The pace of change in public relations is so fast and furious that it’s easy to get blinded by the latest shiny new object in the communications workshop, and lose sight of why a corporate executive risks six figures of their company’s precious resources to hire a PR agency. Oftentimes tactical-minded PR pros are like sculptors attacking a block of clay, hoping that by virtue of using the newest tools the end result will be gallery-worthy. They go straight to crafting press release headlines and social media campaigns, overlooking the most innate needs of the client.
At RH we have been doing a lot of thinking lately about the risk-reward equation that goes through an executive’s mind when making the case for a PR spend, so that we can be confident our work has an impact and is highly valued at all levels. We think this is an important exercise because there is no better compass for a PR campaign than one that leads directly to the business objectives of the companies we represent.
Surveying our client portfolio and thinking deeply about what a CEO, VP of marketing, or head of corporate communications aspires to when signing the contract for PR services, here are the aspirations we discern most often:
- “This market is ripe for disruption and a new way of doing business, but buyers aren’t fully aware of it yet. We need to share our vision and get them thinking differently.”
- “We have a superior solution but our competitors get all the buzz. We want to be seen and be heard where it matters most, and we want to purposefully differentiate our brand in the market.”
- “We need investors to place a premium on our brand and our approach because one day we’ll want a healthy return for our blood, sweat and tears.”
- “There are external forces like government policy and spending that can make or break our market opportunity. We need these market makers to ‘get it’ and make smart decisions.”
- “Our sales team needs air cover when they are working with a prospect. They need prospects to be aware of our brand, and they need to point to third party validation for our solution.”
The reality is that a careful assessment of the true reasons an executive signs off on the PR spend reveals the best tools to deploy in a campaign. Oftentimes these tools do indeed include the newest, cutting-edge approaches. But instead of producing an odd-looking sculpture that causes company execs to ponder “Is it art?” the campaign yields a full gallery of results that invites execs to proclaim “Amazing work – I want more of that!”