Happy new year! Well, almost. Everyone's making New Years resolutions in business, even if there're far more useful things you can be doing. Public relations people may be used to abject failure at scale, whether they're in-house or agency, and I think that anyone, be they in the industry or just hiring a PR agency, can take the following tips into the new year to heart and do some great work.
Understand Your Failings And Appreciate Your Successes
It's very easy once things get cold, contracts don't get signed because they want to start in the new year, or business churns to start getting bogged down in the negative. Darker weather brings darker thoughts, and I'd advise you to as objectively as possible evaluate what you did well, and where you stumbled. As a PR firm, this means not looking at whether a client left or stayed, but what coverage you got (or didn't get), why you did or didn't get something, and what you can actually learn. This may mean the painful re-evaluation of your team, or admitting that one pitch you had that you thought was genius was just not the right way to do things.
As a company with a PR firm (or internal team), take a look at 2018 as an opportunity to improve on everything you're doing - and if your agency's really not doing things well, be honest with them and give them a specific time with specific metrics to improve by. Which reminds me...
Get (More) Data Driven
The reason that many PR people don't like me is that I continually push for better coverage, targeting and not simply cold-calling and spamming 100 people. So, when evaluating your PR efforts going forward (or your efforts in 2017), it's a great idea to sit down and say "who got the most coverage? What drove the most traffic?" I'd also advise giving things a score based on what the goal was - if it's an article somewhere that is meant to focus on building up the company you're representing, traffic isn't as important as sentiment. It may be worth giving a grade (or score) to traffic and sentiment - or a score based on both. Don't obsess over this, but really do look at the literal numbers of the year. Many clients an agency have will think "things aren't as good as last year," but when faced with the actual numbers will be able to say "oh, that's not true."
Get Realistic In 2018
When you're pitching a reporter, you can get swept up in the idea that your story is the most beautiful sonnet in the world, agreeing with the client 120% that they're the smartest person alive. I want you to take a step back - even if you do believe that, does the reporter? How can you explain in objective terms that that's the case? Any pitch, any marketing collateral - any thing you send to anyone should be based on as many hard facts and objective details as possible. Is something the best? Spell it out in numbers or actions.
Conversely, this comes into your new business efforts to. If you're told by someone they expect the New York Times or TechCrunch and their product simply isn't ready, you shouldn't promise the world. And if they're 100% sure they're going to get it despite what you say, you may even want to not work with them. It may hurt at the time to not take on immediate revenue, but the result will be avoiding a deeply painful and uncomfortable conversation when you've missed their expectations. This is a painful drug to quit, especially in the rougher times in your PR life. But it's worth the payoff.
Spend December Making Relationships (and Learning)
Reporters in the next two months will be beset with CES pitches and annoying spam. Want to rise above them? Ask them out for a coffee or dinner, and don't have an agenda. Get to know them, ask them interesting questions, find out about them and what they want. Furthermore, spend any downtime you have doing extra reading, perhaps of websites you're not particularly used to, or on subjects you're not familiar with. Learn about the blockchain perhaps, or even the reporters covering it for potential future opportunities. Catch up with contacts you're even close with - spread some cheer. It's worth the time right now to be that non-aggressive, amicable PR person. Many reporters are over-taxed toward the end of the year. Be good to them all year round, but especially right now.