Eight things companies want from their PR agencies by Pulkit Srivastava

As far as predicting trends or criticizing campaigns is concerned, I consider myself a novice in PR. I have been very fortunate to work with some of the best PR minds in India.

Therefore, I hope to highlight a few things that can help a PR agency understand what a corp. comm. person really wants!

Firstly, as an agency, rarely does one really get to know the client fully. Now, I am not going into the competency issues, some of the agency folks I know are far smarter than most of the corporate communications professionals I have met. Unless you ‘REALLY’ know the problem, you can’t solve it. There are transparency issues and then the age-old concept of utilizing agencies as just implementation partners, which in my opinion is a shame. If one doesn’t use the grey matter of an agency, for which they should be used, it’s a waste to even have a large agency on record. One may as well work with small PR freelancers, which are a dime a dozen in India.

Following are the key things as a CST person in a PR agency you should keep in mind:

1.There is a good campaign and then there is what the client wants
Listen, understand the brief properly, sometimes, an agency tends to give ideas, which are not practical. Think about the money, which is required to be spent. Is the ROI good enough for the corporate? Communicate to build the case and sell your idea internally? Don’t give an idea, which is so focused on getting media coverage that you forget about what goes in it to make it happen.

2.Understand that the pressure on you is a cascading effect
Do you know what are the internal dynamics of a company?
A CEO usually doesn’t care about 'how'; he/she just wants the work done. If a corporate communications person is putting pressure on you, clearly it is coming from somewhere. Get up and ask what the real problem is? No one behaves irrationally unnecessarily. Understand the bottlenecks and then attempt solving them.

3.Understand the various stakeholders in the company
Every departmental head is a power-center and is an important stakeholder so understand what each person wants and keep that in mind while suggesting something. Each department's objective should be covered somewhere or the other.

4.Understand the consumer
Who is the customer? Why does he want to buy a particular product? What are his options? Why does he go to the competitor or stick with your brand? What language does he speak? Break down the consumer profile to absolutely basic and then create a PR strategy to engage with them. Consumer research is as important as media research.

5.Understand the product
The same goes for the product, understand the pricing, the product-language, it’s positioning, and ask questions. When you are handling varied accounts across sectors, this is the key thing that an agency person misses, but spending some more time in understanding the product (or even actually using it) will only help you create better stories and PR strategy. I firmly believe we should use a product before selling it.

6.Deadlines are to be met!
Deadlines are usually sacrosanct as many departments in a company are working towards the same goal, say the launch of a product. A corp. comm. person will also hold you in high regard if you stick with the timeline you discussed and agreed upon. It's better to ask what time is good to deliver and what’s a hard stop right at the outset itself.

7.When pitching for the PR mandate
Talk to a businessperson and try not to rely only on media research. Most of the companies are media-shy. You won’t find the real scoop by talking to a journalist.

8.Don’t say 'No' immediately
It is viewed as a ‘save your ass’ technique. Under-promise & over-deliver is the model most of the agencies work with. It is important to set the expectations right but how you do it is important too. Sometimes saying ‘no’ at every idea corporate communications throws at you makes him/her believe that you are a ‘no’ person out of laziness and one who is not willing to experiment or try to make it happen.

Pulkit Srivastava leads the corporate communication department in Asia’s largest DTH Company and is among the PRmoment India 30 under 30 winners for 2015

You can get in touch with him on his twitter handle @merely_curious

The writer’s views are personal; they strictly do not represent any company

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