The old days for a PR firm consisted of the daily grind to achieve media coverage in any form, not really understanding how or why it would move the needle for their client. Sometimes this directive came from the client itself, everyone scrambling for exposure without knowing why.
Public relations meant press release writing, drafting a vanilla statement when things went bad, and distributing boilerplate pitches to reporters that more or less reiterated what your website says. “We are innovative,” “we are groundbreaking,” “we are first-of-our-kind,” and “we anticipate tremendous growth” and last but not least, “we are making a difference for the future!”
PR firms were mostly “media relations” outreach factories, and many of them still are.
Now? Companies need to look for a heckuva lot more in a public relations firm. There are simple questions like “who is your audience?” and “what is your wish-list for media coverage?” but those are just that – simple and unlikely to evolve into any real strategy with tangible results. More important questions your PR firm should be asking include:
- “Why do you feel media coverage is important?”
- “How has your target audience traditionally found you?”
- “How important are online search results for your brand?”
- “What is your SEO strategy? Are backlinks important to you?”
- “What’s your content marketing strategy?”
- “Where does your site traffic come from? May we have access to your Google Analytics?”
- “How do you plan on using media coverage?”
- “Do you have an e-mail marketing program?”
- “What keywords and searches do you want to rank for?”
- “What is your business development strategy?”
- “Why did Kawhi Leonard’s shot fall against the Sixers in Game 7?!”
That last bullet is still on my mind. I’m writing this following two days of business in Toronto, site of where my beloved Sixers had their hearts ripped out, and where I’ve been subject to passing by at least two dozen “We the North” signs reminding me of last Sunday.
Sorry, I just blacked out. Back to business.
People at PR firms who sell its services, people like me, are in the business of meeting a potential client or customer and immediately telling them what they can provide. “We can definitely get you top-tier press.” “We will post to your social channels every day!” “We have an expert team of writers who can draft all your press releases.”
This is wrong, for so many reasons. It’s 2019. People, whether investors, potential customers, clients and partners, etc. digest information much differently than they did 15 years ago, or ten years ago, or five years ago…or last year.
The one size fits all approach has long-since given PR firms a bad name and led to numerous journalist shamings on Twitter and LinkedIn. I’ve probably earned one or two myself over the years.
If your PR firm isn’t asking you about SEO, sales and business development, web traffic, or why you want to hire a firm – they’re not doing their job. There is the old way, “messaging documents” that take three months for some firm to rehash everything you already know about yourself, and there is the new way – understanding how an integrated approach should serve as an extension of your company’s public relations and marketing approach.
Take your pick!
Eric Fischgrund is an entrepreneur, writer, sports fan, music-lover, and founder and CEO of FischTank Marketing and PR, a marketing and communications firm based in NYC.