Common questions and their uncommon answers 👇
PR or Public Relations is the practice of bringing your story to your target audience to build trust and confidence in your brand.
Through these stories, the target audience can relate to your brand and take the desired actions. These actions range from buying your product/service to endorsing and recommending your brand to other people, looking at opportunities to work with you, giving you a seat at the table to discuss policy matters, giving you an empathetic hearing in times of crisis, etc.
In short, PR creates a halo effect around your brand and triggers the feeling of pride in your target audience in dealing with your brand. The audience feels your brand is more than a commercial business (which it should be, by the way!).
PR is different from advertising in as much as it is carried out through non-paid mediums like conventional media, own media assets like websites and blogs, social media like LinkedIn, knowledge partnerships with industry associations and public groups.
Yes. PR makes your brand visible to the target audience (TA). Once the TA is aware about your brand, they are more likely to buy your products/services than otherwise. So yes, PR helps in generating revenue.
All it requires is for you to complete the loop. You would have to use CRM solutions to effectively know how did the incoming customers learn about you. This is important to decipher the effectiveness of PR, exclusive of marketing activities. In the absence of using CRM to capture this data, you may feel that PR is a cost centre but that would be a wrong conjecture.
PR is the most economical form of publicity there is. Advertising – to which PR is often compared – involves expenditure on media buying in addition to paying a retainer/commission to the execution agency. That can take the form of crores of rupees for a couple of days of publicity. However, PR only involves a payment to the execution agency or your own internal resources in-charge of PR activities.
Some big PR agencies have taken up the role of media buying as well as digital marketing. Their concept of cost is different because it is for all publicity activities put together.
Having said that, it is practically not possible to put a set number to cost as every client has a different timeframe and intended results in mind. The better way to look at cost is how much your business wants to spend on PR.
Based on your budget and business goals, I can suggest the PR activities you should undertake.
It can take a few weeks or it can take eternity depending on what stage of brand positioning you are at. If you are already known to be solving a painful problem for your target audience (‘known to be’ is the operative phrase here), media visibility can be a matter of days. However, if you are just beginning to take up PR activities, the timeframe will increase.
The timeframe for creating media visibility can be progressively shortened by staying in the game consistently. Media loves brands that are consistent in creating great stories.
Great stories have your target audience as the hero (think of James Bond) and your brand as the key supporting crew (think of Q which supplies all the gadgets to James Bond to complete his missions).
That is the most common question that has the most uncommon answer. I don’t know anyone who would be ready to write a story about your brand without seeing value in it.
In other words, journalists value great stories irrespective of the brand I or any other PR professional represents. You see, journalists can sense stories from a distance. Offer a good one to them and they will make it great. Without a story, I have seen well-known brands being rejected by media.
PR deals with third parties like media whose authority comes from their independence from any influence. These third parties don’t depend on any brand for emoluments and thus are free to evaluate each story angle and publish only those that add value to the lives of their readers.
Therefore, giving an upfront assurance or guarantee to the client about the publication of stories would be foolish. What I do, instead, is work with my clients on creating great stories. This way, the chances of getting the story published increases manifold.
The following metrics help, if it is the quantity that you value:
- PR value compared to a year ago
- Share of voice vis-à-vis competition
- Media reach
Quantitative metrics are good, but I recommend the qualitative aspects more:
- Sentiment analysis (The shift from negative/neutral to positive)
- Number of negative stories (The less the better)
- Number of stories in the target media
- Reputation Management
- Strategic Communications
- Crisis Communications
- Content Management
- Digital Communications
- Media Training
- PR activities that are aligned with your business goals
- Strategic advice on relevant media and content ideas, keeping your target audience at the core
- A defined media coverage without over-the-top promises
- A lot of brainstorming sessions
- Insightful periodic reviews
- Complete transparency
- Ethical conduct
That’s the most difficult question to answer because of the presence of externalities. Media impressions are the result of all that we do for clients, i.e. identifying topics that their target audience care about, identifying story angles, identifying relevant journalists, and working with them to get these stories published.
There are three participants in this – you, we and journalists. Our role in this engagement is to control my efforts, guide your efforts and help journalists with information to generate impressions. There are many things that are beyond our control, like what other stories a journalist is working on, what other topical events are happening on the day (eg. elections, war, press conference by a bigger and well-known competitor, etc.).
These externalities can derail the editorial schedule of media, resulting in undue delays in publication of stories about clients.
It is very important to acknowledge the presence of these externalities to have a smooth PR engagement. In the absence of it, clients end up thinking the PR partner is not doing a great job. Perhaps this is what happened with your previous agency relationship.
We know this and, therefore, we don’t commit a big number of impressions. Rather, we commit on the quality of stories. What we can say is that the stories that will be published will be in publications that your target audience trusts. In simple terms, these will be high-quality stories.
We will commit a number for such stories once we have detailed discussion about your business and your expectations from PR.
The taste of pudding is in eating. There is no way of knowing how it tastes unless you eat it.
What we can tell you is that PR is a high-commitment practice. You would see our commitment from the beginning. You can end the contract if you feel our engagement isn’t working for you. We promise you won’t think of ending the contract though.
We conduct deep research about my clients and have resourceful conversations with them to figure out their target audience, problems they solve, solutions they provide, value they add to their customers and the society at large, how they address customer issues, what they do for employees, and most important of all we keep our eyes and ears open to notice pieces of information that float around in the client’s ecosystem and can turn into a story.
Journalists draw salaries from their organisations.
We offer them stories that they like to publish. They don’t need anything else from us or from you.
Fee is the function of value.
We work closely with our clients to help them identify topics that have the potential for generating stories. Once that’s done, we work on specific story ideas within those topics, create content on behalf of clients, research about relevant journalists and publications, persuade these journalists to work on the identified stories, set up interviews, help the client’s spokesperson with talk points, assist the journalists in bridging the information gap to enable them publish the stories.
We basically see the story from ideation through to publishing. All of this take a lot of work and we charge a commensurate fee.
Pay-per-engagement or success fee models don’t work in PR.
It is because PR is not a homogeneous work. Each interaction and each story would require a different level of involvement from me and you. It will be practically impossible to judge who had put in how much effort for each activity and then negotiate a fee for that. Setting a price in advance for each activity is equally impractical.
We prefer working on monthly retainer as that enables me to have a predictable revenue stream and focus my attention on generating publicity for my clients rather than thinking of getting the next assignment to pay our bills.
Yes, we do.
Although we prefer to work with retainer clients as that allows us to handle their requirements end-to-end, sometimes clients want strategic advice on a particular topic or activity from us and handle implementation internally. We get on one-to-one calls or meetings with them.
It happens in two phases:
Phase 1: We understand their requirements over a 30-minute call.
Phase 2: We guide them over a video call or personal meeting.
Budget is an important variable in PR.
PR activities can start with strategy and go on to include content, media engagement, thought leadership, speaking opportunities, knowledge partnerships, et al. A clear budget makes it easy for the PR partner to suggest what all activities the brand should undertake. In the absence of it, the PR partner ends up shooting in the dark which and that often fails to generate results for the client.
For best results, it is important that you earmark a defined budget for PR activities.