Category Archives: practical pr

*Pang* *Flash* G is For ….

Anyone who knows me will immediately think of one G word … “Go.” Yeah, high speed and lots of curves. I thrive at full throttle with steep climbs and sharp curves.

That’s not the G word that matters.IMG_8715f

Others will say it’s got to be God. Well, that’s a big one. Capital G. Still not there though. Perhaps it’s greatness or goodness, or the flip side: grumpy, goofy, gauche … Regardless, these attributes, relevant or not, aren’t that important.

The G word that keeps flashing through my dreams and thoughts is sobering. And a struggle.

Grace.

Is it a noun or a verb? Growing up Christian, I heard it and learned it frequently: man is inherently sinful. God freely gives me grace and erases all the gunk, gook, idiocy, mouthiness and moments of madness from my life. Through Christ his son.
But I can’t help but think that grace extends beyond pulpits and prayer clubs. Grace is act of individual will. It extends unmerited favor from one to another.

The flashes and pangs of grace-mindedness are daily for me. They hit like a combo punch from Rocky Balboa and Clubber Lang, usually when I:

  • Drive behind a moron driving 55 mph in the fast lane on Central Expressway
  • Stand in the grocery line behind a lady oblivious to the rest of the galaxy, slowing reading and debating the value of the 25 coupons she just handed the cashier
  • Work with others who deliver little more than excuses or blame, yet lord over others with self-importance and arrogance
  • Perceive an issue as “petty” while another may not, and continues to chatter, chant, rave and rant, ad nauseum

In each of these real-life cases, I felt a very real pang at the moment I begin my criticism and judgment. “…What about grace, Roy, remember?”

And so I breathe and realize that it’s OK. The slow driver may be new and nervous; the lady in line may be facing the financial crisis of a lifetime; the worker may be ill equipped or in the midst of some crisis that is fragmenting their work performance. And yes, what’s petty to me is irrelevant. If it’s important, then it’s important.

Now blow this up. The world is increasingly anti-grace. We have a conservative pundit attacking an American doctor for being a Christian and a missionary; we have zero-tolerance rules that put teenagers in prison for life—for weed in their cars. We have grandmas and granddads being beaten to death for food, cars and money.

And in the PR profession?Helloooo. We have prima donnas treating junior employees like dogs, interns not being paid for their work and a workplace that’s often cold, harsh and impersonal.

Where is the grace? Where is my grace? The flashes and pangs are reminding me. Helping me. Even encouraging me. They actually rattle me into remembering the countless times I’ve experienced unmerited favor from parents, friends, bosses, colleagues, neighbors and strangers. And God. I can think of at least three times in my life when I did not deserve unmerited favor from someone. If they had chosen zero tolerance, I could have lost everything. Everything.

Grace. Can you find it, face it and pay it forward?

Even now, there’s a circumstance where I’m resisting grace. “They deserve my contempt and wrath …” Yeah. *Pang* *Flash*

OK.

Let’s go to work. See the faces. Think grace.

Go home. See the wife. See the kids. Think grace.

Drive to the store. Think grace.

Then do it.

Grace is a verb.

 

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CEO: “What the hell is that agency doing?”

You’re the client. And frankly, you’re not all that interested in what your agency did yesterday.

It’s all about today, tomorrow and how they help drive your business forward. Now.

Twenty five years of this PR gig tells us that you want an agency that walks the talk, not just talk. There’s nothing worse than the client calling up, asking, “What the hell is your agency doing for us?” Ideally, the CEO, CFO or in-house marketing director never has to make that call.

Not with PRactical PR.

We’ve got the inside story on everything you should expect from your agency.

If you need a little more perspective, see the PRactical PR Guy and our passion for small biz.

For the Here & Now, read these required deliverables.

7 Required Deliverables from Your Agency

  • Start with expectations. There’s nothing worse than a client to expect ABC while the agency delivers XYZ. Everybody is unhappy–pointing fingers, blame-gaming and sweating like pigs at a sausage factory. Sit down and listen to client expectations and what they really want. Draw out their ideal “outputs” and ways to work. Then share the realities about PR’s quirky game. Discuss, manage and agree on expectations at the very start. Write them down. Everyone will need to be reminded. About once every quarter.
  • Consistent, frequent communications.
    • E-mail is great for quick updates and queries
    • Skype is great for interaction requiring several people in different locations to discuss everything from deadline confirmations to planned activities and roles and responsibilities.
    • Face to face. There’s nothing like it to build relationships. If it’s brainstorming and a creative process, this is the best way to go. It’s also best when reviewing activities and results. Body language says a lot.
  • A written plan. Where’s the roadmap to your communications plan? Has the agency spent several hours gathering information from your corporate subject-matter experts? What about identifying business goals, sales goals, even financial baselines? Communications should complement the business direction. The plan takes these into consideration. PR and communications isn’t just a creative process, or “working the phones.” Strategy and alignment with corporate direction are crucial.
    CAUTION:
    Having no written plan guarantees that you and the agency will chase rabbit trails that lessen results and makes entire campaigns impotent. Remember, it costs just as much to be smart as it does to be dumb. Do it right.
  • Creative ideas, BIG thinking. You’re paying the agency for their brains. They think differently, see the world in a whole new way, and have the talent to think big and really wacky. Let the ideas flow, even the crazy ones. Among them all, there’s always one or two that resonant, work within budget and seems to be right on target.
  • Editorial calendars. Many magazines, even online publications will publish an editorial calendar. It shows what story topics it covers in what months (This helps their ad reps to ring you up and remind you that Topic A is perfect for an ad campaign). But for the PR agency, it’s perfect for approaching the assigned reporter to make sure the client is quoted and part of the story.
  • Reporting. Even Captain Picard needs to know what’s happening in the next frontier. Everything looks “normal” until six cloaked Klingon starships show up. Not good. An agency needs to report during the lulls and peaceful times, and when the unexpected occurs. Good information is, well, good. Consistent reporting isn’t an extra; it’s a requirement. Agency reports may be weekly, monthly or quarterly, but should always be written and specific.
    A client should expect a report to include:

    • Summary of activities and results (ideally, an agreed-upon approach to measurement)
    • List of primary activities and current status
    • List or explanation of specific reporters/publications/online media called, the story topic being pitched and current status
    • Listing of actual news hits (that are or will soon be published)
    • News clips of stories that have published in print and/or online. These are often provided digitally. But are usually provided in some format.
    • A Quick-Glance of the upcoming set of activities and direction.
  • Of course, it goes without saying (I think) that your agency (if it’s a PR agency hired to attract media attention) should be focused on media relations that align with the written communications plan.

Are you getting these 7 Deliverables from your agency?

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Have a great, practical day.

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The PR Agency: Results or Ring-Around-The-Rosy? Part 2

In our last post, we began with, ” So how do you know if your agency is working hard, or just playing ring-around-the-rosy with your money and company?” We talked starting with realistic expectations, then pursuing the agency that’s right for you.

So to continue, here’s the bottom line:

  • The number of press clippings don’t matter. Blasphemy, I know. But, would you rather have four news clips in one month, or one big story in a  publication that matters to your customers and prospects? A miniscule mention in the Wall Street Journal (every clients wants to be in the WSJ, whether they have a story or not) is less valuable than Cattle Hide News if you and your prospects focus on beef and hide manufacturing. So, did the agency fail because they didn’t meet the “number of clips standard,” or succeed because Cattle Hide News is the exact target of your business? This is practical PR in progress.

When it comes to PR, here are the practical realities:

  • Expectations. I know, we keep talking about this, but it’s critical at the very beginning of a client-agency relationship. When I meet with a client, this is where we start. First, I listen to their PR perceptions and expectations. Then I explain mine and what’s involved in the PR gig. Quality client-agency communications requires an open-door policy that allows candid conversations that can be refreshing, and sometimes difficult. Bottom line, it keeps everyone accountable, intentional and focused. Transparency eliminates friction, confusion and ignorance.
  • The Control Factor. An uninformed client–usually a field sales representative that works with the client, calls the PR agency:

“Hey Bob (agency supervisor), we have three sales guys who received Top Salesman Awards at our meeting in Hawaii.
If you could place the story on the inside page 2 of the business section, that’d be great. Oh, we’ve got a great photo too.
Could you get that in this week? Thanks man.”

In this case, we remain calm, get back to the client, provide some education and possibly refer the client to the publication’s advertisement department. As PR professionals, we have absolutely no control of media and a publication’s story decisions, or when and where it will be published. We do the best job possible and remain engaged with the media. The reality is that some months reap rivers of life; others yield times when we feel we’re wandering through the wilderness for 40 years … without Moses. Recommendation: Be patient, know your agency is really working newsworthy story ideas, and recognize that some days are diamonds and some days are dirt.

  • Spin, Sin and Doing It Right. High-integrity PR professionals don’t spin or sin  just to get a story placed. We avoid lies and exaggeration. In fact, we abide by codes of ethics from The Council of PR Firms, PRSA and/or IABC. We also counsel clients to focus on quality of news, not quantity of news releases. Quantity results in irrelevant information, not news. Long term, this quality news approach makes the client and agency look a lot smarter to editors and reporters. One alternative news strategy is to identify press-worthy news releases that you actually distribute to media, with others being written but posted only  to your website’s newsroom and being only sent to employees, suppliers, customers and prospects.

The PRactical PR Guy, Dallas

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The PR Agency: Results or Ring-Around-The-Rosy? Part 1

When it comes to PR agencies, you hear one of two things: “We got burned,” or “This agency is better than baked bread.” The question for any organization seeking a PR agency is to start with realistic expectations, then pursue the agency that’s right for you. One of the first questions every potential clients asks is, “Just how many press clippings should we expect—and get—for the money we pay?”

We also hear:

  • How many hours are you working per month? How do we know?
  • What kind of account service should we expect and receive?
  • And, candidly, how do we know how to pick a quality PR agency that fits our organization, people and goals for business and communications?

So how do you know if your agency is working hard, or just playing ring-around-the-rosy with your money and company? The quandary rests on both sides of the fence, for client and agency. Clients must gain some return on their investment, yet PR benchmarks are largely qualitative and rarely quantitative. PR News reports, “Executives expect PR professionals to provide measurement illustrating the impact of their work on business outcomes. However, many are hindered by the high cost of measurement tools and lack of resources, according to a 2011 measurement and practice survey.” In more than 25 years of doing public relations and working with hundreds or organizations, large and small, I’ve rarely had a client want, expect or desire to pay for quantitative metrics, i.e., messaging evaluation, competitive positioning, quality and rank of publications, perception analysis and more.

DISCLAIMER: Granted, most of my experience is working with privately held small businesses. Most clients are happy with press clippings–story “tonnage” that shows progress in getting the news out to the right audiences, publications and online influencers. This seems just fine by small businesses.

So, what’s the magic formula and number for press clippings? Well, besides working smart, working hard and knowing the art of “polite persistence” with reporters, I know of none. Sorry to disappoint. The real-world question is, “How can a PR agency promise press clippings when they have absolutely no control over the story, a reporter’s interest in the story, or the editor’s decision to run the story or not? I’ve had great, strong news stories bumped because “hard news” erupts and has to be covered. I’ve had absolutely worthless “news” (in my humble opinion) picked up and put on page one. It’s an insane world, this PR gig. But always interesting and surprising.

Back in yesteryear—the 1990s—one agency boss expected each account executive or supervisor to secure a minimum of four placed stories a month per client. Period. It was a great expectation, motivator and accountability factor. Today, I wonder if this is still relevant as print publications dwindle and online sites grow (but with different editorial opportunities). It’s a good debate.

—The PRactical PR Guy, Dallas

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