Here we go again: 5 reasons hiring a good PR firm is smart business

Here we go again: 5 reasons hiring a good PR firm is smart business
May 10, 2013 11:34 AM
Patrick Ward

I feel like I have this same argument at least twice a year when a disgruntled entrepreneur lambastes PR agencies. And I am invariably bemused when I dig deeper only to find the complainer has poured a bunch of negative experiences into a collective bucket and thrown the PR industry baby out with his or her personal bathwater.

So, following Kevin Leu’s recent post on “5 reasons you’ll regret hiring a PR firm for your startup,” here I go again, but this time I’ll mirror his points with my own five reasons you won’t regret hiring a good PR firm for your startup.

1. They will keep your story honest

I have always been a PR agency guy and have been working deeply with startups for almost my whole career — starting with companies like Sun and Autodesk in the late 1980s through launching Digital Chocolate and Webroot 10 years ago to companies like Evolv today. I have never met a CEO or founder who thought his or her product was anything but newsworthy.

Good PR agencies temper that enthusiasm and ingest some realism. No one wants to hear their company isn’t newsworthy, but some companies just aren’t. Good PR agencies keep it real and really good ones find other creative ways to communicate the company’s brand value. Bad PR people feed egos and apologize later — that serve’s no one’s interest. You want unfettered praise about your product or your company, it’s Mother’s Day on Sunday, ask her. The more sober and honest you are about your story and your media goals, the more strategic you can be.

By the way, anyone who thinks a press release is anything more than search engine fodder isn’t paying attention. Releases have value, but no reporter worth his or her salt gleans stories from press releases. Press releases are for your web site and other, let us call them, receptive audiences (again Mother’s Day is Sunday). You want to tell a story? Write three good lines in an email to a reporter whom you know covers your company or industry. If you can’t hook them in three lines, you’ll never hook them. And if you don’t know who to send the email to, well then let’s move on to Point #2.

2. Their past experience means they know the right reporters and outlets

I have worked with Pulitzer Prize winners. I’ve worked with arrogant sloths. Some of my best friends are reporters. I’ve hung around them since my days drinking with the staff of Electronic News in 1986. That means my experiences color, influence, and inform every client engagement I take. My past successes don’t mean I can always make a future client successful, but they do mean I have access. If the story is good, it will get a hearing — and that’s a valuable thing in this competitive world. If it’s bad or even mediocre, all the contacts in the world won’t help. But if the story is good, then they can help immensely (see Point #1).

3. They may not know everything, but just might know more than you

There is something in the coffee at many PR agencies that makes junior and mid-level staff think they know much more than they sometimes do — but I’ll take a confident staffer over a tentative one any day. And remember one thing: they do this everyday, all day. So when an entrepreneur is dealing with QA or buying Aeron chairs, or in a board meeting, your PR agency is doing PR. So when they say it’s uncool to send a gift to a reporter after a story has hit, don’t send it. When they say is TA-reese, not TA-rez-A, listen to them. And when they say that your enterprise software story won’t work in TIME Magazine, they’re right. Oh, and don’t always assume they don’t understand sometimes arcane technology — like what a software abstraction layer is. Sure, some PR people are, shall we say, over-extended, but others are brilliant. Again: babies and bath water.

4. They’re thinking beyond publicity

The more brilliant ones are starting to think beyond publicity. Clients complain about inflated clip reports because that’s the only measure some smaller-minded clients can think of. Here’s a fun fact: According to a Pew study a few years ago (and it’s absolutely trending this way even more now), about 10 companies represent more than 40 percent of all tech press coverage. You know which companies they are; there in the press every day.

So guess what, your media chances just got sliced almost in half. Moral of the story: you had better find another way to communicate with your audiences. The good PR agencies are doing just that. But if a client insists on making buggy whips, well guess what, we’re going to show them how many horses there are on the street. And I can guarantee you, the most carefully crafted ideas — at this time when communications are undergoing such rapid change – are not going to come from the PR manager at your new startup.

5. They’re a better value than an internal employee

That brings me to my final point. Anyone who thinks a PR manager can do the work of a PR agency is either cheap, has never had a good PR firm, doesn’t really care, or some combination of all of the above. And don’t give me some financial analysis that shows an internal hire is cheaper. If that were true, you’d have formidable accounting and law departments at every company in the US and fewer accounting and law firms. And the fallacy that a $100,000 PR contract is better spent on one or two employees is especially ill-conceived. With payroll taxes and benefits, any employee actually costs about 20 percent more than a service contract.

But, here’s the real kicker: When you hire an employee, you only get that individual’s personal experience. When you hire an agency, you get the whole team’s perspective and background.

Finally, what do you think happens to that PR manager after six months? He or she realizes that the growth path inside the company is outside PR and he or she starts to attend a bunch of meetings to demonstrate their other skills and assess where they might contribute to the organization in a larger, more lucrative role. Then, they turn to you and say, “You know, with all the other stuff I’m doing beyond PR, I’m really not getting to my core function and I think we should consider hiring an agency.”

There are business reasons to hire or not hire a PR firm. Many reasons are valid. But to dismiss any option categorically or to blithely substitute one’s own poor experiences as a reflection on an industry is questionable advice.

Read more at http://venturebeat.com/2013/05/10/5-reasons-why-hiring-a-good-pr-firm-is-smart-business/#BZFJhRIT5kfE84CL.99

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The Hidden Benefits of Social Media Marketing: Why Your Strategy May Be Working Better Than You Think

Stephanie Chandler, Contributor

Most businesses venture into social media expecting to see a big return on investment. The hope is that new customers will come in droves, and that the benefits and revenue generation will be huge. However, this is rarely the case. It takes time to build momentum with social media, and the benefits aren’t always as obvious as we would like.

If you’re feeling a bit skeptical about social media marketing and whether or not it’s worth the effort, following are some reasons why it may be working better than you realize.

1. Brand Recognition – One of the most powerful ways to use social media is as a brand-building tool. With social media, you get to decide how you want to position your company and what you want people to know about what you do. With consistent effort and great content, you can build a reputation for your brand around your company’s values, benefits, and advantages.

2. Community – There is nothing like social media when it comes to cultivating a community. When your followers become part of your community, you gain instant access to them. That means you can find out what challenges they are facing and what they like and don’t like about your offerings. You can engage in ongoing dialog that can be more valuable than any kind of paid market research.

3. Repeat Exposure – There is an old marketing adage that says it takes six to eight exposures to a product before a customer decides to buy. A clear benefit of social media is repeat exposure with your network. You have the opportunity to remind them over and over again about what you have to offer, which can shorten your sales cycles dramatically.

4. Authority – For coaches, consultants, authors, speakers, and other service-based businesses, social media can be very powerful in helping you establish authority in your field—making you the go-to resource for your target audience to seek out for help. Share great content, answer questions, and serve your audience, and you will inevitably build loyal fans.

5. Influence – As your following increases, your influence grows. Having a substantial social media audience creates a snowball effect that can attract new customers, media interviews, joint venture partnerships, and all kinds of other opportunities. It’s a bit like when you see a crowd hovered around something. You can’t help but want to see what all the fuss is about, so a large audience will only attract more interest.

6. Website Traffic – Many people don’t realize that social media can be a leading traffic generator. When you share blog posts, videos and other content from your website, you give your audience a reason to click through and visit your site. Once there, you have the opportunity to inspire those visitors to take action by inviting them to sign up for your mailing list, make a purchase, or call to schedule a free consultation. Install traffic monitoring service, such as Google Analytics, and if you are committed to your social media efforts, you will clearly see that social media brings traffic. Also, make sure that your visitors receive a clear call to action when they visit your site so that you can convert that extra traffic into business opportunities.

7. Ahead of the Curve – Whether you realize it or not, your prospects and clients are checking to see if you are engaging in social media. I always find it a bit odd when I’m investigating a potential service provider online and I can’t locate a social media presence or worse, I find Facebook pages that haven’t been updated in months, empty Twitter feeds, and a clear lack of interest in engaging. Social media isn’t a fad and it’s not going away. Even if it’s not your top priority, if you stay current with activity, your prospects will notice.

8. Mindshare with Lurkers – There may be days when you wonder if anyone is paying attention to your social media networks. But if your efforts are consistent, I guarantee that more people are paying attention than you realize. Give it time and you’ll start to understand what’s happening behind the anonymity of the internet. You will eventually hear from people who say, “I’ve been following you on Twitter for ages. I love your posts!”

9. Competitive Advantage – The reality is that most of your competitors aren’t likely doing a very good job with social media (most companies aren’t), which gives you the chance to stand out. Also consider the flip side. If you avoid social media, you leave a big opening that allows your competitors to capture your audience.

10. Big Wins – While many businesses large and small are trying to justify the cost and time investment for managing social media marketing, an important benefit often gets overlooked: Big Wins. For example, if someone from LinkedIn connects you with a significant government contract, then that would certainly qualify as a Big Win. If a major media outlet finds you on Twitter and interviews you for a national article, then that is also a Big Win—one that you can’t measure based on revenues directly generated.

Big Wins don’t happen often, but when they do, they make it all worthwhile. It’s easy to forget results like these six months down the road you’re trying to assess whether your social media efforts are paying off. But that one contract you landed could cover your social media marketing costs for years. And that major media interview could lead to subsequent interviews and a line item on your resume that impresses a corporate sponsor three years from now. Never forget to factor in the Big Wins in social media.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2013/03/12/the-hidden-benefits-of-social-media-marketing-why-your-strategy-may-be-working-better-than-you-think/

12 things to expect from a PR firm

By Beth Monaghan | Posted: January 25, 2013
How should I choose a PR firm?

Each time someone asks me this, dozens of answers flutter to the forefront of my mind, but I always choose two fairly tangible criteria: fit and experience.

On the surface, it can be easy for all agencies to sound similar, which makes fit and experience crucial. You need an agency that understands your audience and your market, and the reporters you need to reach. Fit is equally important. You’ll be working closely with the PR agency every single day (and many evenings), so you’ll need to be able to work well with the assigned account team.

However, fit and experience alone will not make your agency successful on your behalf. Here are some important qualities you should expect form an agency that is committed to your success. You need an agency that:

1. Owns the process. You want an agency that will never say, “Well, we sent you the guidelines for the Forbes contributed article three months ago and never heard back.” Your agency should be a professional nagger—they should never let you be the reason for a missed deadline.

2. Pushes back. You are hiring a PR firm for its expertise, so find one that provides firm recommendations. If your account team is constantly nodding their heads and yessing you, there is a problem. The success of your PR program requires a team leader who can adamantly say no in the face of tough scrutiny when something just won’t work.

3. Knows when to give in. There are times when other company goals, such as sales campaigns, take priority over PR (for example, when a sales team is under the gun to meet quarterly goals and needs to push out a direct email campaign in advance of the press release). Your PR firm should tell you the optimal plan for getting great media coverage, but should also accept it when PR is not at the top of the list.

4. Makes it happen. Only clients should have the luxury of asking big questions without offering solutions, such as, “How can we maximize our attendance at an upcoming trade show?” Good PR firms know that the right response is a list of viable options, not more questions.

5. Surprises you with unexpected and creative ideas. Your PR firm should march to the beat of the PR plan, but they should also bring you unexpected and creative ideas. This demonstrates that they are paying active attention. Only intellectually hungry people will tie the right pieces together to make you relevant in a way that matters to the press.

6. Owns mistakes. If your agency needs to be right all of the time, it’s a problem. You need an agency that abides by the rules of crisis PR (even when the crisis is a very small one): tell it all, truthfully, and tell it now. This takes confidence and humility, but it is the sign of a great communicator.

7. Hustles. Look for an agency that is pushing you, not the other way around.

8. Writes well. Content marketing has changed PR forever. Adequate press release writing skills are no longer enough. You need an agency that can sift through mountains of information, zero in on the interesting angle, and ghost author an article for your spokesperson. Ask for samples, and look at the agency’s blog.

9. Listens intently. PR people are renowned great talkers. We need to be. However, we need to know how to listen, too. You need a PR agency full of the kind of analytical and open minds that can scan the conversation for points of interest, drive the discussion toward them and relate them to your broader industry.

10. Empathizes. You need a PR agency team that can imagine what it’s like to be you. What pressures do you face internally, from your board, from competitors, others? Is PR central to your role or tangential? Coincidentally, this skill also makes PR people great at media relations—we must imagine what it’s like to be each reporter if we have a prayer of selling a story.

11. Navigates options and contingencies like an attorney. There are many decisions we must make along the winding route between the pitch and the placement. You need an agency that understands the media landscape—which outlets (and journalists) compete, which reporters require exclusives, which ones care about embargoes, and which angles will compel coverage.

Sifting through these and responding appropriately when an embargo is broken or an exclusive falls through tests the skills of the best PR professionals, so make sure you have a team that can bend gracefully when a critical relationship is at stake, and hold firm when your company goals require it.

12. Thick skin. PR people sit in the middle of two constituents whose goals are not always aligned: the media and our clients. Finding the common ground that creates successful outcomes for both requires an ability to handle discord well.

Anything you would add?

Of course, success is a two-way street. Stay tuned for my next post on what clients should bring to the relationship for success.

10 happiest cities for PR and marketing pros

By Michael Sebastian | Posted: January 30, 2013

recent report named Dayton, Ohio, the home of the nation’s happiest workers.

What about the city that’s home to the happiest PR and marketing professionals?

That honor goes to Phoenix.

According to a study released today by The American Marketing Association (AMA) and staffing agency Aquent, the Arizona capital is home to the most satisfied people working in the marketing industry, which includes PR professionals. The authors of the study were unable to disclose the exact number of PR professionals surveyed.

“When it comes to a career in marketing, the location and the field you choose can have an immense impact on your future satisfaction and salary,” Ann Webster, president of Aquent, said in apress release.

For its annual survey, Arquent and the AMA asked 2,600 marketing professionals about their salaries and jobs. The respondents included people who identified themselves as working in public relations. Incidentally, people working in public relations were the most satisfied of all those surveyed.

The 10 cities with the most-satisfied workers in the industry are:

1. Phoenix
2. Indianapolis
3. Houston
4. St. Louis
5. Detroit
6. Charlotte, N.C.
7. Boston
8. San Jose, Calif.
9. Chicago
10. Austin, Texas

http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/13695.aspx#

By Carrie Peterson | Posted: October 24, 2012
Social media is the new public relations of the marketing industry. Newbies think it’s the “exciting” marketing discipline. It is a great field, but it’s more than tweeting around the clock.Saying you want to work in social media, so you can play on Facebook all day is like saying you want to work in PR because you like people. Good for you, but that’s just not what we do.

These are the requisite traits for success in social media. It’s not as easy as it looks. You must be:

1. Nimble

Social media is the fastest-changing industry ever. You have to religiously monitor the environment and adapt quickly to change.

2. Educated

You have to be committed to reading constantly about social media and measurement, and searching aggressively for the latest trends and best practices.

3. Dedicated

There is little to no off time in social media. It happens 24×7, so you have to be ready to respond at any time. If someone posts something negative on your Twitter stream and you don’t respond for 24 hours, good luck finding another job in social media.

4. Clever

Social media enthusiasts are quick and clever. You need to be, too, or you will come off looking like your grandma or, worse, like a corporate mouthpiece.

5. Strategic

Social media doesn’t exist in a universe by itself. It’s part of a larger, strategic marketing mix. You must see and understand the overall goals, strategies, and objectives before you can implement social media tactics.

6. Meticulously organized

You have to write, post, monitor, respond and measure for countless social media channels. You have to be organized, but not such a perfectionist that you can’t move quickly, and it’s so important to have great monitoring systems in place.

7. Playful 

Some of the most successful social media folks are funny, lighthearted and don’t takes themselves too seriously. Hello, “NOT COOL, COOKIE!”

8. Analytical

Yep, that’s right. We don’t just sit around and tweet all day. We have to measure our results just like anyone else. Having science and math skills is a big plus.

9. Well-rounded

Though it’s important to be an expert in this category, it’s not good to be too focused on one skill. To truly be a valuable contributor, you need to understand the big picture of marketing.

10. Social

Yeah, that’s right, I said it: You need to be social to work in social media. Get out from behind the computer and have a few face-to-face conversations. Enjoy the life that you’re posting about.

Do you have another trait that you’d add to this list?

 

http://www.prdaily.com/socialmedia/Articles/13002.aspx

The fourth quarter of 2012 is nearly upon us, which means pundits, blogs, news sites, and more will soon ruminate on what it all meant.
Before the navel gazing begins, we can tell you that this is the year social media fully embraced the image.Meanwhile, Facebook also continued its social networking dominance (despite its nose dive on Wall Street).

And social media continues to benefit companies that use it as part an integrated marketing campaign.

All of that and more is represented in this snapshot of social media statistics from 2012 (curiously absent is mention of Pinterest):