrelevant pitches because we are desperate to get coverage for an un-newsworthy client. Thirdly, we are excellent at what we do.
The bottom line is this: a good PR agency will aim for results that are purposeful and meaningful for your overall business objectives and marketing goals. It should be able to manage expectations and then meet or exceed them, except when there are unforeseen circumstances. But even then, they should manage this in a way that does not leave you disappointed.