To PR or not to PR

Few weeks ago I had a meeting with a prominent business figure in the Emirati Entrepreneurship and Investment world.  He raised a very interesting point, which not only start-ups, but big enterprises should remember and respect: “How do we know what needs to be done to grow our business? How does a company know if PR is going to add value?” That’s a very good question and it needs to be asked more often by business owners and decision makers. Sadly, when it comes to business and budget cuts, PR will be the first marketing discipline to be eliminated, which most of the time, is the biggest mistake companies could possibly make. PR is not just another way of paying somebody to do something you are not really sure you even need. PR is the “engine oil” of a business, and good PR is a guarantee that your brand acquires a soul.

What’s your idea of PR?

Throughout my career in PR, I came across a lot of different clients and heard a lot of different reasons why companies decide to hire a PR Consultant. Unfortunately a lot of them had very wrong understanding not only about what PR professionals do, but also, about what they want to achieve using this marketing tool. Public Relations and Communications are no longer a message in a bottle type of activities. Mobility and connectivity we acquired thanks to the internet help us to engage, and this is what people want today. They don’t want to be narrated to, they want to communicate. If you care less about receiving end for your message, and only care about what you want to say is important to you, you are wasting a lot of time and money. Why? Because nobody cares about it unless it is relevant, and if the client believes that sending 5 press releases is a good PR strategy, we will excuse our self and will not offer to be a part of it. It is very tragic that some agencies got stuck in the stone age of PR and they keep on executing the “press release factory” style PR. They ruin the whole perception about the industry. Why do we actually do it?

Choosing the right agencies

It is important for clients to go about scouting for PR agencies after doing a thorough research. A rule to remember: Don’t simply go for agencies because they are well known or handle big brands. Go for agencies that exhibit passion for your line of business.  Attitude matters and it is a clincher especially while sealing the deal.

Passion should never be one-sided.  It is not simply about the client’s passion for his brand alone. In fact, we as an agency must be very passionate about what we do. PR is an everyday learning and as a PR professional we have to become experts in many fields. You will never become a valuable partner to your prospective client if you are not excited about the brand. If you don’t feel you are really interested in what your client does, don’t take it on. The worst thing to happen is that you see dollar signs in front of you and you don’t see yourself enjoying the process. And process in public relations is everything.  I am very grateful to my management that they do not ever force a client on me if I am not feeling fascinated by the business they run.

Involvement and Engagement

Involvement and Engagement of the agency and the client at all stages is crucial. Being involved in the brand as much as your client is involved in what is happening is critical. So, for all the companies and potential clients out there, if you do not feel that your PR agency is your partner in crime, don’t continue with them.  And this works both ways. If your PR agent allows you to dictate what needs to be done and has no voice in the direction of the PR Campaign that you are mutually working on, don’t expect any success of this venture! When you bring somebody to help your business to grow, you should expect valuable contribution and measurable change, don’t settle for less.