7 Sure-fire Ways to Fail at PR Consulting


What some PR with that?

What some PR with that?

I love working in social media, but what makes it even better is working at a PR agency that excels at it (and lots of other things as well).  Advertising agencies get a lot of kudos for being creative places, but PR firms are under appreciated in the creativity department.

But like every industry PR has its duds as well.

Here are 7 sure-fire ways to fail at PR consulting:

1. Yes them to death – even when they’re wrong.

Whatever you want.  Sure!  No problem!  Great idea!  We’ll do whatever you want.  Sure!  Of course!  Heck, yeah!  Whatever you say, we’ll do.  Yup.  You got it!  Yes, sir.  Yes, ma’am.  You’re the boss.  Absolutely!  Our pleasure.  (And no we’re not criticizing your decisions behind your back or using to the mute button during calls).

2. Don’t feed them well.

Would it kill you to serve a sandwich without white bread and mayonnaise at a meeting?

3. Stick like glue to the playbook.

Best practices are crucial to a PR agency.  So are processes, standardization and centralization.  It makes the work easier and makes sure service gets a base level of quality.  But sometimes you need to throw away the playbook and do something kooky.  Sometimes taking the road less traveled makes powerfully good things happen.  Do you think the subservient chicken (400 million hits!) or Will It Blend would have happened if people stuck to the playbook?

4. Let client phone calls go into voicemail.

Try to remember that you’re in client service.

5. Stress your excellence at measurement and process.

Yes, measurement and process are important (and gets nifty charts and organized agendas).  But I’ll take creativity and passion first.  Creativity gets you ideas like Starbucks My Starbucks Idea – where fans post ideas, people vote on them, and Starbucks implements the best ones.  Passion gets you people like Scott Monty at Ford.

6. Pretend to know the answers even when you don’t.

It’s okay to tell a client you need to check or consult with a peer.  It is much worse is to pretend you have the answers, wing it, and give some bad counsel.  The beauty of working at a good PR agency is that there is always somebody with the right answer.

7. Constantly try to up-sell.

Sometimes it is necessary to adjust budgets or tweak programming.  But good PR agencies are flexible and work with clients within their current budgets to execute great ideas.  Establishing strong relationships and instilling trust will always be rewarded in the end.

How about you?  What are your pet peeves about PR agencies?  What can PR practitioners do better to service their clients?

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4 Responses to “7 Sure-fire Ways to Fail at PR Consulting”

  1. Great advice, particularly fond of your first point 🙂 It’s so important to tell a client if they’re wrong or headed in the opposite direction to where they should be, they hired you right?

    I’d add that it’s also really important to add value: let the client know exactly how you got to the decision you made that’s going to help the campaign fly. Share extra tidbits of news or information so they feel in the social media loop, and try and get them to ask lots of questions which challenges their and your thinking so that you get the best result for all concerned.

  2. Great adds, Matt. Thanks. And providing value to everything you do for a client is crucial even if it is buying lunch. 🙂

  3. Hi George,

    These are great. Here’s another one. Assume the client is telling senior management about the agency’s great work and success. Better to assume they’re not and find creative ways to let them know (without undermining your day-to-day contact). You could frame a particulary big hit, put together a custom book of results that feature the senior team (not a clip book a real book, there are lots of services that will do this), or put a private web page together that highlights your results that can be easily viewed by executives. If your day-to-day is smart, they’ll know this makes them look good too.

  4. Hi Suzanne:
    Smart point. Expanding your influence throughout a client’s executive team is an excellent suggestion and also a good way to grow organically.

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