Are You Ready For A PR Agency? 5 Questions For Startups

Bringing on a public relations agency can help an organization engage a far larger audience than they’re able to do on their own. But in the competitive world of startups, the go-to-market formula can change, and timing is key. It isn’t as simple as ‘get your brand in the news’ as much as it is about identifying and focusing on key differentiators. So before a startup decides to bring on a PR agency, they should be asking themselves these five questions.

Do you have a real story?

Many startups, especially those in tech, generate early buzz making VC deals that allow for rapid growth, and a funding announcement can be a great starting point. Yet a fat financing round and torrid expansion numbers aren’t enough, and they can even overshadow more important assets. As time goes on, business growth normalizes, and a startup needs a more differentiated story. What is the company’s reason for being? What problem does it solve? Why should anyone care? A bulletproof business model and compelling story will reinforce the company’s legitimacy and offer a foundation for long-term PR planning.

What are your goals?

Not enough companies ask this question, and it’s an important one. Of course the goal is to get the company in the news so that it will be more visible and better known, but for what? Does the company want to be recognized as an industry disruptor? Is it aiming to attract business partners? Sales leads? Understanding the mission is essential for the PR agency to properly plan, position and execute a campaign on behalf of the client. We urge our clients to differentiate between deliverables (earned media coverage, bylined articles, speaking opportunities secures) and outcomes (sales growth, perception changes). Both are important but one should lead to the other.

Is the founder engaging?

While the startup itself can be interesting, the founder is ideally just as engaging, if not more so. People love a good founder story. It can generate great coverage tied back to the company and allow opportunities for thought leadership. However, if the founder isn’t able to offer more than factual information on the company or doesn’t have the charisma or salesmanship of other startup leaders, they may be at a disadvantage. Of course, many agencies offer media coaching to help executives be more comfortable in media interviews and more compelling in how they tells their story, but it helps when it comes from the heart. If not, the startup may want to look at other top executives as the face of the brand, or it can use a PR agency to work around the in-person meetings with branded content.

Does the startup have internal support for the PR agency?

This may be obvious, but it’s an important factor to consider. PR agencies usually work as an auxiliary to the company’s internal marketing team, and if it’s still in the early stages, the internal resources may not be there to manage an external team. Without that support the PR agency can have trouble producing results and the PR investment may not be worth the spend.

Are you ready to make a long-term commitment?

“Long term” can mean different things to different companies, but a startup that’s expecting instant results in the form of splashy earned media articles or tech trade headlines is likely to be disappointed. The most successful startup PR programs set tangible goals for deliverables and metrics for the PR agency on a quarterly basis. A startup who wants to reap the benefits of a PR firm’s work should ideally be prepared to commit for twelve months.

What’s Better, PR Agency Or Client Side Work?

In public relations, there are many career path possibilities, but most fall into either the agency side or the client side. This is the time of year when I get questions from new graduates about which path makes the most sense for an aspiring PR professional. But the question isn’t just for PR beginners. Many who’ve been successful after years in agency PR may nurture a curiosity about client-side work. Like everything else in life, a move from agency PR to corporate or brand communications involves trade-offs. Here’s how people in our circle describe the pros and cons of crossing to the other side.

Agency PR Has Many Advantages

Constant innovation
At an agency, “you have your finger on the pulse” of industry trends, according to Debbie Etchison, head of public affairs and corporate communications at a major pharmaceutical company.  She’s grateful for her agency background, which offered “the ability to be creative and think outside the normal boundaries.” It’s true that when you handle multiple clients and are constantly in the marketplace competing against other agencies, your sense of what’s around the corner is always being sharpened, and you’re up on the latest trends.

A true team mentality
An agency executive is surrounded by people who basically do the same thing they do. They therefore share a deep understanding of the work and an appreciation of what goes into it. On the corporate side, things may be different. A handful of clients I queried who moved from agency to client work mentioned having to adjust to an environment where everyone shares a common goal, but where skills and backgrounds are very different. Depending on the company, the communications team may be relatively small, and corporate peers in marketing, HR, and product development may lack an understanding of PR and corporate communications. There’s also the siloed nature of many organizations. Marijane Funess, who left our agency a year ago to join a nonprofit, says, “I thought it would be easy to brainstorm and get information for story pitches, but, proximity doesn’t always guarantee that I’ll shake loose what I need in a timely fashion!”

Well-rounded skills
The opportunity to work on many clients and brands at an agency is excellent career groundwork for whatever may come next, whether that’s a client-side post or even an entrepreneurial venture. Comments Etchison, “An agency position will promote agility and productivity, and the versatility of the work makes you very well-rounded.” Though many agency professionals eventually specialize in a specific vertical industry, like technology PR, or a service offering like content creation or media training, the wide exposure to different aspects of the PR agency service offering is nearly always cited by those who started out in an agency job.  You’ll also learn to produce under pressure, which in itself sharpens skills and enables a bottom-line mentality that can be useful wherever you choose to take it.

Career mobility
Starting salaries at PR agencies can be low when compared to the corporate side. But early in one’s career, an agency environment may offer greater upward mobility, particularly if the agency is growing. Turnover at PR agencies can be high, and while that’s not a good thing, it often creates a terrific opportunity for career advancement for those who perform.

The Client Side Offers Consistency, Focus

One client, one focus
Many client-side professionals talk about their satisfaction in maintaining a pure focus on their particular company and industry, which enables their best work.  Etchison says that her move to the corporate side gave her an in-depth understanding of her company’s brand and business and freed her to be “highly strategic and even visionary” in supporting its communications and business goals. There’s also the advantage of following your bliss. Sri Ramaswami of rbb communications advises, “If you are singularly passionate about a specific industry it makes sense to join a company within that sector and grow through the ranks.”

On the client side, there’s typically no need to be selling in order to gain new clients or have the opportunity to do interesting work. This is in contrast to an agency environment, where new business development is the lifeblood of the place and a requirement for anyone who wants to climb the ladder there. A corporate PR team does need to promote its own work and justify the investment in PR, especially if an agency budget is involved. The difference, however, is that the day-to-day work offers greater consistency and lacks the do-or-die pressure of a growth-oriented PR firm.

No one in the dynamic and every-changing PR universe has perfect control over their programs, but on the client side, resources and politics tend to be stacked in your favor. Etchison explains that on the corporate side, “you’re able to deploy agency teams for maximum brand benefit” and exert a greater degree of control over the outcomes than she did in her former agency life.

Though agency team members support one another and often get shout-outs from their clients, there’s nothing like the shared business mission of those who work under the same roof. Comments Marijane Funess, “The shared pride and admiration for projects has been a thrill. When you are in-house and your co-workers see ‘up close and personal’ the effort that goes into a successful event or a meaningful story, it is really rewarding.”

How To Get The Best From Your PR Agency

Bringing on an external PR agency is an investment of time and budget for any company, no matter its size. Naturally, things will go better for both parties if the agency team gives their all, and the client manages for the best possible outcomes. Several times during a pitch meeting, a prospective client has asked our team, “What do you need from us to succeed?” It’s a great question. There are many answers, from the bare essentials to the ultimate agency wish list. Here are some of ours.

Tell us everything

Every agency engagement should start with a full immersion session, but that’s just the beginning. The best clients share news early and often. One of the more frustrating things to happen on the agency side is hearing about a big development at the last minute, with very little time to plan for the best results. All agency teams appreciate a client who trusts us enough to let us in on even confidential or sensitive moves in advance. There are plenty of other reasons for close communication between client and agency, of course. Information is our currency, and news nuggets or insights from background briefings can turn into valuable story or program ideas.

Make your expectations clear

Clear goals and expectations should be part of the proposal and client-agency agreement. Expectations should cover not only service terms and deliverables, but overall business outcomes over time. Most clients understand that. But circumstances can change over time, and in the rush of day-to-day struggle, they can go unspoken. Should expectations change, or if they’re not being met for any reason, it’s time to speak up.

Measure what matters

Occasionally there’s a mismatch between how a client incentivizes their agencies and the most meaningful business outcomes. To get the best from all agency partners, it pays to reward them based on the metrics that count. It’s fine to calculate hours spent and deliverables completed, but if the most meaningful metrics involve increased brand preference or enhanced reputation, those should be quantified. If more tangible business outcomes like site traffic or sales are most important, they should be prioritized among other PR outcomes.

Demand candor

A qualified agency team will offer unvarnished feedback in important matters of strategy or reputation-building. The relationship must be collegial and cooperative, but no client wants a team that will simply rubber-stamp proposals or take orders. The best clients are prepared to consider honest recommendations and opinions where warranted, and if they’re absent, they should ask why.

Commit the necessary time and resources

Occasionally a company will feel that once the team is in place, their job recedes into the background, and the PR agency will work their magic without much input. That’s not the case; bringing on any agency partner will require increased time and commitment from the company. Even the most capable and motivated team must have a knowledgeable communications professional who is empowered to get them what they need, guide their thinking and set direction for the longer term.


When it comes to large, global organizations who retain equally large and bureaucratic PR agencies, the approvals process can be a nightmare. Lengthy approval times can stifle creativity and miss opportunities. If at all possible, limit the number of individuals who need to sign off on ordinary deliverables like press statements, partner releases, or quarterly plans. Nothing wears down an agency team like multiple layers of approval, constant delays, and a chronic lack of responsiveness from the client. If you can cut the red tape, your agency will love you for it.

Challenge your PR agency

I’ll always remember a client who would exhort us to “be brave, be bold!” in developing new campaign ideas. We knew he expected the best and would go to bat for us to fund bold concepts, and we would have followed him anywhere for that reason. The best agency teams like to be challenged in a constructive and creative way.

Speak up about problems

And encourage the agency team to do the same. Small problems can fester and turn into much larger ones if not nipped in the bud. Some clients don’t like to offer negative feedback because it’s not comfortable. Yet it’s far better to air any issues, however small, when they occur. A professional agency team will understand. If they don’t they’re not the right fit.

Be an internal champion

Even more than marketing or advertising, a PR budget can use an advocate inside the corporation. Public relations has made huge strides in measuring and elevating the impact of the PR investment, but it remains poorly understood in certain companies and sectors. An advocate inside the C-suite who offers a voice to the agency partner is every PR firm’s dream.

Foster collaboration and clarity among agencies

Sometimes companies bring on multiple agencies for engagements that lack clarity, compete with one another, overlap, or operate in isolation when it makes sense for agencies to coordinate. With distinct entities often handling branding, marketing, digital advertising, SEO, and PR, the environment may become complicated. It’s important to establish clear roles that spell out what is expected of each agency and how they should work with the client as well as together.

Respect the agency’s expertise

A good PR team will not always tell you what you want to hear. The most successful clients know and respect that; in fact, they invite it. What’s more, they trust the agency’s professionalism in everyday decisions and recommendations and don’t have the time or the inclination to micromanage or one-up the agency’s role. That’s why we love them.

The Ultimate Cheat Sheet On Choosing A PR Agency

Deciding it’s time to invest in PR is one thing, but selecting the right agency is another. It’s time-consuming, occasionally intimidating, and often confusing. What’s more, the people who are skilled at internal communications aren’t always prepared to conduct an agency search. Here’s a cheat sheet on finding the right PR firm while saving time and frustration.

Skip the RFP

Instead, rely on a one-pager that outlines the goals for partnering with a PR agency. It should contain both agency deliverables as well as the all-important business objectives for seeking outside support. Don’t worry about offering background on the company unless it’s relevant information that can’t be obtained through the agency’s own research.

Limit the “deciders”

A large committee will be time-consuming and unwieldy. It’s better to solicit buy-in on the goals for bringing on an agency from a broader group of stakeholders but to keep the selection group small. The benefits are obvious. But if the company founder or chief executive will be involved in the agency program, he or she should be part of the decision process.

Be clear on your goals

If the internal stakeholders can’t agree on goals, you’re not ready to bring on an agency team. If the goals are vague (“raise visibility” or “build buzz”) it’s best to qualify them and attach specific parameters or metrics. An agency may offer their own way of quantifying deliverables and measuring goals, but the objectives should be articulated by the client.

Determine your must-haves

For most companies the must-have list includes relevant sector experience, geographical coverage, and the absence of conflicts, but it’s also worthwhile to think about agency size. Bottom line, if your budget is less than $15,000 per month, you should limit your search to smaller agencies (loosely defined as those with annual billings under $5 million.)

Seek relevant recommendations

Nothing will save time and resources like quality recommendations for your initial list. But the trick is to make sure the recommendations are based on the experience of someone you know and trust, not a random LinkedIn contact or a board member’s wife’s PR firm. Professional groups are very useful, but always ask for names from those who have first-hand knowledge of the agency in question.

Winnow the agency list in advance of meetings

Three agencies for serious consideration is an ideal number, and five is a good maximum. If you must start with a large group of potential agencies and can’t cut the list through research, send the agencies a 2-page questionnaire to ensure relevant experience, desirable geography and suitable size. Then cut the list and proceed with meetings.

Set a budget

Some businesses are coy about budget because they’re hoping to get a good deal through competition, and that can actually work in a poor economy. But in today’s environment, if you don’t share your budget range, you’re likely to waste time or get proposals that are unrealistic or not suitable. In the worst case, you’ll eliminate the strongest agencies because they don’t feel compelled to pitch for accounts without full information.

Ask for a conversation, not a presentation

One problem with the dog-and-pony route is that it rewards salesmanship and preparation at the expense of quality thinking. All are important, so it’s wise to aim for an in-depth meeting that affords the time for a substantive conversation about upcoming issues, roadblocks, and opportunities.

Why Your First PR Job Should Be At A PR Agency


It’s inspiring to meet newly minted public relations or communications grads looking to crack that first job in their chosen field. And though the first break is rarely easy, for anyone set on a career in PR there are likely to be forks in the road at the beginning of the career journey. I often speak to new graduates who ask advice about how to start their career. They might be looking to join a large international company as the newest corporate communications hire, or want to break into PR at a nonprofit group. Here in New York, some set their sights on a media or fashion brand to learn those businesses while also gaining experience in external communications.

Let’s face it, any of the above would be a win for a recent graduate, but — barring a rich equity offer from a high-flying tech startup — I’d strongly advise jobseekers to take a position at a PR agency as opposed to a corporate or nonprofit gig. PR firms offer new professionals an excellent training ground and the right kind of experience for making future career decisions. My personal bias is for a small or midsize agency, but it’s really more about the classic agency structure and what it offers for team members. Here’s why:

You’ll learn the business of public relations

PR is PR no matter where you are, right? Not necessarily. On the corporate side, staff learn public relations as it serves the organization, but at an agency, it’s the core business. Usually it’s the only business. That translates into a deeper commitment to training and greater mastery of the PR discipline and a far greater breadth of experience through working for different clients. The agency environment helps those new to the workforce find out what they like, where they excel, and what the range of opportunities truly is. And you’ll benefit from layers of experiences professionals who can teach you.

Agencies offer a path to promotion

A successful agency offers extraordinary upward mobility for anyone with the right skills and a drive to succeed. Will you reach a ceiling at some point in an agency? Almost certainly, yes. But for a professional with good skills and less than a decade of experience, almost any road at a thriving agency will lead to advancement. This comes in contrast to the corporate communications world, where you’re typically dealing with a narrower path to growth.

You’ll learn what you love

Juggling multiple clients in different industries or sectors may not be for everyone. But the chance to participate in account management for clients within different industries, from B2B technology to food and beverage PR, will help anyone figure out where their passion lies and help focus career plans for the future. This is a great benefit even if you don’t plan on an agency career.

You’ll learn to produce

Or not, in which case your agency experience will be short. This is the good news-bad news side of life at a PR agency. Like nearly any creative services business, a PR firm earns its keep nearly every day. The agency has to deliver against its plan quickly and well. Those exigencies force you  to learn how to be productive and efficient, or they force you to look for a different environment for your particular skills.

You’ll learn salesmanship

For the most part, agency life is about selling. And while it varies with the type of firm, even junior staffers are exposed to the business development process. You may not be in the room where the presentation happens, but you’re likely to be a team member and observer at a minimum. And ongoing account management is a bit of a selling situation as well. Merchandising the agency’s value to clients is a part of the daily life at a PR firm. It’s experience that you can apply to your own contribution and career.

You’ll learn showmanship

From packaging dazzling content, to C-level boardroom presentations, this is also a skill that’s highly translatable to just about anything else you may do in life or work.

You’ll rarely be bored

Because it typically offers a wide breadth of work – though not as much depth as a long-term role on the client side –  the agency life is ideal for multitaskers. If you thrive on change and challenge, you may love life at a PR agency. But even if you end up running corporate communications at a large brand, the agency experience will pay off over an entire career.

How To Thrive At A PR Agency

For anyone building a career in public relations, there’s no better environment than a PR agency. If you wind up in a specific sector, like technology or healthcare, an agency of any size is a solid starting point. If your work takes you on a corporate or nonprofit path, the broad experience gained at a PR firm will offer a foundation.

Agency experience is useful no matter where a PR career goes. The multiplicity of clients enables exposure to a variety of businesses and industries, and by definition, an agency guarantees immersion into a culture of communications expertise. Even for those who leave PR, skills like business development, client interaction, and staff management are useful for any career.

But agency life is not without stress. We serve many masters, including clients, direct bosses, and media. Deadlines are harsh, and productivity is a daily performance metric. Here’s how to thrive at any PR agency, large or small.

Don’t expect a 9-to-5 gig

Agency viability rests on the productivity of its staff and the talent of every team. Like any professional services business, it’s affected by unpredictable client workflow, up-and-down demands, and after-hours client needs. An added twist for any PR agency is that an unanticipated news event, reputation crisis, or negative story can trigger hours of unexpected work. Anyone expecting regular hours and calm days will be quickly disenchanted.

Learn the business of agencies

It’s key to understand any client’s business, and that’s one reason why experience is so valuable over time. But it’s also essential to learn how an agency makes a profit, how it builds a clientele, and how it shapes its own reputation. A grasp on the formula for agency business success is a winning formula for a career at a PR firm.

Overprepare for any client contact

We love our clients and often feel warm and friendly toward them. That’s a good thing, but it shouldn’t blind anyone to the need for rigorous preparation for even the simplest client conversation. They’re paying us not only for specific deliverables and outcomes, but for expertise and counsel. That comes with solid and disciplined preparation. By the same token, it’s a good rule to treat senior staff like clients – preparing before formal interaction, covering the details and anticipating questions.

Step up

Even the most nurturing agency culture is competitive in some ways, and inexperience doesn’t mean newbies should be passive. Raise your hand, show curiosity, and make observations. Proactivity is greatly rewarded at all but the largest and most bureaucratic of agencies. PR professionals are recommenders, so development of a thoughtful point of view or proposed solutions to problems is a vital skill.

Stay curious

A little like Steve Jobs’ famous advice to “Stay hungry. Stay foolish,” one of the keys to success at an agency is to keep learning. We’re in a period of rapid media and technology change, and the most potent fuel for staying ahead of trends and curves is a keen intellectual curiosity. There’s no better job security than a personal commitment to continuous learning.

Learn to work under deadline

If you can’t deal with deadlines, you shouldn’t be in the agency business, and you probably shouldn’t be working in PR. In a typical PR firm, the sense of urgency is heightened because we’re dealing with a dynamic news environment, but also because client review and approval time must be built into all materials and recommendations.

“PR” yourself

I’m one who thinks that “personal branding” can be overstated, but it’s always smart to apply basic PR principles and skills to your own reputation, particularly in a large and layered environment. What do you want to be known for? What does your agency value? What sets you apart from the rest of the team? Finding and showing the answers to those questions will help build a career-long brand.

7 Tips: What PR Agencies Want From Their Clients


We had nice comments on a previous post from the PROI Worldwide meeting, What Clients Really Want From Their PR Agencies, so it inspired me to look at the flip side of the client-agency relationship.  Here’s our list of top things a typical PR firm looks for in an ideal client.

Commitment. Occasionally in this business you see a client who is a PR dabbler. They’re “testing”, or maybe they liken it to direct marketing or digital advertising — something that can be turned on or off as a demand generation tool. If so, the program is unlikely to be successful. We look for an understanding of what PR can (and can’t) do, and a reasonable commitment to a strategic PR campaign.

Clear objectives, well communicated. This one’s a mutual responsibility. The onus is on the agency to be straightforward and specific about goals and outcomes. But goals should flow from business objectives, which originate with the client. Where it occasionally gets tricky is when there are other, less obvious needs from a PR campaign – like personal glory for a key executive, or support for a sales team. We can handle that; we just need to know.

Transparency and openness. Agencies need information to do our job. Lots of it. More than many clients think the PR team will need. This refers to brand or corporate background information that will help the team tell your story, but it can also mean insight about company politics, corporate changes, or senior management expectations.

Trust in our expertise. Agency professionals appreciate clients who will listen and trust our expertise. That doesn’t mean a client should take every recommendation or always agree with our viewpoint, but true respect for years of experience is necessary on both sides of the relationship.

A spirit of partnership. I know, it’s a cliche, but that’s because it’s true; the most demoralizing thing for an agency team is to be the last to know about a key development, or to be left out of a communications strategy discussion. The best clients are highly collaborative. They consider the agency team as an extension of their own staff, with the privileges and accountability that come with it.

Help in managing expectations. Particularly among senior management. This is a common concern among agency teams who aren’t always in regular contact with the CEO or other top client executives. If the PR program’s value isn’t communicated properly at the outset, or if it falls prey to “expectations creep,” that can undermine the relationship and the outcomes.

High expectations. Needing to manage expectations doesn’t mean they should be low. Agency creatures thrive under (reasonable) pressure. When the bar is raised, expectations are clear, and we’re all pulling together, that’s when we can do our best work.

5 Must-Read Books For PR Pros This Fall

Top PR agencies look for an edge everywhere they can. Absorbing the latest business, industry or pop culture book is a surefire way to keep up. Of course, in the 24/7 world of agency PR, people often ask, “When would I even find time to read a book?” We would argue, “How can you afford not to?” – and it’s simpler than you think. Downloading just one book onto your phone (and thereby all of your devices if properly synced) means every second of time spent obsessively checking emails or playing Plants vs. Zombies can be converted to reading time. Okay, maybe games are useful, but if you agree that we can all incorporate more reading into our days, start here.  Then take a look at some recommended reading for PR pros below.

Bridge the PR-content gap with Content Machine. Today’s PR teams and other specialists must be masters of fabulous content creation. It’s a constant process to come up with strong ideas that will translate brand or product messages while being readable and, most of all, shareable. This is a nuts and bolts how-to book that has something to teach us about content. And it may just get your creative juices flowing.

Rogue Elephants is a benign PR expose. Whether you have twelve months in PR or twelve years, you already have battle stories and “only in PR” anecdotes for friends and colleagues. This is why memoirs of PR life are always so fascinating and relatable.  Subtitled “One Girl’s Fight Through the Human Jungle,” Rogue Elephants captures a slice of the industry in UK PR practitioner Jane Hunt’s career from the mid-80s to 2012. Laugh, cry and commiserate with Hunt and see if it doesn’t make you want to keep more careful notes about your own experiences.

Spinglish points out what PRs should avoid.  Spinglish: The Definitive Dictionary of Deliberately Deceptive Language by Henry Beard and the wonderful Chris Cerf is a dictionary full of fun euphemisms and deceptive language familiar to anyone, whether you work in PR or not. It’s particularly timely as election season heats up but will also help anyone struggling to craft authentic communication to stay on the right side of that fine line between informing and selling.

Phishing for Phools is a cautionary tale.  For a more serious look at the way financial markets can manipulate us, pick up this book. Though it dissects the aggressive marketing typical of today’s digital-age financial markets, it will resonate with anyone growing a client or customer-based business and working with media.

Big Magic celebrates creativity. Touted as the big book of the season for any audience, it asks: Can the wildly successful memoirist (Eat, Pray, Love) translate her formidable writing skills into a great self-help book on the creative process? Early reviews seem to think so. The book demystifies the tricky business of creativity and inspiration with anecdotes and practical advice sure to unlock some magic in all of us.

8 PR Agency Survival Secrets

The stress of day-to-day life at a top PR agency is sometimes exaggerated or even glorified by those of us who make a career in public relations. But like many professional services businesses, it combines the challenges of satisfying clients, bosses, and journalists, often under pressure and against deadlines that seem to accelerate every month.
For the uninitiated, here’s my unofficial list of “secrets” of surviving life in a PR firm.

Get in early.  Banal advice, maybe, but it’s more than just good optics in the agency office environment. Beating the official start of work is particularly useful when your job relates to news, because that news cycle sure isn’t getting any slower.

Don’t expect a 9-to-5 job in PR. By the same token, agency profitability depends on productivity. In theory, an efficient and talented person could ace the job with no overtime required, but that ignores many common facts of PR agency life: after-hours client needs, unanticipated news events, and staff time spent for business development, to name just a few. Anyone expecting regular hours and calm days will be quickly disenchanted.

Overprepare for any client contact.  It’s enormously helpful to prepare for even the simplest client update call or status meeting. Besides, preparation nearly always instills confidence, which leads to better performance.

Be proactive.  Too often young people who know they have a lot to learn hang back and wait to be told what to do. But inexperience doesn’t mean newbies should be passive or reactive. Raise your hand, show curiosity, and make suggestions. Skilled PR professionals need to develop a point of view on questions and issues and make cogent recommendations under time pressure, so daily simulation of that is very helpful.

Respect deadlines. If you can’t deal with deadlines, you shouldn’t be in PR, plain and simple. In an agency, the urgency is heightened because client review and approval time must be built into all materials and recommendations.

“PR” yourself. In any agency, you are serving at least two “clients”: your actual client and your agency manager. In a large and layered environment, it’s wise to treat senior staff like clients – preparing before formal interaction, dotting all the i’s, and anticipating questions. Upward mobility often depends on how you’re perceived within the agency, and that can hinge on aspects of the job that are invisible to clients.

Don’t let them see you sweat. Clients, that is. Early in my career I made the mistake of sharing my concern to a client about a story getting traction, or an event not working well. While managing expectations is essential and honest counsel is a valuable commodity, clients really don’t need to know how the sausage is made. Sharing doubts is counterproductive unless you’ve tried everything and have a Plan B to recommend.

Always be selling. Not overtly, because that’s obnoxious, and hyperbolic promotion of every little PR result can actually undermine your credibility. But in a service business like PR, clients need to be reminded of the value you bring on a regular basis. This often goes beyond earned media placements to include strategic advice, competitive insights, and support for the PR function within the corporation.

3 Groups That Deserve Good PR This Memorial Day

As a consumer and tech PR agency we routinely analyze the calendar to consider the best ways to tell stories that are relevant and compelling, and with Memorial Day around the corner, we find tons of examples. As the date approaches, expect to see and hear stories about remembrances, ceremonies and individual stories of bravery and sacrifice. As a way to honor the holiday, we call out three organizations that deserve some good PR for the work they do year round on behalf of veterans and, in doing so, honor the memories of those who gave their lives while serving our country.

Open Bionics. We’ve seen our share of tech PR clients and think their story is worth noting. One reality of modern warfare is that more people are returning home as amputees. In previous times, options were few, but the convergence of two kinds of innovations — 3D printing and open source development — have the potential to change this entirely. Recently, one Afghanistan veteran became the first wounded soldier to wear a 3D printed bionic hand. An engineer friend began developing the hand using an open source 3D printable robotic hand design, adding his modifications. Open Bionics is the company spawned from the open source effort to design 3D printed prosthetics, and is devoted to making brilliant, affordable products for amputees.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Association (IAVA). Founded in 2004 by Iraq and Afghanistan veterans out of concern for how veterans were being portrayed and treated, the IAVA is devoted to generating positive PR as well as informing government and  the general public about the true circumstances returning veterans face. The organization has done important advocacy on critical issues such as mental health, lapses in VA care, and inadequate care for female veterans. We had the honor of working with the IAVA on behalf of a client whose employee ranks are filled with veterans; not only are they doing important work, but are a pleasure to work with, too.

The Bob Woodruff Foundation.  Memorial Day is about remembering soldiers who did not come home, but for those who do, returning home can be a traumatic, difficult transition. Depression, substance abuse, violence, even suicide are common risks for many who have experienced combat duty. The Bob Woodruff Foundation finds and funds organizations and programs that help veterans not only survive the challenges of re-entry, but thrive in their lives back home. The foundation was born after Bob Woodruff, who in 2006 was ABC’s new anchor, was struck by a roadside bomb while covering the conflict in Iraq. His recovery from a traumatic brain injury that nearly killed him prompted him and his wife to start the foundation, so to us, the Woodruffs epitomize the principle of doing well by doing good.