5 Ways to Be a Good PR Client

Weslie Oeftering
5 Ways to Be a Good PR Client

Here’s the thing: PR professionals are only as good as their clients are willing.

A PR firm and its client are a team that works together. The more a client is unenthusiastic, unresponsive or takes actions that are counterproductive to its own PR goals, the more unlikely it becomes that any PR initiative will be a success.

We can’t help you if you can’t help yourself.

This requires an organization to have good internal communication  – or at least the willingness to get up to par (which happens to be one of many things that a PR pro can help their clients with).

A common example goes like this: the higher-ups at an organization are all on-board with a PR plan (woohoo!). However, they fail to adequately communicate the details of this plan down the totem pole to the appropriate people in the organization, which is where things start to go off track. Since the plan has not been clearly communicated to them, they don’t know how their role in the organization plays into the PR plan, so they aren’t able to help the PR consultant that’s been hired, which ultimately means they won’t be able to help the client – and then the project falls behind.

This situation leaves no one happy. The client is unhappy because they feel like they have wasted their money. The PR team is unhappy because they feel like they have wasted their time.

Once you get to this state of mutual frustration, it’s difficult to come back from it and start fresh. So, here are 5 Rules to make sure that you are your own best team member before hiring a PR professional.

Good PR Client Rule #1: Know Your PR Person

Like I’ve discussed before: PR is not just one thing. Crisis Communications, Social Media and Digital Marketing, Media Relations, Public Affairs, Investor Relations are just some areas of expertise that PR consultants and agencies can have! As such, it’s rare to find a PR team that is truly a master in all of these specialties (and equally rare to be a company that needs all of these) so it’s important to know if the experience they bring to the table is the kind of expertise that your company needs. In other words, do your research and shop around for the right fit before going all-in.

  Good PR Client Rule #2: Know Your Industry

That is, what results are typical for your specific industry? Not only will this help you define goals it also helps you keep your goals realistic. For example, the type and magnitude of growth that a fashion retailer might experience because of PR will likely be entirely different than what an automobile company experiences; clothing and automobiles start at very different price points. While expecting your small chain of boutiques to achieve the same results that a car company did is a little far-fetched, it’s the type of expectation that can be avoided with just a little research into your industry’s history with public relations.

Good PR Client Rule #3: Know Your Company

Who is the best person in your organization to be the point-of-contact for the PR firm? It’s probably not the intern who is just working for school credit or the guy who thought hiring a PR firm was a bad idea in the first place. If the CEO has the time, they’re usually the best person for the job. If they’re already juggling too many projects, they should pass it on to someone with the authority and knowledge to speak for the entire company, and the communication skills to effectively disseminate information to those in the company who need it.

Good PR Client Rule #4: Know What Your Budget Will Pay For

If you are honest with the PR firms you are looking to hire then they should give you an estimate of what everything you may need will cost you. The way PR pricing is structured varies from agency to agency and consultant to consultant, but a base or hourly fee with potential “add-ons” (print or social media marketing, for example) is not uncommon. Making sure you know what your PR firm of choice does and does not consider an add-on is essential to avoid not being able to get all you want at a price your company can afford.

Good PR Client Rule #5: Know When to Participate

A company, especially a new one, is like a toddler with a crayon; you shouldn’t leave it unsupervised unless you want scribbles all over the walls. Even though most PR agencies have the best of intentions, how will they know if they are doing something you do not like unless you’re there to tell them? Obviously, there shouldn’t be a need to breathe down their necks, but when they check in to see if you like where things are headed, be sure to answer your emails, pick up the phone and show up to meetings. Not sure how to get involved? Just ask! PR pros love to communicate, and giving and receiving feedback is a huge part of that. Any good PR pro should be eager to hear what their clients have to say.

In PR, there’s no such thing as an “easy A” on a project. Your attendance and participation are all part of the grade that both the PR firm and you will receive together – so come prepared!

About Weslie Oeftering: Weslie is a student at The University of Texas at Austin and Swyft’s resident PR and marketing intern. She supports clients with social media, blogging, and tech PR activities. Swyft is a tech PR agency in Austin with offices in Denver, Houston and Antwerp that provides PR services and trade show PR support for tech companies around the world. Some of their services include media relations, content and inbound marketing, CPC campaigns, and marketing automation consulting.

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