When hiring a PR firm, there’s no short cut past setting realistic expectations

The road is littered with disappointed clients and fired communications agencies. One of the primary reasons for this is a failure to establish clear and realistic expectations at the outset.

It’s hard for a company to look a proffered contract in the face and say, “Hold on. Let’s be sure that your expectations are reasonable before we start.” But it’s absolutely essential. And the companies that have the courage to insist on this step will only help themselves in the long run.

This was driven home during Mike McDerment ’s and Saul Colt ’s appearance at Third Tuesday Toronto .
McDerment says of Freshbook ’s first use of a PR agency. “We cut it off after four months. Because nothing happened.”

Picking up on this Saul Colt suggests, “We had different expectations than some of the PR companies we have worked with. We have the greatest story in the world. So we can’t understand why we can’t get coverage in some really desirable places. … PR companies should sit down and say, ‘hey, you’re about to sign a contract and we just want to let you know that you’re not going to be [in all the places you want.’”

Good advice from clients who have seen the wrong side of disappointed expectations.

Other clips with Freshbooks’ Michael McDerment and Saul Colt :

A Fresh(books) approach to social media by Dave Fleet

Building a Winning Team

Your next great business idea may be staring you in the face

Freshbooks: Don’t talk about the product. Talk about what it means to people

Freshbook Execs listen and respond to customers

Online media deliver results. But traditional media still add legitimacy

  • Yet, having consistently done precisely what Saul suggests .. and in no uncertain terms at that … I’m constantly dumbfounded by clients who still continue to expect that their story should be on Quebec’s top rated talk show ‘Tout le monde en parle’ and on the front page of every daily. Yes, we need to manage expectations in clear terms. At the same time, we live in a society where Paris Hilton grabs headlines. For our clients, whose products or projects are at the centre of their own universes, what more can be done? As PR professionals and consultants, we have to find a way to make clients understand that building notoriety and credibility is a steady process that takes time.

    I once ran a campaign that got my client’s partners visibility on a national level, included TV coverage, the full front page of the Montreal Gazette business section, coverage in 3 of the 4 major Montreal dailies etc etc. Believe it or not they complained there were TOO MANY journalists at the press conference.

    Sometimes you just can’t win.

  • It’s a fine line to tread. Give the client a reality check to remind them how small they are in the grand scheme of things, but keep them hopeful of getting good results. Then if something fantastic happens, remind them that it’s not just because they are special, it’s because of your hard work and expertise. This is art of PR consultancy.

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