There’s nothing more rewarding for a publicist than landing a new client. For me, that’s one with an emerging, unknown brand. I love helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses from the ground up and creating a buzz and brand awareness that never existed before. You obviously want to prove yourself by showing them that they made the right decision with hiring you. But what happens after the “new” has worn off and your client starts acting unsatisfied and asking for the impossible, making you question whether or not they actually “get” what your job as a publicist entails? Do you try jumping through their hoops to appease them or do you set them straight?
If you anticipate the following common misconceptions that PR-newbie business owners have, you can definitely prevent yourself from falling into this PR pitfall.
1) My product is worthy of landing top press, like yesterday
I can't remember how many potential clients I've consulted with over the years who told me they wanted to be in O Magazine. That's great, and I might be able to make that happen for them, but it's probably not going to happen overnight. When you're promoting a product that no one's ever seen or heard before, it's most likely going to take a few times for them to pay attention. Having good relationships with media professionals definitely helps speed progress along, but that old advertising adage about the power of seven (it takes seven times for someone to hear about a new product before they try it) still applies. It's important that before you begin working with a new client, you educate them on the basic PR timeline, including the differences between short lead and long lead press.
2) It's your fault my product got cut from the page
This has probably happened to all publicists, at one point or another. You landed a fantastic placement for your client in a prominent magazine, but when you finally get it in your hands, the product is nowhere to be found. This is soon followed with an email from the editor saying they’re sorry, but the item got cut last minute. Is this your fault? Unless you’re able to sit alongside the art director and tell him or her what to keep while they’re laying out the pages, you really have no control over this. It happens all the time. No placement is guaranteed until the final layout. This is extremely important to tell your clients so they don’t get their hopes up only to take it out on you.
3) As my publicist, you’re also my spokesperson
Some clients love the limelight, and other’s not so much. While it’s your job to promote their products and company for all the world to see, it’s not your job to actually be the one speaking or being interviewed about them. That is their responsibility as the owner and CEO of their brand. Yes, you as a publicist should prepare your client for what to say in an interview, but if your client isn’t comfortable getting on the phone or in front of the camera, they can’t expect you to fill in for them. If you are comfortable being center stage, then that’s a different job title and one that you should hammer out with your client from the beginning. I remember securing a regional TV news segment regarding a client’s event. Not only did I put the the segment together with the producers, I was the on-camera talent and was referred to as the owner! Since it was live television, I just went with it, but it was extremely awkward!
4) PR and marketing are the same thing
With the rise of online marketing and social media, it’s easy to confuse what responsibilities go with PR or marketing. Traditional PR is the art of establishing and promoting a favorable relationship with the public (i.e, securing key media placements without the help of ad revenue). Marketing these days encompasses many things including paid advertising and utilizing social media platforms to build customer interest. More and more companies are using both tactics to promote their brands. It’s a good thing. However, a publicist shouldn’t be expected to handle both roles, just like a marketing person wouldn’t be expected to land their client press. Social media responsibilities like Tweeting, Instagramming, Pinning, Facebooking and even online media campaigns often land in a murky territory. Make sure you know exactly what your clients expectations are for promoting their brands before you sign on and be honest with them about what you can provide.
5) PR doesn't take any real time or effort
As a freelance publicist, one of the things that’s always been challenging to quantify to a potential client is how I spend my time doing my job. And for someone who doesn’t have any idea what PR is all about, why would they? For all they know, you just call up a contact, pitch them your idea and they write about it. Then you grab coffee with your friends. It would awesome if it were that easy. Since you’re asking your clients to pay you a certain amount of money per month, it’s only right to explain exactly what they’re paying for. For a better explanation and validation of how I execute a successful PR campaign, I’ve found it beneficial for both the client and myself to literally write out all of my daily activities. Communicating with editors to see what they’re working on, writing releases, sourcing appropriate contacts, maintaining contact lists, reading the latest issues and blogs to stay relevant, following up on sent samples, providing press materials and photos, setting up interviews, working with stylists, and creating monthly activity reports, are just some of the responsibilities that come with the job.
This is a business relationship and as with any relationship, there are boundaries that need to be set. If your client doesn’t have a clear understanding of the powers (and limits) of PR from the beginning, things can get pretty sticky quickly. However, by anticipating common misunderstandings, you can clearly communicate expectations from the get-go, which helps to set expectations and ensure a smooth client relationship.
Photo Credit: anitacanita