PR agencies: broaden your goals

Photo Credit: NASA

How do you measure your public relations campaigns as it matters to your clients’ organizations? I’ve worked in agencies since 1994 and can tell you that most public relations professionals are only concerned with what’s right in front of their noses – any media coverage. They could care less if their clients’ customers are happy. And, why not? Without customer satisfaction there would be no client, and no business for the agency.

Agencies are focusing on the wrong goals. Take for example, PR agency “X.” Agency X believes that all of their clients just want a lot of media coverage. But any media coverage doesn’t necessarily drive business results for their clients. Any media coverage is a “so, there, you got what you paid for, client.” It’s short sighted and fails to see the bigger picture.

The agency culture is backwards

PR agency employees are not taught to be marketers. They are schooled to sell to the incorrect buyer. The buyer isn’t the client. The buyer is the client’s customers. If the agency gets a well messaged and rightly placed piece at the right time, then the customer (and the client) will benefit by learning about (or more about) a solution that they need.

PR agencies are pressured, unnecessarily, to increase the number of hits they get for their clients. They may get “hits” in the media that do not align with the products or solutions that the salespeople and company are focusing on. Sometimes, media coverage even overreaches and quotes executives on a vision that they are not planning for. Don’t tell me that’s “thought leadership.”

Now the agency’s client has new problems

The public relations pros are so focused on just getting any media coverage – and they’re getting it — and the client organization cannot keep pace. The PR agency may not have really explored what their clients need or taken the time to speak to the other departments on the client side. Mind blowing, right?

Sure, we want our agencies to be accountable and serve their clients. But we cannot ignore what impact our agency work has on the clients’ organizations and their customers. Setting up goals like we’ll get 2-3 mentions in magazines in a month is ridiculous if they have no impact on the business. Agencies need to flip the table on media measurement. PR leaders at agencies need to take a broader perspective with their clients. Questions agencies can ask their clients may include:

PR agencies need to partner with their clients’ marketing, PR, and sales teams

All ideas need to be on the table. The client (marketer) should not be responsible for distilling messages from other departments when all parties can easily meet and talk about what they’re experiencing in the market, share creative ideas, talk about ways to collaborate that both speak to reaching the broader goals of the organization and individual contributors. 

When your agency is only thinking about the number of placements you’ve promised a client, then you’re not focusing on their customers, and not helping your business.

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