I recently did a new business pitch to a very successful company that was looking to expand its profile in the U.S. The RFP was well written, clearly outlining scope of work, objectives and budget. The company already had experience working with an agency and PR consultants.
From an agency practitioner’s viewpoint, all the signs were there that the company had a good grasp and appreciation of the value of public relations and how it can contribute to a business’s success.
Then came the pitch. About 15 minutes into our presentation, red flags started going up everywhere —there was a disconnect among the senior management team about what success looked like.
Strategic recommendations, based on our team’s past experience with similar clients, were quickly shot down, with multiple reasons why they would not work. And, finally, they made clear that senior management was rarely available, even if an interview was secured for a key media outlet.
In a nutshell, they wanted our team to provide stellar PR results with very little, if any, involvement, on their end.
I finally turned to the CEO and asked the very pointed question: Why do you want PR? I politely explained that PR is a two-way partnership. We respect and understand that executives have very busy schedules, and we work efficiently and smartly to not waste their time. However, as an agency, we cannot work in a vacuum; we need leadership’s input. To be successful, our team needs access to an organization’s executive team, along with newsworthy information to garner attention about the company.
Needless to say, we did not win the business, and that was okay. Had we been awarded the work, I am quite certain we would have been set up for failure.
But to be clear, the executives of this company are highly intelligent business people. The company has been wildly successful in the relatively short time it has been in existence, and I am confident that trajectory of success will continue …. for a while.
At some point, however, every organization needs PR, whether it’s an in-house person or team, an agency, or a combination of both. Some businesses come to that realization sooner rather than later.
PR isn’t simply about developing a pretty website or a new logo, writing social media posts, or securing a front-page story in the Wall Street Journal. Those are merely tactics to an end. Effective PR is about creating and sustaining ongoing, strategic communications with your key audiences, who may range from internal employees to key stakeholders, politicians, and the media.
Sooner or later, regardless of how successful an organization is, it is going to need PR. Sales are going to slump, a new competitor will emerge out of nowhere, a scandal will erupt.
Smart, forward-looking executives understand the real value PR brings to the table – reputation management, protecting the brand. How do you put a price on that? Then ask yourself, can I really afford not to invest in PR?
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