A few weeks ago, a woman looking for a PR agency gave me a call. She was so impressed by our website that she grabbed the phone immediately. She indicated that she worked in an extremely specialized industry and that she needed immediate help with PR, in positioning both herself and her company.
She told me that her current agency had left her out to dry, completely alone with her projects. I didn’t even have to ask her why she got rid of them. She shot the reasons out like a pistol, intent on getting it off her chest! Wow, believe me. All I can say is what happened really doesn’t speak well for the PR industry.
We talked on the phone for a long time. She asked me for advice, wanting to know how certain processes could be improved, what works, what doesn’t, and much more. Because I answered her questions openly and honestly, gave suggestions, and was able to drop what I was doing and spontaneously spend so much time with her, she was impressed. She had tried two previous agencies with no luck; they either didn’t listen to her at all or encouraged her to call back later. Excuse me?! That is completely unacceptable. Or, are some agencies so successful they can turn away clients?
After our hour-long talk she had a good feeling that we would be a good fit for each other, which of course made me very happy. But I was still uneasy; I was still waiting for the question of all questions, the one in every conversation like this. When courting potential new clients, this is the question that often takes the wind out of your sails and nips every hope in the bud. But, it didn’t come. Okay, I thought, I’ll go ahead and mention it before throwing together a mile-long PowerPoint presentation full of ideas and calculated costs, only to once again not make the cut after all that work. I said, „I can also imagine this working quite well – as long as it’s doesn’t bother you that we have no prior experience in your industry.“
„No, not at all. It wouldn’t matter if you told me you did PR for pink rabbits or even some software components,“ she answered promptly. The most important thing for me is that you are in command of your craft and present yourself as a professional. I would only assume that you could learn about my area of work; otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to do your job at all.
Wow! What a strong statement! I was really surprised. Finally, somebody said it out loud – exactly what our job is all about. What good is knowledge in one industry or another, when I don’t know how to start a conversation with journalists, bloggers, and multipliers? The same goes for so-called „media contacts“. What good are contacts from the editorial office, when my clients’ stories aren’t even interesting enough for the medium in question? The art of PR, as well as what a PR agency can achieve, is much more about diving into complex issues, recognizing trends, and preparing content designed to open doors to editorial offices.
What do I mean by that? Those seeking an agency should not let themselves be dazzled by name-droppers when making the final choice. The legitimacy of an agency’s industry know-how or contacts should be proven by their daily business – this is where time is money. Much more emphasis needs to be placed on a PR firm’s body of work as well as their consulting competency. Not everything in PR is rosy, and therefore, not everything can be fully realized. Don’t be afraid of speaking the truth in an initial meeting! Mindless enthusiasm from the side of the PR agency will get a company nowhere. Realistic and straight-forward evaluations are the hallmark of good PR consulting. And when the chemistry is good, on top of everything, that’s the way it should be.
By the way, we immediately met four days after that call. Two weeks later, the contract was signed. Trust in our abilities paid off for our new client: With our PR, we are extremely successful in a market once new to us.
Author: Andrea Melzer