Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Reminder To Build Relationships

Seeing this post over at The Bad Pitch Blog this week made my blood boil. Please go read the post in its entirety and draw your own conclusions. I feel so bad for the journalist who reportedly begged to get off an agency's media list only to continue to be bombarded with unwanted pitches and no response (or reported action) from the agency to rectify the situation.

Unfortunately, it only takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch. Reports like the one above remind me why it's so important to establish and build relationships with key media as far in advance as possible. Being transparent about who you are representing and being available to the media as a resource (not just a source) for stories is crucial. The media may not cover my clients every time, but I'm flattered when they ask me if I know someone who can help them with a story they are working on or point them to a colleague who may be able to help.

I have argued for Better Rules of Engagement when it comes to media relations. This means doing all you can to build relationships with all media before pitching. I look at it this way: cold pitching the media (just making a list based upon a database or minimal research) is tantamount to running up to someone and explaining a solution to a problem that they nothing about or may not care about. Be transparent, be a resource and introduce yourself (as much as possible) before representing clients. Most importantly, if a member of the media asks that you remove them from future communications - YOU DO IT and QUICKLY. Sending a quick note to let them know you have done so, as well as an apology can go along way and not burn a bridge.

Remember: media relations is person-to-person communications. YOUR own reputation is at stake. So, research, craft relevant pitches and then be responsive to who you are pitching - even if the result is they don't want future communications about your client.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Clients Can't Approve or Reject Ideas They Aren't Shown

Creativity in PR and marketing is a goal that all great professional communicators want to achieve. Creative campaigns and strategies make you memorable. They often think outside the box. Often the best ideas challenge teams to use other multichannel strategies and tactics (e.g. guerrilla marketing, event planning, mobile engagement, etc.) that often haven't been considered to enhance their client's campaign. Creative ideas to generate awareness and visibility of a client's mission can have a big return on investment. If all relevant stakeholders are taken into account, it can garner the much sought after media attention, increase awareness of an organization's mission as well as reinforce and introduce an organization's brand to audiences.

However, how many times have you been in brainstorming meetings to develop new ideas, engagement strategies, or even themes only to hear: "The client won't go for it" or "We need to be mindful and only suggest ideas that are in the client's realm of comfort."

While taking the emotional and cultural considerations of clients into account is important, really good creative ideas are often dismissed because they are perceived as "too risky" by certain members of the team in charge of the client's business. I shudder to think how many creative ideas, which may garner the most attention and bring the most success to a campaign, die on a white board, word document or collaborative wiki, never having been seen by the client for feedback/input.

Clients cannot approve or reject ideas that are never presented to them.
Professional communicators should take their client's comfort level into account when developing ideas. Showing a little creativity and refining ideas to demonstrate the potential effectiveness of a what is viewed as a newer or "riskier" strategy goes a long way.

In my experience, the best way to get what are perceived as more outlandish and radical tactical strategies approved is:
  • Do research! Conduct soft soundings with trusted key media in the client's industry and other key stakeholder groups (associations, investors, etc.) to get their input on the idea(s). See if it has any interest for them and be willing to further refine the campaign based on their input.
  • Do an outline/timeline of the strategy to present to client initially. This does not have to be a comprehensive plan, but taking the time to provide an overview of how the project will be executed can help convince and alleviate some of the fear that clients may have on the strategy's validity. It also shows that your team is able to execute and understands the amount of work and input that will be needed from the client side.
  • Keep trying. Just because one client doesn't want to execute a newer strategy or ideas doesn't mean that he/she won't change their mind in the future. It also doesn't mean that others in the same organization won't welcome ideas outside "the press release." Demonstration of creativity as well as core communication principles goes a long way.
Now is the time to be bold, creative and present new ideas to help clients achieve their communication goals. Don't be afraid to speak-up.