PR success requires time, because everyone has stories to tell

The place to start is with a conversation
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In mid-July, I received an inquiry through our website from an executive with a Boston-area advertising company.

“I have a client in your area who needs PR help,” she wrote. “I want to turn them over to a good firm because we cannot help them.”

In a subsequent phone call, the executive explained that her contact at the business-to-consumer client was overwhelmed with work responsibilities in general and unable to devote sufficient time to public relations.

At the suggestion of the client’s need to send a news release, I told the advertising executive that we don’t do one-off projects of such a small scale. First, we can’t make any money working that way.

Second, a single news release, no matter how successful at generating positive news coverage, surely can’t satisfy a company’s range of communication needs. Successful PR efforts aren’t one-hit wonders but rather play out over time.

‘She needs to be convinced’

The advertising executive said she understood and would speak with her client. Within a month, she sent me an email on which she copied the client.

“Please reach out to [the client], she needs to be convinced that she has enough work to engage you on an ongoing basis, which is a prerequisite to working with your firm,” she wrote.

I immediately emailed the client, cc’ing the ad executive.

“I would welcome the opportunity to come by and learn more about your communication needs,” I told the client. “Do you have some time next week?”

I have not heard back from the client, who perhaps has not had the time or maybe truly believes that her company doesn’t have much of a story to tell. I am going to follow up with her in the hope that we at least can have a conversation.

Compelling stories

If a business – especially a successful one – can’t find compelling stories to share, then it probably isn’t looking very hard. In fact, those stories can become so familiar that companies fail to recognize them as something the uninitiated would find interesting.

What’s more, there’s a tendency to put limits on public relations, such as thinking that the only option is to send a news release.

I remain a devotee of traditional news media despite the tremendous changes they have undergone in the past decade or so. There is no single tool as powerful as the third-party endorsement that news coverage offers.

But our toolbox also includes blogs, social media, newsletters (print and email), charitable events, etc., that allow companies to connect directly with their target audiences, current and prospective.

So the issue really isn’t persuading a business that it “has enough work” to sustain a public relations effort. Clients always have content, and our job is to help them mine and package it.

Rather, the issue is whether that business is willing or able to make the time necessary for us to understand where its story can lead.

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