At TopFire Media, anecdotal evidence has shown us that even the best planned public relations strategies can fall completely flat without the full engagement of clients who have hired a PR firm. Our team is made up of experts who have worked with some of the top public relations firms in the U.S., but often enough we’ve seen national PR campaign strategies underperform because the main ingredient for success was missing… true client/agency business partnership.
When hiring a PR firm, you want a team of top PR professionals who bring their “A” game to campaign strategies, building relationships with reporters on your behalf, and understanding your business and the industry at large. At the same time, commitment and collaboration from the client side of the PR fence is equally important.
For a PR firm, taking on a new client requires a certain amount of introspection and discipline. It is easy to get excited about taking on a new client, expanding the firm’s client base, and taking on new challenges. But it is also important to know when to walk away from an opportunity. Does the new client fully understand the commitment they are embarking upon when hiring a PR firm? Does the client understand the process? Does the client understand the role they play, alongside the PR firm they are hiring, to achieve optimal PR success? These are the expectations any PR firm needs to manage during the discovery phase. If a prospective client doesn’t meet the “PR Partnership Model” then it might be time to move on to other potential clients. And likewise, if, as a potential client, you feel that a PR firm doesn’t have your best interests in mind, does not provide solid guidance and perspective, and doesn’t come to the table with a collaborative game plan, then perhaps it’s time to explore other options.
There are some companies that hire a PR firm with grand expectations of landing the front page of the New York Times with each press release issued. They believe that simply hiring a PR firm will gain them immediate access to industry trades, media sources, etc. Of course, curated media contacts and access to publications are clear benefits of hiring a PR firm. But clients also need to take the time to engage in the process, be a sounding board for story ideas, discuss positioning, and be willing to think of their businesses from a different perspective (that of a reporter, for example). Without a focus on forming a real partnership, any PR relationship could get off to a rocky start that can be hard to overcome.
The client/agency dynamic should be a business partnership, not a one-sided relationship where the agency is simply told what to do, or where the client does not participate in the process. A partnership requires both parties to have skin in the game, to be active participants and to take a consistent approach in the face of the public and media representatives. When this is done successfully – as with any good partnership – then the sky is truly the limit on what can be accomplished.