It’s never too early in the holiday season to start thinking about “gifts” that would improve the public relations industry. The PR business has changed and innovated rapidly, and new tech tools and services are fairly common, for there is much to appreciate. But our list has more to do with ideas we feel will elevate the industry as a whole.
Prospects who take PR agency searches seriously
Let’s face it, an agency search is arduous and time-consuming on both sides. Yet for a typical PR agency, particularly a small firm, participation in a formal search is a big decision and a major time commitment. We typically interview the prospect and based on the outcome of the discussion, gauge the odds of winning the business, determine how to budget and staff for the pitch and roll the dice on a positive outcome.
Teams work hard to learn about the category and the organization and spend time on creative proposals, sometimes under unrealistic time constraints. In an ideal world, within a week or two they are awarded the business or informed that they didn’t make the cut. Yet this isn’t always the case. Many companies, perhaps well-intentioned at the outset, go through the motions of hiring a firm, only to disappear after collecting proposals and interviewing teams. If all companies were to treat the undertaking in a serious, considerate and equitable way, agencies and partners would enjoy more trust at the outset and the process would work harder for both sides.
PR up-and-comers who work to improve their content skills
With fewer journalists working, there are more opportunities for those in PR to produce quality content. This means all of the excellent writers out there at PR firms can expand their capabilities and contribute more on behalf of clients. It also provides opportunity for those just starting out in the business to flex their writing muscles. That’s why we want to see junior staffers working hard to improve basic writing skills – expanding beyond press releases and pitches – to master blog posts, bylined articles, video scripts, speeches and more. Ideally, everyone in an agency would clamor for the opportunity to write, and agency leaders would create an inclusive approach, offering teaching and exercises to bring writing quality up a level or two.
More media respect for the public relations industry
Sigh…it’s the age-old conflict. Journalists need PR people, and PR people surely need journalists. The two groups often work very well together, but there’s tension. A quality PR team will carefully research media contacts to craft relevant pitches tailored to specific journalists. Even if a story doesn’t follow, a good relationship is preserved. But there are firms who cut corners on research and adopt the “spray and pray” technique of email blasting everyone on a huge list. They waste media time out of ignorance, pressure, or laziness. In our experience, these mistakes aren’t typical, but some journalists generalize and paint all PR people with the same scornful brush. Yet, what would media do if PR “took a holiday” and sent no pitches or releases for a few days? Their jobs would instantly be harder. We like to think that due to the mostly positive, symbiotic relationship the two industries enjoy, mutual respect exists and both parties can only do more to foster it.
Clients who know what PR can and can’t do
Any top agency spends time managing client expectations, and if needed, educating clients on what PR can and cannot accomplish. We’ve tackled the topic before, but it’s worth revisiting. In a nutshell, a good PR program can be most effective at packaging a company’s story to resonate with reporters, even creating news during quiet periods; augmenting a sales and marketing effort; and helping shape and manage an executive’s public image. But PR is not a substitute for advertising. Even the best PR campaign can’t make up for a bad product or faulty design. Most importantly, PR does not exist in a vacuum. It takes a commitment of time and talent on both sides to fulfill its potential.
Innovative ways to work with ad, marketing, and SEO partners
Those of us in PR also relish opportunities to partner with others in complementary disciplines. For example, is the brand gearing up for a daring ad campaign that the PR firm might augment with some trade press? Or, might a paid media campaign support and amplify earned media like positive product reviews? Maybe a hot-topic panel discussion could involve a brand’s SEO team for optimum results. Any company initiative is worth examining for PR potential and the ability to regularly pow-wow with relevant partners helps mine golden opportunities for all involved. That’s the real gift of collaboration!