So you've hired a public relations team to help your company with messaging. That can be a great step forward for a lot of startups. As the founder of two companies, I know the importance of having top-notch PR to keep your brand in the conversation. Unfortunately, a lot of entrepreneurs just don't understand what public relations professionals actually do.
To find out how to be a better client for PR professionals I talked to GG Benitez, CEO of GG Benitez & Associates Public Relations. According to Benitez, one big problem is that many clients confuse public relations with advertising. In advertising, you control the messaging of your product all the way down the line. This is not the case when it comes to public relations.
"With public relations, you depend on an editor, writers, and producers' points of view," Benitez says. "[PR professionals] can't control the final messaging. We can only control the messaging we provide and be there to answer any and all questions. We're there to plant the seed, but what grows is ultimately up to the media."
With those subtle differences understood, let's take a look at some the things I learned from Benitez that no PR professional wants to hear from clients:
"I want to be in The New York Times tomorrow!"
If you're just starting a public relations campaign, don't expect to end up on the front page of the Times--or any major news outlet--by Friday. Media campaigns take time and you need to be aware of publication cycles.
"It's great to aim high, but don't expect to see your company's name up in lights overnight," says Benitez.
"Katy Perry just Instagrammed a picture of our product--let's use it everywhere."
Not so fast. Before you go off like a "Firework" and plaster the image everywhere, remember that there are copyright issues and laws governing use of images, with each situation being unique.
Your PR team can guide you on appropriate uses and help with obtaining photo rights and permissions if necessary, but it's important to understand they can't immediately take a celebrity Instagram picture and make it part of your new slogan.
"I talked to a reporter but I wasn't included in the story. You did something wrong."
It could be because the reporter was working under a tight deadline and you didn't turn around from your end fast enough. Or maybe it just wasn't a good fit.
"Keep this in mind though: The reporter has now taken the time to educate themselves on your company or product," Benitez says. "You've now greatly improved the odds of being included in your publication of choice in the future."
"Since we have a public relations team, obviously placements are guaranteed."
Just like you can't get into The New York Times overnight, there are no guarantees in public relations when it comes to placements. Sometimes your story will make it into 80 publications, sometimes it'll only be eight.
Keep in mind, with every campaign your team is developing valuable contacts in the media and raising the awareness of your story or product. This can lead to great placements down the line, but PR companies can't promise you the moon.
"We just got a great media placement; now we'll see the sales roll in."
Hold off on buying that BMW, even if your product was just featured on the Today Show. Not every placement will equal a dramatic uptick in sales.
Sometimes, the value in placements doesn't come with the ring of a cash register, but with the building of brand awareness and authority. All of these things add up to a more profitable and powerful company, but not every successful placement will equal an economic windfall.
"I just hired a PR team, so I should see results in about 30 days."
Not quite. There's no set timeline on public relations results. If a PR firm promises you dramatic results at the end of the month, they're not being honest.
"PR is a long game where relationships and brand awareness build over time," Benitez says.
It also depends on media news cycles and what sparks in the culture at large. One day your bedazzled hat business is trudging along, and the next Justin Bieber gets arrested in one and suddenly you're on Entertainment Tonight. You never know what the future could bring, and no PR pro can promise you a timeline on success.
"I'll get back to you as soon as I can..."
Well, you might be missing out on a great opportunity. The news cycle moves fast, and if you're not willing to help out, there's only so much PR pros can do.
Reporters and editors are on deadline, but so are you when it comes to the timeliness of your piece. Also, when you actually get those placements, it's important to have a plan in place to share great news immediately.
Public relations is a valuable tool in any company's toolbox. It's important, however, to have realistic expectations about what public relations is and what it can do for your company.
What are some of the craziest client requests you've gotten? What are some phrases that drive you nuts? Share in the comments!