PR is a key element of professional services marketing and it plays a pivotal role in the distribution and co-creation of thought leadership. However, it is an area that can be hard to quantity (from an ROI perspective) and as such, it can require a fair amount of effort to get buy-in or make the case for. PR is a medium-to-longer-term element of the marketing mix and, in my experience, ‘quick wins’ tend to be made up of false promises.
The relationship between the PR firm (or individual) and the commissioning client is critical. This relationship, more so than with other ‘partners’ in the marketing space, really has to have a certain level of depth. And it must be non-transactional. The PR partner really does need to get into the heart of the organisation, to understand the unique value proposition of the firm and thus the stories, insights and angles that can be ‘unlocked’ and then pitched to the agreed audience.
Having worked with PR firms over a number of years, my experience of firms and how they operate has varied quite significantly. That age-old issue of ‘quantity over quality’ is particularly acute when it comes to PR, especially when both sides are looking for quick wins in order to justify the investment.
For me, the word ‘relationship’ cannot be over-emphasised in this key partnership. A really effective PR provider will help you revaluate your differentiators and key value proposition, identifying areas that have media traction and which can be PR’d outside the organisation. They bring objectivity, knowledge of what will ‘land’ – and critically, of course – connections that open doors.
A good PR partner will be very time efficient in ‘downloading’ what they need, for example from fee earners – and then be able to create the story, the key messages and the strategy for placement. It always works vastly better when they have someone on the inside – usually this will be the in-house marketing manager – to co-own the PR process and outputs.
My track record:
- Full responsibility for PR in two of the last four firms I have worked at.
- Managing all elements of the PR briefing and pitching process, including fee negotiation and service delivery agreements.
- Hiring and managing external contractors for specific projects – editorial consultants for company magazines, video production outfit for client interviews, commissioning graphic designers, etc.