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Mistakes clients make while dealing with PR agencies

21st May 2014


The PR market in India has slowly matured over the years and consolidated itself within a few agencies, taking the game to the next level. As a marketing expert, I’ve been dealing with multiple technology PR agencies for a quite a while now.

As a client, you do tend to make mistakes while dealing with agencies are here are my list of mistakes that a client can avoid to ensure a successful PR campaign.

Boring stories

PR agencies have a very competitive job. They need to jostle for space in an already crowded media arena. As a client, you can’t afford to give them bland or boring stories that just won’t sell. Ensure that you always give your PR agency something unique. Guarantee that any journalist would be really excited to work on the story that you have lined up.

Avoid boilerplate

A lot of press releases are very standard and offer no new creative ways of communication. Is there a creative way that you can communicate the news through your PR agency? Press releases are a dime a dozen. So how can you differentiate? Many companies that do PR by press releases often fail.

Being prudent

Understand that you need to be practical about what story you pitch and at what time. Do not pitch stories that might be inappropriate in a given context. For example, when your competitor has just done a story on planting 10,000 trees, it might not make sense to do a story of your company planting 500 trees. Essentially the market context needs to be kept in mind while pitching stories.

Avoid repetitive stories

As a client, you need to ensure that you avoid similar sounding stories. For example, if your competitor recently did a story on CSR, its best that you do not pitch a similar story. Ensure that you do enough research to be able to dig out distinctive and compelling stories for your company. 

Collaborate with journalists

Your approach with journalists needs to be collaborative. Ensure that you do not pester journalists through your PR agency. You need to understand that they work under certain constraints and priorities. Once your data and details have been sent, just sit back and wait it out. Give the PR agency some breathing space to work with the journalist. Don’t pester them if they don’t include some photo or fact in the story that gets published.

False claims

Speaking the truth while doing PR stories is essential and critical. You need to share authentic data and facts. If you end up making fallacious claims, then there are chances that they would boomerang back on to you! False claims reflect badly on the integrity of your company.  

Hard selling

The primary job of your PR strategy is to tell stories and not to sell.  Hard selling is a major turn off for journalists and PR agencies. Hence you need to tone down the selling aspect and see how you can influence through softer means of communication.

Lacking a plan of action

You need to have a clear strategy for your PR activities. If your messaging is unclear, it will create a lot of confusion with your readership base. So work with your PR agency and come up with a quarterly plan of action and stick to it. That way, your management will also be able to see the real traction that PR is able to generate for the company.

Poor Content

Badly written content is the bane of good PR. It’s worth hiring an expert content writer to write up some thought provoking content for your brand. We live in the age of information overload. Hence you need to ensure that your content really stands out from the clutter.

Hyper expectation

You might have very high expectations from your agency. This holds true, especially since the agency might be on a retainer fee. You need to set realistic expectations with the agency before you sign them up. Understand the nature of the PR market in depth. 

Lack of media training for spokespersons

Many companies make the mistake of not making time for their spokespersons to undergo some kind of “media readiness” training. Also you need to ensure that your spokesperson is prepped up for any interviews with journalists. Many companies make the mistake of only training the CEO. Ensure that you have at least 3-4 spokespeople for your company at any given point in time. 

I hope these tips have given you some insight into how the world of PR works. Wishing you all the very best for all your PR endeavors!

Rajiv Mathew, Head of Marketing at Compassites Software


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