If you're anything like me, the decision to hire a PR agency didn't come lightly. Countless hours were spent researching the perfect match for your business. Of course, you wanted the best PR company your budget allowed. You've tirelessly gone over testimonials, customer experiences, and media placements to vet them out.
Sure, some media placements are impressive, but, when every word counts, it's important not to overlook the details.
Here are a few mistakes PR professionals might be making and how your business could be negatively affected.
1. They're grammar is poor
(See what I did there?)
In all seriousness, grammar is the crux of basic communication. It must be correct. Having poor grammar can make you look less educated and can lead to credibility concerns, too. After all, these folks are in charge of making your brand shine, and their actions become an extension of your brand.
Before heeding your workload to a PR professional, review these items.
- Emails. Are they carefully crafted and to the point? Do they elicit a response? They should compel you to take action and be worded correctly. In many circumstances, an email is the first line of communication with a media professional.
- Their website. You've probably pored over their accolades and media placements but take a careful look at how they sell themselves. Does their website have good copy? Is it free of grammar errors? If so, their attention to detail is strong, and that will likely be conveyed with your branding, too.
- Their social media accounts. Tweeting the wrong word can cause a lot of speculation as the NBC-owned @BreakingNews Twitter account quickly found out. There's a big difference between "personal" and "personnel," and your PR firm should know the difference.
- Their own thought leadership. Simply put, PR professionals help people like me place thought-leadership articles like this one. And when not promoting thought leadership written by their clients, they're promoting their own. Content should be well-written, error-free, and likely contain a unique perspective or angle. That tells you the PR agency knows how to construct a better story and can offer constructive feedback on your thought leadership.
If you find their written communications are well-crafted, thought out, and grammatically correct, there's a pretty strong chance they'll treat your brand with the same respect. Seek these PR professionals out. They're more likely to be articulate and less haphazard with your brand's PR.
2. They badmouth other agencies
Competitive spirit is one thing. Flat out bashing your competitor is another.
PR professionals often have to walk a fine line, differentiating why their clients' product or service is far superior to a competitor. Sometimes, they even need to be the educator to their clients, explaining to them how to handle a situation without losing their cool. This can be done with tact, of course, but for some, their boasting nature gets the best of them.
Getting involved in bashing the competition is self-fulfilling and rarely leads to long term gain. By example, PR professionals should be humbly boastful.
PR professionals need to express why they're the clear choice but should do so without bashing their competitors' business. Why? Well, for starters, you never know when someone is watching the comments made and making silent notes about the level of professionalism at an agency. Plus, a lack of tact could reflect poorly on a client, especially on social media exchanges.
And, of course, the PR world is really quite small. You never know when you'll be seated across the boardroom table interviewing for a position at a competitor's firm. You'd probably be pretty uncomfortable when the interviewer has that "ah-ha" moment and recalls your name from a smear campaign against his firm on Twitter.
3. They talk too much and listen too little
"If you make listening and observation your occupation, you will gain much more than you can by talk," said Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts of America.
Businesses hiring a PR professional likely have one or more needs, including:
- Getting their name out
- Doing damage control
- Reaching internal employee capacity
No matter what the circumstance, PR professionals are hired to help with positive press relationships and garner attention to a client's products or services. Though talking is important, sometimes so much more can be learned by sitting back and listening.
For instance, your client might state that it needs more thought-leadership placements but also laments about being short-staffed. A PR professional who likes to talk too much might miss a valuable opportunity that falls within the scope of his or her services: offering to ghostwrite a piece on the client's behalf.
Conversely, truly listening to reporters and the media about their needs can help PR professionals place pieces faster. Ask questions about the media platform's needs and what angles it would find truly valuable. More often than not, the media personnel will scratch your back if you scratch theirs. PR professionals can tighten the relationship with key media personnel, resulting in stronger rooted pitches from the client and placement of unique content that the media has struggled to get.
4. They have poor communication skills
Not only is it important that PR professionals communicate effectively to the media on your behalf, it's equally important that they communicate to their clients, too.
Clients want to be kept up to date on the status of their thought leadership, media placements, and brand awareness from the PR professional's perspective. Meetings should occur with the client's primary point of contact at the PR agency weekly (at minimum). If the client is not getting timely updates or is consistently pawned off on someone other than the primary point of contact, the client may question dedication to the account.
Also, if the PR professional can't communicate without being rude, superior, or condescending, your client is going to burn a bridge with you and probably already has with the media. Look at it this way... Would you want to do business with someone who doesn't communicate well? Probably not.
If you're still researching PR professionals, or you already have an agency, take note of these suggestions. It's not too late to take a step back, assess what needs to change, and re-engage with other PR agencies. In the end, it's the positioning and stature of your brand that matters most.