Guy Kawasaki asked PR matchmaker Margie Zable to list the top ten reasons why small companies feel burned by PR firms they hired to generate media coverage:
The client doesn’t understand the publicity process.
The scope of work is not detailed and agreed upon by both parties.
The client has not been properly trained on how to communicate with the media.
The client and the PR person or firm are not a good match.
The client has not gotten results quickly enough and ends the relationship too soon.
PR people don’t explain the kind of publicity placements a client will most likely receive.
Clients don’t realize that what happens after you get the publicity coverage is sometimes more important than the actual placement.
Clients refuse to be flexible on their story angles.
Clients get upset when the media coverage is not 100% accurate or not the kind of coverage that they wanted.
Clients won’t change their schedules for the media.
Yes, these are issues. But notice how this list mostly blames the client for not understanding, for not making the effort. That’s a fairly typical PR agency view. And it ignores what is probably the single biggest factor in a bad client-agency relationship:
The client hires PR people who don’t know what they’re doing.
There you have it. The cold, hard truth is that the PR business is swarming with facile publicists who have neither the intellectual capacity, life experience nor communications skills to represent their client’s interests beyond parroting a press release, sending unsolicited email blasts, or calling newsrooms to ask if they did in fact received the press release.
Most of these people have good intentions. They’re enthusiastic. They’re great at selling the idea that getting your company’s name “out there” is both valuable and something they know how to accomplish. But then many — if not most — of these same PR agency people have never been working journalists, never published or produced a story on deadline. Yet they claim to be media experts. Many of them have never run a business, directed a marketing campaign or managed a corporate crisis. Yet they claim to be consultants.
So what is it they actually do when they get hired? They sell. Or they try to. Each day, for-hire publicists flood the nation’s media with unsolicited story ideas, event notices and interview offers. Every editor I know complains that most of these “media pitches” are useless junk. The topics or people are irrelevant, the content incoherent. A newspaper guy told me once that one reason so many reporters have a cynical view of corporations is because of the clueless PR agencies that represent them.
Think about that before you decide whether or not to outsource your publicity needs. And then do your homework. Perhaps hire a senior consultant to frame strategy or even direct your search. Ask PR agencies for media references and then call every one of them yourself.
Your company’s growing reputation is worth at least that much.
. . . . . . . . . .
Note: Real estate site Redfin CEO Glen Kelman responded to the "top ten" with his own list of reasons why small business should just do their PR.