Public Relations is one industry where you cannot guarantee the outcome of your efforts. Despite your greatest attempts to ensure deadlines are met and that the content shared with publishing teams is exciting and relevant, at the end of the day, the PR professional has no control over the outcome of coverage or results generated because they are dependent on a third party – the media.
The challenge for every PR professional is to ensure that they do not over promise or under deliver. Regardless of their industry, clients want to be visible across every media platform and outlet, even if they do not have content that is particularly newsworthy or relevant for all. Marketing managers can be somewhat myopic in their view that their product or service is the best thing ever and should therefore be seen across all channels. We can’t blame them – their job is to believe totally in their company.
Creating an environment where there are no unrealistic expectations from the client is something that can be achieved by fostering a mutual understanding between both parties. Misunderstandings or confusions can be avoided with clear communication, with direct talks and transparent briefs essential components. Regular face-to-face meetings are an integral part of the process at every stage of the relationship. To ensure that the PR professional can meet the agreed deliverables, there needs to be clear written instructions from the client, as these mitigate against misinterpretations that can arise from purely verbal interactions. Needless to say, both parties should be fully aware of the terms and conditions of the contract.
I still find it astonishing that so many clients are confused over the distinction between PR and advertising. Innumerable marketing representatives I have come across in my PR career so far assume that editorial coverage is guaranteed… the question I always get asked is: “so when and where are you publishing the press release?” They do not seem to understand that PR is not directly paid for but earned and that there is no guarantee in what an editor chooses to feature. It is a constant battle to make the client aware that while the PR professional can generate content and pitch on their behalf, what happens next is not up to the agency but the respective media channels.
Various research studies have found that the main reason clients terminate agency partnerships is because their needs have outgrown the agency’s ability to deliver. Meanwhile, agencies perceive and assert that the reason they get the axe is due to a change in client management. Ultimately, it all comes down to perception and expectations. Transparent communications between the client and agency is the only way to ensure that both parties are on the same page.