Often marketers ask for the illogical and absurd – PR people must learn to push back

Is this the type of conversation you are familiar with?:

Brand Marketer: The CEO is traveling to Goa for his New Year’s break. Let’s use this as an opportunity to introduce him to the Goan media.

PR Consultant:
Mr. CEO may be traveling to Goa but Mr. Marketer I believe you have forgotten that we are an enterprise solution provider for businesses in the United States and have nothing to do with anyone in Goa.

Brand Marketer: I don’t care what you think. I want a front-page story in a leading publication in the first week of the New Year.

PR Consultant: Well, you are not leaving my team with much of a choice. We will give it our best shot but cannot guarantee results at this point in time.

Very often PR consultants find themselves in similar situations where marketers present situations that seem extremely illogical and absurd. I have very often noticed PR professionals spending huge amounts of time and effort on activities that strengthen their relationship with clients rather than on the real objective of taking the brand forward. Unfortunately, marketers and communication heads often consider their PR agencies as mere conversation channels with external stakeholders including media professionals, analysts and new media influencers.

I believe that basic gaps in the agency-client relationship strongly affect the brand-building goal of either party.  In most situations, the dis-connect between brand heads and PR consultants’ stems out of either of the following:

The Ambiguous Objective

When brands sign communication partners, they make every possible effort to ensure that the agency gets a comprehensive understanding of the business ecosystem. Endless hours are spent understanding the brand and its relationships with external stakeholders including users, investors, media and regulatory authorities. Understanding sessions are followed by messaging workshops and media trainings.

In many situations, brands and agencies work under extreme pressures that don’t allow them to go through the learning journey in much detail. The result; a shallow understanding of the brands communication needs and a highly ambiguous objective. The super-fast paced result driven knowledge process ends up stunting the brand-building journey.

The Differentiated Perspective of the Industry

PR professionals usually work with 2-3 clients across diverse industries. They often rely on a very shallow understanding of their clients business and are forced to take decisions within their limited industry experience. Their perspective on brand building exercises can be either:

Fresh, Innovative and Value Driven

Brand marketers witness all the action as it happens. They have strong access to information and perspectives. This allows them a deep understanding of the ecosystem but also seals possibilities for newer and fresh brand building approaches.

On the other hand, PR consultants view business and industry developments extremely differently. Their perspectives are not being clouded by the monotony of similar business opinions creating avenues for fresh, innovative and value driven communication perspectives.

That’s not even an approach

Many times, poor industry understanding leads to approaches that bear no fruit. They have a very limited role to play in the brand’s big picture and in no way resemble the end objective of the brand. Such failed brand building approaches born out of zero understanding of the real picture is nothing but a waste of time, effort and on many occasions money as well.

The In-human Relationship

The one thing that binds all organizations together is the people. Brands are nothing but reflections of the people that work within it. Companies invest huge amounts of time, effort and money to establish organisational structures that ensure seamless human interactions.

Unfortunately, very little effort is made when two companies come to work together. In 6 out of 10 cases, client-agency relationships are the biggest deterrents to brand building exercises. As an agency guy some time back, it was very normal for me to hear my fellow colleagues ranting about their clients on minor issues that could have major effects in the long run. As a marketer now working with agencies across 4 continents, I can confidently say that the most important aspect of any business operation is the human relationship that binds multiple stakeholders together.

No brand was ever built overnight and nor will the one that you tirelessly and dedicatedly work for. Brands and agencies are extensions of each other. It is essential that you both aim to reach the same destination. Working together is always far more effective than one working for the other.

So, the next time Mr. Marketer reaches out to you for a Goan interview, you need to understand that your end objectives are similar but the perspectives are not.

Tanay Chaturvedi, Assistant Manager - Marketing at Nimbuzz

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