PR is a grey and blurry industry whose outcomes are never certain. Because of its inherent nature, transparency and the management of expectations are essential components in the PR professional’s armory if they are to maintain good client relations.
In my experience, PR is often maligned by those not in the know as being a profession where simply smiling and adopting the attitude of ‘fake it till we make it’ are the only attributes needed. Having worked in the industry for a number of years, I know that PR is, in fact, a trade that requires openness and honesty if success is to be achieved.
As a profession that relies heavily on editorial submissions, with no guarantee of their publication, a PR expert can never offer cast-iron assurances to their client that their brand, product or service, will be highlighted as they hope and – in many cases – fully expect.
Typically, the press release process involves client news or an announcement as the basis of the editorial submission. The release is then drafted and shared with the client for approval. Upon its successful sign-off, the release is dispatched to the press. The PR professional then undertakes what is known as a ‘sell-in,’ which is a follow-up call to the publishing house to ensure they have received it and to pitch its qualities as an item worthy of seeing the light of day.
This is where things gets tricky. The sell-in does not guarantee the publishing of the client’s news. This is because the media carefully select the content they wish to publish, depending on their editorial themes at any given point.
Now a smart PR will know how to manage a client’s coverage expectations. A good PR story is not promotional in nature but instead offers factual information that would be of interest to the media and the general public. Examples could be a company’s CSR initiatives, new services offered, new launches or its financial results. If an organisation wishes to dispatch information to the public that is not factual but relies heavily on biased promotional material, then they should focus their efforts on advertorials and advertising, which is paid for and guaranteed to appear in print.
Clients are often confused between how PR and advertising differs. Considering that both industries fall under the realm of industry communications, it is easy to see how such confusion can occur in those who are not au fait with the business of PR.
If a client wishes to convey promotional information via the medium of PR, they will not succeed. A savvy PR pro will notify the client in advance and offer other alternate suggestions, with advertorials being a good example.
For a PR professional to truly succeed in their career, it is vital that they are transparent with their clients. They need to manage expectations by informing them of what is feasible to leverage from a PR perspective. By being clear with a client from the get go, expectations can be managed and alignment between desire and reality achieved.
Ultimately, the bottom line is that transparency and honesty are the PR pro’s best friends in an industry characterised by ambiguous uncertainty.