I don’t really like to talk work on here, but clearly this blog is turning into a place for my ramblings about life in general and not just swimming, so here goes.
Last week we found out that the PR agency I run didn’t win a new client we were pitching for. In itself it’s not that unusual – while we pride ourselves on being good and winning lots of new business it’s true that we lose more than we win (we probably average about a 1 in 3 hit rate). However it was how and why we lost it that really annoys me.
The company is a start-up and is pre-revenue and has been doing PR for a while, but it hasn’t provided them with the breakthrough that they wanted. So they looked for alternatives. Yet when it came down to making the decision they played it safe and went back to the old agency.
Having seen the work they’d done previously it makes it even more disappointing. For some people (agencies and clients alike) PR is about writing some things and getting them published. They think it’s about output, about ticking boxes and claiming success – they think it’s about what the agency does.
PR is / should be about so much more. It’s about making a difference to the business – doing whatever it takes (from a communications point of view) to make a breakthrough. That’s especially true of a start-up.
Sometimes, although rarely in the case of a start-up, that can involve lots of writing and lots of very considered and worthy pitching to journalists. But more often it requires something different, a spark, a willingness to be bold and say and do things that get you noticed.
When you only seem to care about the output, you forget the end results. For too many PR agencies coverage is considered a result, yet it is only one step on the journey to real goal – which is usually increased sales. What you say is always more important than how often you say it – one piece of the right kind of coverage is worth more than any beautifully bound clippings books that some agencies pride themselves on. And sometimes you might not even need media coverage as it may be that the right word in the right ear makes a much bigger impact than a year’s worth of press releases.
PR agencies can and should be the catalyst for this of approach – they should match the end goals to the methods and define strategies to achieve the goals. PR agencies should be a strong creative force that drives the business forward – and don’t get me wrong, the best ones are. But too many aren’t, too many only care about their own output. But for this to happen across the board clients need to stop buying safe PR.
I wish this company well, from what I saw they have the potential to be a player in their sector. I fear that they will miss their chance though because they are afraid to be bold.