Posts Tagged ‘PR Agency’

4 Advantages of a PR Agency Over In-house Staff

March 29, 2013

“The internal staff person has problems and limitations that an external communications company doesn’t face.”

A couple of years ago I ended a blog post about the hidden costs of in-house PR with this thought, and I promised that I would one day expand on this theme.To that end, here is a brief examination of several big challenges that in-house communications teams face:

In-house vs PR agency

1. The internal staff often gets too close to the subject matter to be objective. However, many companies look at this from a different perspective. Corporate management reasons that, since internal staffers have a wider knowledge of the company, its people and its products than any agency could have, they’re better suited to communicate externally for the company. But that detailed knowledge is a double-edged sword. Employees become so much a part of the corporate team that they often lose their objectivity. When we come across people like this at client companies we say to ourselves, “She’s been drinking the Koolaid for too long.” The danger of not being able to be objective is that you can’t put yourself in the position of external stakeholders, such as customers, investors and media, to understand their perspectives. And if you can’t do that, you can’t appeal to them with messages that will catch their attention.

2. Counseling senior management is harder for internal PR staff.

When internal PR professionals don’t agree with the directions that top management gives them, it’s a lot harder to verbalize that disagreement (after all, the same senior management has the power to fire them, or at least make their lives very difficult). Even when an internal PR executive vehemently disagrees with senior management, his counsel is not taken as seriously as outside counsel. I’ve been on both sides, as an in-house communications staff member and an agency consultant, and I’ve seen senior executives sit on the edge of their seats when we talk to them and tell them the same thing they ignored when their own staff told them! I think sometimes we’re hired simply to provide back-up for the internal team’s counsel.

3. Agencies can focus better on the media. 

We develop social media programs, design marketing communications strategies and do media relations all day every day and in a variety of companies and industries. An in-house communications team does this only for one company in one industry and doesn’t get the chance to work on each of these areas as extensively as we do.  For example, media relations is only one of a long list of tasks assigned to the internal staffer (unless the internal team is quite large so that duties can be defined very narrowly). In that situation, there’s less ability to focus intensely on media relations, and it’s easy to let media relations slip down on the list of priorities, with the result that the company is less responsive to the media.

4. It’s easier to get professional feedback and input in an agency.

When I worked for an insurance company years ago, I was surrounded by insurance executives who really didn’t understand what was involved in the work I did. But when I joined a PR firm, I was able to turn to my co-workers for feedback and input whenever I needed it. It’s a lot easier to get good feedback on your ideas and plans when you’re working in a public relations agency setting than when you’re on an in-house communications team. I also believe that agencies are better learning environments for people who want careers in communications.

Despite these challenges, from a public relations career perspective it’s a good experience for up-and-coming professionals to put in some time “on the client side” in a marketing communications or corporate communications setting. Working inside a corporation provides insight on what it takes for various departments to work together well, and also on how they sometimes jockey with each other for political favoritism and power. This kind of insight is very valuable to have in an agency setting, because it helps in understanding why agency projects sometimes take forever to get approved by a client, how easy it is for messaging to be inconsistent from one part of a company to another, and why some projects are stopped mid-course for reasons that seem incomprehensible!

Lucy Siegel


Change Your Expectations For Top-Tier Media Coverage

March 19, 2013

The rise of inbound marketing is tied inexorably to the decline of both advertising and the traditional media.

By now most of you who read the Bridgebuzz blog have heard my rants about the death of the mainstream media.  The Pew Research Center, a non-profit research organization, recently reported that for every dollar newspapers are earning from online advertising, they are losing $10 in print ad revenue. Print ad revenues now are less than half what they were in 2006. It’s no wonder that  the newspaper industry alone – not including any magazines, TV or radio, all of which have also had massive layoffs – cut 39,000 jobs between the beginning of 2008 and the end of 2012, according to the website Papercuts, which tracks newspaper layoffs.

The number of (employed) journalists in the U.S. continues to shrink, according to the Pew Research Center’s newest annual report, “The State of the News Media 2013.”The Pew report concludes that a continued erosion of news reporting resources has taken place at the same time that capabilities have improved for bypassing the media altogether and going directly to the public. This is the crucial message that I want the readers of this blog to understand.  Clients and prospective clients, hear this: you can no longer depend on the media to get your messages out to your target audiences.  No matter what your PR firm is telling you about their stellar media relations capabilities, you need to know that:

RIP Newsweek

  • There are now 30% fewer U.S. journalists employed than in 2000.
  • The number of stories produced by CNN has been cut in half since 2007. (You must have known this – how many times can they repeat the same stories over and over again in one evening!)
  • The number of live events produced by the three U.S. cable news channels has decreased by about 30% in the past five years, while interview stories, which require much less resources to produce, are up by about the same amount.
  • Newsweek bit the dust last year and now the only remaining weekly news magazine is Time, which made another cut in its editorial staff just recently.
  • According to the Pew Report, an increasing number of media are using a new automated technology that produces editorial content without the need for any human reporting at all, believe it or not. Forbes is one of the publications using this technology (ostensibly to supplement what its reporters are doing, since it’s inconceivable that a computer algorithm could totally replace the editorial staff – yet, at least.
  • People are noticing that the media they used to rely on for news is a shadow of its former self.  The Pew survey shows that 31% have stopped reading or listening to a news outlet because it no longer provides the news it used to provide.

PR agencies know this has been happening and understand what it means for the work they do: it’s much, much harder to obtain media coverage for our clients than even a few years ago, because the media are producing dramatically less news and information. But companies that hire PR agencies don’t seem to grasp this. Every potential client we speak to is looking for top-tier media coverage, yet getting into that level of media just doesn’t happen as frequently as it used to. As I said, no matter what PR firms are telling you about their ability to do this for you, beware, because there’s very little chance they’ll be able to deliver, no matter how good they.

If you’re one of the many communications and marketing professionals demanding what you have always been able to get in the past from your PR agency, top-tier media coverage and lots of it, please open your mind to new communications techniques.  After all, it’s the end that counts – reaching your audience with the information and messages you want to convey, rather than the means, isn’t it? As the Pew Center Report pointed out, technologies have been improving all the time for totally bypassing the traditional media and going directly to your target audience. The most savvy PR people have already acknowledged the need to do this and have become “PR journalists,” producing their own high-quality materials (articles, videos, podcasts, white papers, etc.) that they distribute online in a variety of ways, including use of social media and other online platforms. You’ll hear this called content marketing, inbound marketing and permission marketing. The same content can be used and repurposed in many ways, a method an NPR executive once called “COPE,” “Create Once, Publish Everywhere.”

In order for this type of communications to be successful in meeting your goals, it must be of very high-quality. It can’t be promotional, it can’t be self-serving, and you must provide value from the point of view of the audience – not the point of view of your boss or your company’s CEO. Luckily, there are some really good PR journalists available these days (some were trained as journalists before they went down the PR agency path). Don’t try to find them at ad agencies or digital marketing firms – look for them where you’ve always looked for help in communicating with the media: agencies that provide public relations and corporate communications services.  They will understand what you’re trying to accomplish and have the skills to be able to help.

Some of you who are reading this are thinking, “But my boss [or the CEO, or the CMO, or the company’s board, or all of the above) wants top tier media coverage, and that’s what I need our PR agency to get if I want to keep my job.” I’ll put the ball in your court. It’s up to you to educate that internal audience about the changing reality in the media today.

I’m sure as hell not saying that PR firms can’t get top tier media coverage anymore. Obviously, we do. But we don’t get it as frequently as we used to or as you’d like us to. There, I’ve put my neck on the line. You can believe me and start thinking hard about inbound marketing and content marketing as a way to inform and persuade your target audience, or not. If you’re curious to know more about how it works, read our new e-book about inbound marketing.


Lucy Siegel

Who Should Interact With Your PR Firm?

March 13, 2013

This blog post is courtesy of Scott Phillips of Scott Phillips + Associates:

Who-should-interact-with-your-PR-firmYou’ve gone through the process of selecting a public relations firm and are moving fast to get them up to speed and producing.   Depending on the size and structure of your company, you are probably a senior marketing executive, a product or brand specialist or perhaps even the company founder.

You are the interface between your new PR firm and the rest of the company.  Do they need to work with anyone else?   The answer is yes.

In fact, my preference is to get to know as many people in your company as possible.

The Corner Offices:  If you are going to report to superiors about our joint progress, I would like to know those individuals.  Our firm will benefit from understanding the expectations of your company’s most senior executives, as well as their vision, concerns and ideas about your competitive differentiation.

The Inside Guys:  Whether we are supporting a product, service or even a critical issue, somebody in your company was responsible for its creation or the development of the company’s position.  He or she has all the “inside baseball” information and will likely be our go-to source for in-depth explanations, technical details and the answers to questions we haven’t even thought of yet.   He or she might also be a great source for trade interviews, but we need to know that person to help make that determination.

The Finance Guys:  Whether you have a VP of Finance or CFO, that person’s perspective is always important to all of us.  From a strategic position, I want to know his or her financial objectives and concerns.  From a practical perspective, I want to know your company’s requirements for things like invoicing, expenses, etc.

Our Co-Marketers:  If you are working with an ad agency or separate social media provider, our efforts need to be coordinated.  We need to collaborate on everything from messaging to campaign timing.

The Sales Team:  The members of your sales team – the folks in the field – are among our most important contacts.   While you will direct our day-to-efforts, the sales team has information we can’t get elsewhere.   They know what messaging resonates with your audiences, the advantages you have over your competitors and where you might sometimes come up short.  They also are the first alert for pending deals and critical issues that might not get to your desk for some time.

In short, more is better.  We’ve all committed to working as a team, and we can do that best by getting to know all the players.

Ask Not What the Media Can Do for You, Ask What You Can Do for the Media

February 13, 2013

Unfortunately, most emerging companies have approached public relations as little more than an extension of their sales promotion efforts, narrowly focusing their messaging on attributes of their products or services with the expectation that reporters will spread the word to the masses. At best, this approach usually yields a limited number of media placements originating around a product launch. At worst, reporters will view the announcements as editorialized sales pitches and discard them. Then comes the inevitable question from the corporate brass: “What value are we getting from that PR budget?”


This scenario often could be averted if the question were turned around: “What value can the media get from our company?” Marketing professionals should appreciate this question—they are accustomed to defining value for potential customers, but reporters are not potential customers. Their needs are completely different.

To effectively engage reporters, it is important to understand how they evaluate information. Their raison d’être is to uncover what’s “newsworthy” to their specific audiences and to report this information in an easy-to-understand format. Thus, for a company’s message to resonate with a reporter it must be perceived to have a certain quality of newsworthiness.

Newsworthiness is a very abstract concept. It differs from company to company. A management change at a large conglomerate, for example, would be considered more newsworthy than a similar change at a startup. It also differs from reporter to reporter. Trade reporters, for instance, view newsworthiness through a narrow lens focused on a specific industry, while reporters with general business and consumer media often (not always) view newsworthiness through a broader lens focused on major social, economic or technological trends.

We’re at a time when major brands seem to wield more and more media influence, and reporters are becoming more and more immune to unsolicited story pitches. So how can a startup company demonstrate newsworthiness in such a tough climate?

The key is to start developing a PR plan early. It’s not uncommon for startups to focus their early-stage efforts on building out core business functions, such as sales channels, product development, logistics and other back office functions, putting off PR until the product launch approaches. This is understandable—resources are always an issue, and expenditures and staff time have to be prioritized. We also understand the competitive reasons for some companies to operate in “stealth mode” until they’re ready to launch sales. However, postponing PR planning until a month or two before going to market can seriously limit the company’s opportunities to drive greater visibility and lead to pitfalls that could have been avoided with proper planning.

As you begin crafting your PR plan, a key component is to identify story angles that will interest the media. This involves brainstorming with your management team and PR advisors to collect pertinent information about your company and its founders that is often scattered across many minds, and identifying the facets that could be used to create compelling story angles. Significant product news creates potential angles, as well as any anticipated milestones (e.g., acquisition of new management, new external partnerships, new funding, etc.). These events may offer good opportunities for exposure in some media outlets, with the highest potential usually being in trade and business media.

But there is no reason to limit the company’s story angles to these business events. PR planning is a creative process that requires you and your PR advisors to look beyond the obvious characteristics of your business to discover other aspects that could distinguish you from the flock. A great example of a company that has succeeded at this is Ben & Jerry’s. The company has been able to command media interest at will. Its products, however, are rarely what grab the headlines. Rather, much of the media coverage has focused on the company’s eccentricities: its unconventional founding (it was originally conceived as a bagel shop), its offbeat management practices (e.g. its erstwhile salary ratio policy) and its reputation as a champion of social issues.

Admittedly, the comparison between the media strategy of an emerging IT or biotech company with that of Ben & Jerry’s is tenuous, but there are opportunities for most companies to seize the limelight in unconventional ways if they try. Before they became iconic brands, companies like Microsoft, Facebook, Groupon and Flickr were successful at this, getting attention for quirks in their corporate cultures,  business models, operational development or founders’ stories.

The bottom line is, in order for your company to derive value from its media strategy, it has to first prove its value (i.e. newsworthiness) to the media. The art of PR is storytelling: mining the various facets of your business to uncover what sets it apart—its newsworthiness—and packaging that information into compelling story angles to engage the media.

Jacob Seal

Landing a PR Internship

February 6, 2013

When I was an undergrad, I started applying for internships without a very clear objective. This approach yielded absolutely no results. Through much trial and error, I managed to land two. Now, sitting on the other side, poring over applications for our summer internship program, it’s quite clear what works and what doesn’t, and why I got the two that I did. Here are some tips for landing an internship in PR:

Internship Problems

The Search

  • Don’t spray & pray. Applying for an internship is not like playing the lottery. Spamming any and every potential employer’s inbox with your resume does not improve your chances of getting hired.
  • Don’t lie. If you think you have to misrepresent yourself to get the position, it probably isn’t right for you. This goes for everything from fudging numbers to faking enthusiasm. Insincerity is detectable in text, and this reflects especially badly on you if you’re applying for a position in communications.
  • Get a referral if you can. This often isn’t possible if you’re a student or recent grad with little to no experience, but you should still explore all your options. As this recent New York Times article explains, it’s more important than ever. One thing you can do while you’re still in school is build great relationships with professors in your department. Many have connections with professionals in their industry, and even if they don’t have an internship opportunity for you, you can ask to use them as a reference later on.
  • Don’t limit yourself to what’s on job/internship listing websites. You already know those listings are getting dozens of applicants. Don’t be afraid to reach out to any company you really want to work for – genuine enthusiasm will only help your cause.

The Cover Letter

  • Include one. If you’re applying through a web form, you can still find a way to include a cover letter. The cover letter is where you make your first impression, and without one, most employers won’t even look at your resume.
  • It’s also your writing test so make sure it’s flawless and have at least one other person look it over.
  • Don’t address it to, “to whom it may concern.” Take the time to find the name of the appropriate person. For a smaller firm, you can address it to the CEO. For a larger firm, find out who’s in charge of human resources or recruiting. If you can’t find it on the company’s website, call and find out.
  • Tailor it to the company and position you’re applying for. Show some indication that you’ve taken time to look into the company and what they do. Everyone likes to feel special.
  • Show, don’t tell. Giving concrete examples of how you’ve demonstrated great attention to detail or stellar interpersonal skills is much more convincing than merely saying that you have these qualities.
  • If you have any especially relevant work experience, summarize it here.

The Resume

  • Keep it to one page. No one applying for an internship has so much experience that it won’t fit on a single page.
  • If you state an objective on your resume, make sure it fits the position you’re applying for.
  • If your GPA isn’t very high, leave it off.
  • Think about how you can best outline your work and academic experience for the position you’re applying for. If you’ve held numerous part-time jobs while going to school, you probably don’t need to include every single one. Job descriptions should be tailored too. For example, if you’re listing your experience as a restaurant server for a PR position, you can focus more on the creative problem solving and guest service aspects of the job than the food handling or cleaning duties you had.

What really made a difference for me was narrowing my focus. I started out applying for many positions but then began to concentrate only on positions that I really wanted. That meant spending a lot of time doing research for every position, but in the end, it yielded positive results.

Lastly, if you do happen to come across your dream internship, don’t be afraid to be a little creative so you’ll really stand out. For a writing test for an editorial internship, I submitted my response using the company’s web template, so it looked like I’d really written a post on their blog. There are many famous examples, like this fellow, who designed his resume to look like an Amazon product page.

In the end, getting hired is never an exact science. Do you have any additional tips or success stories to share?

Diana Kim

Public Relations Agency Best Practices, Part II: What Agencies (& Clients) MUST Deliver

December 19, 2012

With very few exceptions*, the following activities and services should be part of every PR agency-client relationship. Included on the list below are both deliverables from the agency to the client, and from the client to the agency. Without these deliverables, the level of communication between client and agency is not sufficient for the agency to do top-notch work.

Agency fees depend mostly on the time input by the agency PR team at the various billing levels of the team members. Therefore, the frequency and/or level of detail of some of the agency deliverables depend on the client’s budget for PR. However, no matter what level the budget is, each of these activities has an important place in keeping the wheels of the PR program turning smoothly.

communicate cartoonRegular client meetings:

Client-agency meetings should be held at least once a month, in some cases as often as weekly. Meetings usually are by conference call. The frequency depends on the level of PR activity by the agency team (which depends on the budget) and the urgency in accomplishing tasks by deadline dates. My firm tries to avoid long meetings. If we can accomplish what we need to in 15 minutes, then 15 minutes is what we should spend. Not everyone on the team needs to be at the meeting, and it’s especially important to be aware of staff hours consumed by these meetings if the budget is low. Billing rates of several people for even a half-hour meeting can eat up a lot of a modest PR budget. Content of meetings should include:

  • Input and update: from the client about the company’s plans and activities; from the agency on the status of the work and feedback received from media or other external audiences
  • Client feedback: on work done
  • Planning for next steps

Required elements of every meeting:

  • Agenda: sent to client and agreed on in advance of meeting
  • Conference report: written within two days of the meeting, and to include:
    • Summary of the main points and decisions made
    • Agency and client action points, with deadlines for each

Status report on activities for client: 

  • A monthly report is most common, but the time frame could be longer (such as at the end of a two-month project) or shorter depending on needs and client budget.
  • Should include a listing of steps taken and results obtained.
  • Media relations results should be prepared as a chart, divided into type of media (business magazines, general newspapers, online, TV, radio, etc.) and showing media outlet, date, and circulation or audience size for each media placement.
  • Give suggestions for adjustments to the PR plan or for next steps, and important areas for future PR work.
  • Media clippings should be assembled to accompany the report. However, any important media coverage should be emailed or faxed to the client immediately upon receipt.
  • Measurement of progress towards meeting goals set in the beginning of the PR program should be included.

Internal agency account team meetings:

  • Scheduled by the account director
  • Held on a regular basis (weekly, bi-weekly, or as often as needed)
  • Checklist of what needs to be done to carry out the plan
  • Suggestions and support by team members to each other
  • Coordination on who is doing what
  • Comparison of hours spent to the monthly target hours each individual should spend on the account (this is based on the level of the fees)

Taking the temperature on client satisfaction:

  • Feedback on client satisfaction with the quality and timeliness of the work should be solicited at regular intervals by a senior agency executive.
  • Ideally, annual feedback should be requested by the agency from the client, as well.

I will be the first to point a finger back at myself and my own staff for sometimes skipping or abbreviating the activities on this list – we’re not perfect. However, it helps when both agency and client team members know what is expected of them. I hope this list will help you pave the way to smooth client-agency relationships.

* There are exceptions to every rule. For example, a spreadsheet of media results is not necessary when the focus of the work is social media, content preparation or crisis management.

Lucy Siegel

Public Relations Agency Best Practices, Part 1: Starting a New Client-Agency Relationship Right

December 3, 2012

We’ve all heard horror stories about how PR agencies have screwed up – disorganized service, too little attention from senior agency staff, too little experience on the account team, and the list goes on.

I’ve also heard plenty of horror stories about clients and how hard they are to work with. (I covered that in an earlier blog post.)

hearts-birdsIn this blog post and a follow-up post, I’ll provide my own template for agency best practices. My goal is to provide a template for agency/client best practices to help clients and potential clients know what they should expect as well as what will be expected of them, and to help other agencies organize their account services for optimal success. I welcome input from clients and other agencies on anything that I might have left out.

While the budget for public relations agency services dictates the amount of work and the level of activity a PR company can provide, there are certain basic components that are necessary for success no matter what the budget is. In my experience, it’s very difficult to achieve success for any client without providing those basic services and activities. When the budget is too small to afford these basics, it’s generally a good sign that both the client and the PR firm would be better off not starting a relationship.

I’ll start at the beginning – of the client-agency relationship, that is!  Here are what I consider to be best practices for kicking off a new relationship.

1. Schedule a client/agency meeting for an in-depth briefing of account team as soon as possible after the contract is signed. In most cases, the detailed PR plan will come out of this meeting, including the client’s PR positioning, audiences, key messages, strategies, tactics and budget. Necessary information to be shared (or decided) at the meeting:

  • Complete background on the assignment, the product or the company, including the competitive landscape, strengths and weaknesses of the product or company, history of product or company, distribution channels for product or company, research done by client on perceptions of key audiences, and a description of the client’s internal organization
  • Client’s preferred modes of communication
  • The approval process between client and account team
  • Upcoming deadlines for work
  • Clear and detailed client goals for PR
  • Identify the internal point person for the agency team. The agency needs regular input, updates and feedback from the client and must determine right away who in the company will provide this
  • Identify the client’s point person for accounting and invoicing

2.   The deliverables from that first meeting: the agency sends the client a detailed written plan and budget for the first year (or for a shorter period of time, depending on circumstances and contract).  Contents of the plan should include:

  • Confirmation of the PR goals, audiences, messaging and strategies
  • Confirmation of the agency’s deliverables to the client
  • Adjustments to any ideas previously proposed to account for new information received at the first meeting
  • Detailed information on each of the components and stages of the PR plan
  • Clear delineation of who is responsible for each component of the work – client or agency
  • Deadlines for each component that must be met by the client and the agency
  • Estimated budgets for agency fees and out-of pocket expenses

 In Part 2, I will cover the best practices for agency services after the relationship is under way. 

Lucy Siegel

Memories of an Internationalist: Ray Josephs – Author, PR Executive and Promoter Extraordinaire

October 19, 2012

This week I stumbled across a book published during World War II by an old friend, Ray Josephs, a journalist, author and international public relations executive who died in 2005 at the ripe old age of 93.  Ray was one of the best self-promoters I have ever met. It was instructive to watch him  in action, even in his 80s and 90s.

Ray started his career as a newspaper journalist in the 1930s.  He always wanted to travel, and managed to wangle an assignment from his Philadelphia newspaper to cover a story in South America in the pre-WW II years. He fell in love with Argentina and with a German

Ray Josephs in mid-career

Jewish émigré he met there, and ended up marrying her and staying in Buenos Aires for several years. Buenos Aires was the beginning of Ray’s international communications career, a journey he enjoyed until just before he passed away.

The book I found was “Argentine Diary: The Inside Story of the Coming of Fascism.” He told me about his time in Argentina but I had forgotten the details, which I discovered in an article with Ray’s byline published in the British newspaper, The Independent in 1994.  About his years in Buenos Aires, Ray wrote, “It was not only love that worked out. While in the city, I helped set up the first Latin American news bureau for Time magazine, sent stories to the Chicago Sun-Times and other dailies, and the show business weekly Variety. Through the entertainment world, I got an early lead on Evita Duarte, who later married military strongman Juan Peron, and my reporting on life in their dictatorship became my first bestseller, ‘Argentina Diary’ …”

French edition of “How to Gain an Hour Every Day”

Ray eventually moved from journalism into public relations, a new profession at the time.  He founded International Public Relations, and did work for companies and brands from all over the world, some of them quite well-known, ranging from General Motors to the Concorde.  But while his PR firm kept him busy, he never stopped writing. Among his books are “Latin America: Continent in Crisis,” “Streamlining Your Executive Workload,” and, the book he was best known for, “How to Gain an Extra Hour Every Day.”  This time management book, published in 1955, sold very briskly in in the U.S. and then was published in Japan as well.

Now I’ll move the clock up to around 1990 or ‘91.  Ray was almost 80. He had a soft spot in his heart for Japan, which he had first visited in the ‘50s after the war when the country was absorbed in the tough task of rebuilding and reinventing itself.  He had helped set up a PR firm in Tokyo that his firm worked closely with, and his clients included a lot of big Japanese companies. But he hadn’t been back to Japan for many years. Ray knew I had worked for a Japanese PR firm in Tokyo in the late ’80s, and called to ask if I could introduce him to some of my Japanese PR agency contacts. He wanted to take his wife Hanny to Japan and had arranged to write a trade magazine article on the Tokyo PR scene. I put him in touch with several of my colleagues in Tokyo, some of whom entertained Ray and Hanny royally while he interviewed them for his article.  When he returned, he told me an amazing story.

Vietnamese edition of “How to Gain an Hour Every Day”

A young man he met at one of the Tokyo PR firms said to him, “You’re very famous! I read your book about saving time– it is so popular here.” Ray answered, “My book was published long before you were born. Did you find it in the library?” The young man answered, “No, I bought it in the book store just last week.” Ray decided to pay a visit to his old publisher to find out how his book could still be in the bookstore, since he had not received any royalties for many years.

The publishing company (one of Japan’s largest) told him they had reprinted his book many times over the years, but unfortunately they had lost track of him and didn’t know where to send the royalties. Ray came home with a very large check and a great idea.

Ray figured if the Japanese were willing to buy his old book, which had not been updated since he wrote it, he could surely convince publishers elsewhere, both in the U.S. and around the world, to print new updated editions. He was successful in getting an American publisher to issue a new edition of his book, incorporating quotes from well-known modern day American business titans about their own time-saving tips.  Then he set off on a grand world tour to find overseas publishers.  He used his extensive network to get introductions to people who could help him in each country.  Ray’s country visits included interviews with well-known local business people so he could incorporate tips from them into locally-tailored editions of the book. He also met with potential local publishers and arranged media interviews for himself with the biggest local media outlets.  In essence, he was wearing three hats: journalist, business executive and what we would now call “talent.” He was doing his own PR and setting the stage for an incredible publishing coup.

He asked me for overseas contacts in the countries he was visiting who might be able to introduce him to publishers. I put him in touch with people in several countries who wined and dined him and Hanny while Ray fished for contacts with publishers and journalists.

When Ray came back from Europe, he showed me a very impressive binder full of media coverage he’d gotten for himself. The media in Europe were quite taken with this dapper little old man (he was very short and always smartly dressed), who, in his 80s, had revitalized his career as an author.

If you Google Ray Josephs, you’ll find “How to Gain an Extra Hour Every Day” for sale in a multitude of languages.  This man’s promotional skills were so well-honed that his second edition books are still selling all over the world, long after he ran out of hours himself. Ray  mentored many people during his long career, and through them, his legacy, like his books, lives on.

Lucy Siegel

Many Comments: Factors Contributing to PR Failure

October 14, 2012

In the last Bridgebuzz blog post, I reported the results of a survey we conducted of PR professionals about failure to meet PR program goals and expectations. The survey was conducted using Survey Monkey and had a total of 54 responses.  Almost all of those who responded were quite experienced – the majority had more than 20 years of PR experience. In addition to the answers to the multiple choice questions, there were a surprising number of comments added in the open-ended “other/comments” fields.  On one question, there were over 31 out of the 54 survey respondents added their comments. Many of the comments were quite thoughtful and worth the time to report here, which I promised in my last post that I would do.

The following unedited comments were made in response to the question, “What are the biggest factors contributing to failure?”

  • Most agency/client relationships fail because the expectations of the client and agency are not in sync at the beginning of a project/program. It is critical to set and agree to those expectations prior to the start of the project.
  • There’s lots of competition from similar organizations trying to get attention for the same issues, all professing to be the leader on a specific issue.
  • Unclear or inconsistent client goals.
  • Client wouldn’t budget for research. “You should know all that’s necessary; anyway, I know the situation.”
  • Our client couldn’t give us enough valuable information to create a compelling [media] pitch.
  • The client’s expectations were centered around quantity of coverage vs. quality.
  • Some clients want instant results, even though we tell them that PR takes time.
  • Our client contact was totally unresponsive; perhaps there would have been a way to go above the contact.
  • We must make clients understand that the preparation stage takes real time up front before results can be achieved.
  • True agency/client partnership means both sides take responsibility for insuring success.
  • Agencies need to think critically about client problems and identify the best means of overcoming them.  PR is not always the solution.
  • An increasing number of media outlets are asking for payment for editorial coverage. It is becoming more and more difficult to get “earned media.”
  • Problems can come from mid-management decision-makers not understanding the perspectives (or not communicating with) senior management.

Lucy Siegel

How the Accreditation Fiasco in the PR Industry Relates to Poor PR for PR

September 29, 2012

One thing has been true in the public relations industry for a long time.  To paraphrase the late comedian Rodney Dangerfield, “We don’t get no respect.” Thankfully, this is changing. But PR people are often dismissed scathingly by many journalists as “flacks,” are paid far less than advertising professionals, and there is still a wide lack of understanding of what PR really is or how it works.

One of the problems is the PR industry’s own lack of success in doing PR for PR.  The two largest industry membership organizations, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), have done little or nothing to work together on this and neither has made much progress alone. Both have their own proprietary credentialing systems intended to create more prestige for, and confidence in, individual practitioners, but neither system has developed much traction, either within the profession or in the general business community. Have any of you non-PR industry readers ever heard of the APR or the ABC accreditation? Only a small fraction of PR professionals have cared enough about the right to use these professional abbreviations to take the required exams on which they are based.

In a recent blog post about these accreditation systems by Ed Lallo, Newsroom Ink, Lallo pointed out that PRSA requires members to have APR credentials in order to serve in national leadership positions, yet 80 percent of PRSA members don’t have an APR. This is especially true in New York, where the greatest number of senior PR executives holding top industry positions are located – and where the business community could care less about APR.

In essence, the majority of the most senior and respected industry leaders aren’t eligible to serve as national leaders in the industry’s largest professional association. The New York City community of PRSA members has tried for many years to eliminate the APR requirement for national leadership, with no success. As a result, PRSA’s national leaders have come almost entirely from outside New York (which has long been the media and PR capital of the U.S.) and have not been nationally-known PR industry executives (such as CEOs or very senior executives of big PR agencies). In my opinion, this has lessened PRSA’s prestige and clout nationally, not only in the PR industry, but in the general business community.

It’s a vicious cycle – less prestige for PRSA means less respect for the APR and limited ability for PRSA to advocate for the public relations profession.  No wonder we don’t get no respect.

Like many  colleagues who have held senior PR industry positions or have run their own PR agencies for many years, I don’t have an APR and don’t need one. Why should senior professionals in the industry take the time to earn credentials to practice PR, especially if their bosses and/or clients don’t even know what the credentials stand for? No wonder, as Lallo wrote, “Accreditation faces a rocky road at both PRSA and IABC.”

Lucy Siegel

%d bloggers like this: