Advertising History

Lazy PR Doesn’t Do A Brand Good

Ragini Bhalla on Storytelling and Content Marketing.Milk, it does a body good. We all know this to be true. But what does it really mean? Well, if you think about it, it’s a saying that could be easily transferred to the PR industry. Making milk a staple of your daily diet is just as important as embedding strategy and goal-oriented results into your PR “diet.” As digitally savvy and progressive as the PR industry has become, there are still so many PR agencies that define success (for their clients) by the sheer number of items checked off as “completed” each month. And that can often result in empty “wins” that do nothing to drive the client’s long term business goals, both from a brand awareness and lead generation/nurture perspective. To me, that’s the sign of a lazy PR agency. But to point the finger blindly at lazy PR agencies isn’t fair either.

As someone who sits in-house within a brand to oversee the PR and communications strategy, it’s up to the PR agency’s clients to hold them accountable, identify multiple goals and results that actually align with the caliber of media outlets relevant to the industry and lay out a roadmap to grow the client’s PR ROI. After all, we are the ones who are being paid (salaries) to build our brand’s profile within the industry (and among the key decision makers to grow our revenue). So it’s up to the PR agency clients to reign in the lazy PR agency and help them take your brand where you want it to go. But that’s not always a fun or easy task to tackle. To make it easier, I have outlined 5 signs of a lazy, ill-equipped PR agency and some candid thoughts on how to reign them in, or cut the cord.

Reprints of press releases are counted as press hits.

I cannot tell you how much this bothers me. And thankfully, I’m not alone. In a recent Forbes article, PR pro Cheryl Conner said it well. “Do not crow ‘my news was carried in WSJ’ if what you have is in truth a simple press release pickup. It’s in extremely bad form to claim or imply earned media coverage for an appearance that is simply successfully executed press release news.” I agree wholeheartedly. Any PR agency worth their salt today should not be reporting this type of non-coverage as results. If they are, you have a serious problem.

If your PR agency doesn’t understand what publications and media outlets are vital to your industry (and the decision makers you are looking to connect with), then compile a list and set realistic goals and guidelines to help them deliver the right press coverage for your brand.

Editorial calendars, what editorial calendars?

Editorial calendars are my best friend, my planning framework and my content foundation. They allow me to plan for an entire year, set timelines and identify owners, plan with internal stakeholders and my PR agency and essentially, drive brand awareness and support sales efforts on a consistent basis. Whether it’s editorial calendars for planned news stories/topics in target publications for your industry, or sharing your brand’s research, blog and PR commentary/editorial calendars, always be planning. Without long-term planning, your PR results will be shoddy, inconsistent and lackluster in terms of quality.

They cherish the routine of securing press coverage in the same low-tier, unheard of publications.

How well do you know your target media outlets/reporters for your industry? If you’re in-house at a brand, you shouldn’t be happy with securing press coverage in random, unheard of publications. Your press coverage – be it in the US, UK, Asia or any other region – shouldn’t disrupt the type of content your customers and prospects read on a daily basis. If your brand’s influential decision makers are CMOs or VP-level executives in marketing and ecommerce, create a system and processes to make your brand visible and talked about in the right places. That means steering away from one-off “reposts” of your press release and calling it press coverage. If your PR agency gets what strategic PR is all about, they would never allow this to happen. They would be comfortable and confident to have a back-and-forth dialogue on what is the most effective pitch strategy (exclusive, embargo, wide distribution) and timing.

They love (and I do mean love) issuing fluffy press release after fluffy press release.

I will be the first one to say ‘no’ to issuing countless press releases for the sake of press releases. There’s no value in that and it doesn’t do anything to advance a brand’s story or build its credibility among key stakeholders, both internal and external. But press releases are still necessary, when the story demands it. So make the press release tell the best brand story, identify key benefits and value (as a result of the partnership or product you’re launching) and keep it simple. If your PR agency sends you a press release announcing a partnership with a leading digital agency, make it strong and clear. Don’t write 8 paragraphs describing what’s already written in the boilerplate. Don’t use quotes that make the brand look tactical, immature and unprofessional. And tell the entire story, please. There’s nothing worse that reading something that only makes you ask 50 more questions and say “I don’t get it” or “so what?”

Change and improvement to processes and strategy make them squeamish.

Nothing and no one is perfect. There will always be room for improvement. And that’s the fun and exciting part of life. So if your PR agency thinks every single thing they’re doing is perfect and doesn’t need to be analyzed and improved upon, that’s a major red flag. But don’t simply tell your PR agency, “I don’t like this.” You have to take the onus of guiding your PR agency through the change and create new processes, strategies and guidelines to help them be better and do better for your brand, and for themselves too.

Ragini is a contributor to The Makegood and Director of Content and Communications for Maxymiser, the leading expert in online testing, personalization and cross-channel optimization for some of the world’s largest brands.