Last week we reviewed the first of Suzanne Block’s two-part strategy to win at #PR. Today we will focus on the second part of Block’s strategy, as well as how to diagnose when your PR relationship just isn’t working out.
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Strategy 2: Relationship Bliss
Managing expectations for product vs. technology landscape knowledge is essential to succeeding with the second part of Block’s strategy: creating an optimal relationship with your strategic communications agency. She gave some good advice about how to know whether or not your relationship is working, telling me, “If at the end of a PR engagement you don’t know how to explain your product better than you did before, that PR engagement didn’t work.” Companies should be working towards creating a long-term relationship with their PR firm to maximize their ability to reach those key gatekeepers.
So what are some ways to know if your relationship is working? Well, for one, you should be excited by the vision your firm is offering. As Block said, she knows a client is onboard when they “pull in their chief executives because they’re so excited by our vision.” To get to this point, there has to be a clear definition of roles on both sides. Too often, clients come up with great ideas about how to message their product, but don’t realize that those ideas have been used and are worn out. There has to be trust in the relationship when your firm course corrects when this happens.
Thus, a great vision often seems to present your product as solving a problem that is a step or two away from the actual domain it addresses. This can make some companies uncomfortable, but a good PR firm understands the journalistic world thoroughly and knows if a message will be ineffective from the get-go, no matter how carefully it’s packaged.
Block, like other communications professionals I’ve interviewed, also emphasized using data and analytics to measure campaign success. She said her firm sets metric-based goals at the beginning of the partnership and then keeps clients up to date on their progress. Having objective measures of success helps set expectations and ensure a harmonious relationship..
To reach a state of PR bliss, Block recommended creating a structured relationship. Holding a high-level meeting every six-months is essential. These meetings should include all relevant stakeholders and focus on higher level strategy conversations, such as product road-mapping and assessing how the PR strategy has performed over the past six months. There must be transparency on both sides in order to establish realignment. Everyone should leave with re-defined goals.
Yet, even more important than these visioning meetings, are more nitty-gritty meetings conducted on a weekly basis. Block pushes for open communication as a commitment of both parties to ensure buy-in from all stakeholders. The frequency of these meetings helps to bolster the relationship, but also allows PR to constantly bring new opportunities to the table. As a result, companies always know the status of their strategic communications efforts. For Block, this is the way to make sure the program is always moving forward.
How To Know When The Relationship Isn’t Working
Block also discussed the indications for when the relationship isn’t working. The clearest is when the established metrics aren’t being met and there’s data to back that up. Another danger sign for a PR firm is when a client is not engaged in their PR strategy – then it’s clear the partnership is floundering. If a company is not providing their PR firm with the resources they need or there’s a lot of lag with supplying information, the campaign will suffer. Tech companies need to recognize this early or else risk wasting money on PR that goes nowhere.
But ultimately, PR is predicated on relationships – relationships between the client and PR firm and the PR firm and journalists. To chart a course to victory with PR, tech companies need to buy-in with a knowledgeable partner that they trust enough to advance their message — even if the way that message is communicated is different than how they might have first conceived it. From there, just like in any relationship, transparency and open communication are key. As Block said, “Strategic communications agencies and their clients should communicate enough so there’s never any mystery about what’s happening.” Sage advice indeed.
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Suzanne Block is an Account Supervisor at Merritt Group, a PR, digital, and creative communications agency. With a specialty in business and enterprise technology PR and communications, Suzanne works closely with clients to develop meaningful and timely campaigns that elevate visibility among key audiences and align with business objectives for the most external impact.
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