PR – You only get what you put in

Good Public Relations (PR), that contributes to real bottom-line gains starts with being a good client. It’s easy to decide that you need PR, and you may make many an agency jump through several virtual hoops as your shortlist endeavours to guess your requirements, before settling on one that chimes with your ideas and vision and you appoint them.

Job done eh? No – you see, all too often this is pretty much the extent of input some clients put into the management of their appointed PR agency, then a few months down the road, the said agency gets invited in to explain their ‘failure’ to meet your goals or worse to face the sack.

Of course, there are bad agencies out there, but equally, there are bad clients too – clients that expect their agency to magically achieve the impossible; clients that provide poor briefs or fail to share objectives (beyond the original brief) and those who expect miracles. Then there are those who insist on pushing out a story to the press, that has more to do with vanity than shaping the perception of the organisation… the list goes on.

From experience, these “bad’ clients are in a minority, but they are out there. I’ve sat in briefing meetings with clients who kick off the conversation with an explanation as to why their current agency is being replaced (see all of the above) or increasingly, talk about how they have had their fingers burnt in the past with PR agencies in general. The thing is, dig a bit deeper and certainly half the blame can be levelled at them for being a poor client.

PR isn’t a magical art – like all elements of the marketing mix it requires thought, consideration, strategy and above all input and support from the client. It works best and delivers most when it is based on a mutual understanding of end-goals. This means the best clients are those that work ‘with’ their agency as a partner to realise businesses aims, and not those that push them into some information vacuum, where the typical agency response is to ‘proactively’ churn out meaningless communications, often in great volumes, to justify their fee – while it lasts.