Monday, February 28, 2011

Just how fast can PR deliver business results?

Recently we were engaged by a client who was well into a particular campaign. Sans PR. Which is fine...unless that campaign needs PR support.

Swiftly after our appointment (days, not weeks) our client asked where the positive media coverage was.


Here's my take on that, and a short version of the conversation I had with our client. I should disclose, our client had ample, positive and on-message media coverage less than a fortnight after our appointment. Or course it's not always that fast, and here's why...

Good public relations results usually take time to deliver.

Time to plan, to create good quality materials and to judge the implementation timing so it hits at just the right time.

Lead time can be days...or weeks...or months...or even years.

The true value of some public relations programs we've implemented for financial services clients can sometimes only be measured years after our appointment - and after years of persistent, consistent action directed at a clear goal.

Years to build a reputation, and minutes to lose it, says Warren Buffet.

Regardless, sometimes you need a PR or media results NOW.

So what can you do to set yourself up for the much needed, but hard to get, quick win?

1. Tell your PR firm the truth - the whole truth, not just the version you'd like to see in the paper. Treating them like mushrooms won't help you get the outcome you want, but it may well put limits on their care factor. You can be frank and still be clear about what should, and should not, make it into the public domain. In any case it's good practice to make sure you have a non-disclosure in place and that all final materials are properly signed off. But beware: as in all things, if you put garbage (the edited truth) in, you'll mostly likely get garbage out.

2. Give them some time to deliver. The time needed to delver an outcome depends partly on how hard it is to get the result you want. If you see effort for a few days or weeks, without the outcome you're seeking, perhaps ask yourself if they've done everything you could reasonably expect...and whether their 'smarts' suggest those efforts were in fact high quality. If you have smart PR people working for you and there are no (or lacklustre) results in, say, the first 90 days then by all means start to second guess your provider. If it's been a few days and you're wondering where the positive media coverage is, perhaps second guess your brief!

3. Be clear. What matters most to you? Consistent coverage in financial services trade media? A big article in the Australian Financial Review? Or a microsite that's direct emailed and achieves high return visits or viewer engagement/dialogue? Pick your goal, and brief your PR consultant accordingly if they didn't ask "what matters most here?" before you got started.

4. Hire smart. Selecting the right PR firm doesn't have to be rocket science, or labourious. But it should be based on clear criteria. So what sort of criteria might help if you are looking for a quick win? Someone who's done engagements like yours before, and ideally very recently. A firm who perhaps have capacity right now i.e. an established team with a good track record. Perhaps if you need a quick win you also need a strong leader in the public relations firm to be on call for you for a short period of time. Fine - add it to your criteria and consider that might add cost. And of course if the quick wins you seek are in media, you need a firm with great relationships with your target media.

Finally, the firm who delivers the quick win may, or may not, be the firm you need for the long term engagement. Long term success requires all together different criteria - a topic for another time!