The 5 PR Practices That Remain Secret to Clients

You're both teachers, but you both need to be students too.

In the PRNewserverse, we come across many tools, tips, and even tricks to help us do our jobs better and make us seem more impressive to our clients. We all want that, because the more we look like superheroes, the less likely clients are to want to be rescued by someone else.

Only one problem: It doesn’t matter how long we have served those clients and showed off our skills, there are still aspects of this job that are self-explanatory to us; yet, close to being one of the Riddles of the Sphinx to them.

What are they? What quizzical realities of PR seem to stump even the most cagey of clients? Here are the top 5 PR practices that still remain secrets to clients.

Group of Diverse People Holding The Word Viral1. One Does Not Simply Make Viral  

There isn’t an agency on the planet that doesn’t covet a top trend or a video with 1 million views. But that’s the thing — you don’t make anything viral…it becomes that way. If you target the right audience and develop the right content, you have to trust what you made and watch the results. Why? That audience is the reason anything “goes viral.” So the next time your client asks to make a viral video, please let them know that is impossible. Just stick with being creative and let “viral” stick with the flu.

be patient2. PR Takes Patience

How many times have you been at your desk, see the phone ring, and hear a frantic client demanding that headlines happen within a two-hour notice? It’s great that many of us make PR look easy, but it all takes time. An effective campaign is not a fire sale. Planning, preparing, and pitching takes time, consistency, creativity and oh yeah… lots of work. Sure, we have relationships with the media but we keep them by respecting what a journalist does (and not demanding a headline within a two-hour notice).

pr stunts3. Stunts Aren’t Strategies 

Much like “making something viral,” the hallowed PR stunt can pay big dividends but it can also cost a brand if that Evel Knievel hoopla fails. Stunts can gain a ton of attention, but then what? You have to sustain it. For example, the “Ice Bucket Challenge” raised millions for ALS, but what have they been doing since? You have to keep the PR gerbil wheel spinning to really gain the benefits for any stunt.

yelling phone4. Demanding the Media to Change Things…Won’t 

This goes back to the need for patience, but more importantly, just because your clients has a phone doesn’t mean that phone should be used for “pitching” from the corner office. Misconceptions happen frequently when a client watches the news or has even been interviewed by the reporter seen on TV…once. We’ve all had the tempestuous client who hasn’t approved of a story or believes he or she can speed up the process with a personal touch. And then comes that moment when clients realize that the media doesn’t work for them. This business is about relationship — one that needs to be molded, not managed.

storytelling-pic5. The Foundation of PR is Storytelling

The headlines are nice. The awareness is flattering. The Web traffic even feels good. However, if your client doesn’t have a story that can be shared out there, those other things won’t matter because they will all die a sudden death. If your client is focused on their latest widget, you need to counsel him or her that without a story attached to that widget, no one will care. If your client is opening a new location to sell those widgets, the media will not respect that news as much as your client will. What’s the story? What’s the meaning? Why should they care? That’s the purpose of the position, the message to the media. That’s the story.

When your client has a story and not a stunt, patience and not some pressure, those simple practices we take for granted will no longer seem as clandestine secrets. These are not riddles, only rules not understood. Work on that client relationship and see what happens.

Publish date: September 1, 2015 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT