Posts Tagged ‘PR mistakes’

Don’t Make These Five Start-up PR Mistakes

December 20, 2011

Over many years of providing PR services to start-up companies, I’ve noticed a lot of the same very basic marketing and communications mistakes being made by one start-up after another:

1)      The goals for PR are unrealistic. Start-ups (and others) sometimes expect PR to sell their products. Public relations is not a direct sales tool. It can create awareness, educate the target audience about new technologies or solutions, build positive buzz, win over influencers, develop credibility and build relationships with potential customers. It can lead the potential customer to the company’s website or store or telephone sales force. These are not insignificant accomplishments; they are necessary steps along the way towards sales. But PR can’t always deliver sales leads. (You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.)

2)      The company’s founders don’t think they need PR (or marketing) because the products are so great they’ll sell themselves.  This relates to #1 above. It’s the “build it and they will come” philosophy that usually only works in a field of dreams! PR isn’t  a sales tool, but the PR and marketing are steps towards sales that can’t be skipped. Even if the products are as great as the founders think, there must be a process to let people know about them.

3)      The target audience is ill-defined or undefined. Sometimes when we talk to start-up executives about who they are targeting with their new products or services, the answer we get is, “Everyone. Everyone needs [or can use, or will like] this.”  This is a serious mistake and marketing problem. There are important reasons to identify the target audience, consisting of those who are most likely to buy. It is more cost and time-efficient to focus on that segment of the population than to try to appeal to everyone. Even big companies with brands like Coke, McDonalds, the iPhone and Victoria’s Secret have target customers and aim their marketing towards them very specifically. There’s a good reason why you don’t see iPhone reviews orVictoria’s Secret ads in magazines published for senior citizens. It’s imperative to do research to determine the best target audience.

4)   There are  no key communications messages chosen to be communicated.  What do you want your target customer to know and think about the product? Unfortunately the answer we sometimes get to this question is a very long, complex litany of attributes, facts and figures. It’s very difficult if not impossible to get across long and complex series of messages. We work with our clients to identify three or four of the most compelling messages and to repeat these over and over until they are well-communicated.

5)      The company expects splashy media coverage just because it (or its product) is being launched. If there’s not much new or different to offer, when there is no important differentiation from competitors, there’s no news. If there’s no news, there’s no compelling reason for media coverage. We can offer the media interviews with company executives to discuss industry trends or current events, and the resulting media mentions help the company build credibility and visibility. But we can’t deliver a lot of coverage about a company and its products if there’s nothing new or different about them.

Most entrepreneurs don’t come from marketing or communications backgrounds, never had to be proficient in those areas and are not natural-born communicators. We’re there to help, by advising and educating. With a good, well-differentiated product, some education about the basics of marketing and PR – and a little luck – a small start-up can take giant strides in establishing itself.

Lucy Siegel

R ead my e-book: “Public Relations Around the Globe: A Window on International Business Culture”


Six Reasons PR Firms Get Fired

October 26, 2010

Even though I’ve been in a PR agency for quite a few years, I still remember what it was like to be responsible for agency activities within a corporation. That experience gives me a little insight into clients’ pet peeves about their agencies.  Senior PR agency managers are generally pretty savvy from long experience about what not to do. But not everyone in their organizations has the experience – or the training – to know.  For their sake, here are some tried and true ways that public relations agencies and their account teams put their client relationships at risk. 

 Agencies get fired for:

 1. Not managing the client’s expectations.  Often this happens because the agency over-promises to win an account.  This may help win new business, but it usually results in trouble and leads to frequent client turnover for an agency.

2. Allowing the lines between business and friendship to become blurry in the client relationship. The relationship, no matter how friendly, is rooted in business.   When the team members forget this, problems can develop that can lead to bad feelings on both sides.  

3. Providing unrealistic budgets and then exceeding them.

4. Disappearing for weeks at a time without making contact with the client. Even if the agency is working diligently on its own, clients want progress reports.

5. Shoddy writing that is poorly organized and has grammatical or spelling errors, or factual mistakes because the writer hasn’t bothered to pay attention to details.  Either the client has to spend valuable time editing or re-writing, or throw it back to the agency to be re-done. A frequent complaint we hear about “the last agency” is that the account team had poor writing skills and/or produced sloppily written materials.

6. Not measuring results. If the client isn’t given a ruler to measure the agency’s performance, then the agency sets itself up to have the results questioned. And the client has nothing to show top management to justify budget requests.

Some of these are so obviously destructive that it’s hard to understand why agencies aren’t vigilant in preventing them. And yet they happen over and over again.  Agency management usually does know that certain types of behavior ask for trouble, but knowing it is one thing; preventing or eliminating it is much harder.

Great agency management and sound ethics should result in long-term client relationships.  However, sometimes agencies lose clients even when everything is going well, through budget cuts or changes in a company’s needs.  It’s a tough business, but I wouldn’t choose any other!

Lucy Siegel

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