Public relations require a time investment from client’s side too. On 13 July 2012 Emlo’s MD, Marisa Louw, wrote this letter that was published in Saturday Star newspaper. It is still relevant today because we see many clients still expecting the PR agency to work miracles without even the most basic of information.
Your lack of interest to communicate with me does not go unnoticed. Yet you expect of me to meet rather tough deliverables. How do you manage to put one and one together and get three?
My business is that of ensuring your organisation receives publicity in a specialist industry in which I can lay claim to well-established media relationships. This does not mean that I am a miracle worker that can read your mind and extract your individual opinion on the latest industry trend through a five minute meditation session from my office while you have lunch with your colleagues at an upmarket restaurant.
In the months that I’ve been working with your organisation I have had the opportunity to meet with you once and guess what? You walked out after five minutes without returning, so I packed up my laptop and notebook, and left. The majority of my other meetings with you simply get cancelled on short notice because you are too busy with important business matters, or you ask a junior colleague to meet with me instead. How do you envisage I reach the tough deliverables without face-to-face time with you?
Maybe I should attempt communicating via e-mail. But wait, I’ve done that upon which your secretary usually responds. As an ex-secretary I am well aware that individuals often act on behalf of their managers but do you really want me to quote your secretary in a press release or editorial pitch? Or better yet, the response from the secretary is often that I should send questions which you will answer. Yet the waiting period for your reply is frequently so long that by the time I receive it, the latest trend changed twice already or the campaign is no longer relevant.
Reaching you telephonically is a nightmare because you are always in meetings. When my call is eventually returned it is from your secretary. How does that benefit our working relationship?
The media often portrays the public relations industry in a negative light but hardly ever investigates the real reason behind why, for instance, Brendan Seery would award a campaign an Onion in his Media & Marketing section of the Saturday Star.
Dear client, it is my opinion that in the majority of cases you are the reason for a failed campaign simply because at the last minute it is up to the PR account manager to scramble and patch together information which might or might not be accurate. Who knows? Perhaps if we actually sat down for more than five minutes once a month to have a detailed conversation about campaigns, mapping out next actions and which decisions are necessary to reach the communication targets, your publicity campaigns will be (more) successful and I might actually meet your tough deliverables.
So, my dearest client, next time I request to communicate with you please put aside at least 30 minutes from your very busy schedule for the most important aspect of your business – publicity.
If you are one of those clients who conveniently forgets that PR requires a time investment from your side I beg you to reconsider your role in the client-agency-relationship. The old saying ‘it takes two to tango’ is as relevant in public relations as it is in any other relationship. It takes two parties to communicate to make a relationship work and if you are not willing to communicate there is not much benefit to gain from your PR agency.