Dorothy Crenshaw November 26, 2013 | 09:53:50

Eight Secrets of Top PR Firms

What do top PR agencies know that lesser competitors or even their clients don’t? Why do some campaigns deliver okay results while others grow legs and build on their own momentum? Here are some thoughts on the organizations and teams that most consistently produce successful PR campaigns.

They choose their clients carefully.
Far from the stereotype of the overeager PR guy, most top professionals realize that it’s impossible to be all things to all people. Sometimes you need to say no. Top PR companies choose their clients with the same care as their employees. The best way to build a track record of success is to know your strengths and align with the businesses and brands who fit yours.

They listen.
Another PR professional stereotype is the hard-selling story pitchman, but today’s communications industry has been reinvented by the social web. PR pros are all about the conversation, and there are few things more powerful than starting a program, a meeting, or a pitch by posing a question and simply listening to the response.

They take the long view.
Ours is a business that is built on relationships. Today’s intern is tomorrow’s client. The company that didn’t hire you last time may be in the market next year. The most business-savvy PR pros build bridges and never take a lead or contact for granted.

They spend more time researching and thinking than pitching. 
We promote our network and our creative spark, but the biggest contributor to great media coverage just might be old-fashioned spadework. It helps to be able to connect the dots, or link your client’s story to a breaking news or growing trend, but the unsung part of media relations is research. If you know what the individual blogger or journalist has covered over the past months, study their work, and go the distance to flesh out the right story angle, you’re far more likely to succeed.

But they have an instinct for the story.
We’re so overwhelmed with data that the essential narrative can get lost in in the factoids. Sometimes clients are so close to their own stuff that they don’t see it as a journalist would, or they confuse promotion with storytelling. That’s why the best PR people typically start in journalism or media relations. After years of working with and consuming media across all channels – traditional, social and digital – you develop an instinct for the story and can coax it out every time.

Their leverage their contacts. But not for the reasons you think.
It’s true that having friends in high places – like editorial decision-makers – can help with story placement. But few journalists will let a marginal story be printed just because they like you. Contacts are valuable because they offer access, including a quick answer and constructive feedback that saves time and helps PRs refine our approach.

They’re curious. 
I make a practice of recruiting people who have a genuine curiosity about many things. First, it makes them more interesting. It also informs a wider knowledge base for research and new ideas for client programs. But most of all, a genuine desire to know more goes hand-in-hand with a drive to make a difference.

They go the extra mile.
At the end of the day, our business is based on intangibles; many clients are buying some form of positive visibility, but in the context of a service relationship. Serving clients well, through honest counsel and a demonstrated desire to know and do more, does for a PR firm what we do for our clients.

Those three things can help turn clients into partners and partners into ambassadors. And that’s the essence of great public relations.

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