Being hired to handle an organization’s public relations is like getting married. PR pros often court a client for some time before landing the deal. But once the client “puts a ring on it,” some PR pros find the honeymoon can be short lived.
Just about every one of my public relations colleagues has a horror story (or two) they can tell about “the client from hell.” It’s difficult to turn down business, but sometimes it can be the best decision you ever make. I have done it and I am pretty sure I sleep better at night because I have.
Rather than rush to the alter, it’s best to take steps to spot what could become a troublesome client ahead of time and take steps to mitigate any potential problems that might pop up.
Get to know the early warning signs.
Ask the potential client ahead of time about their expectations. Are they realistic? Do they expect you to be at their beck and call 24/7? Do they expect to have their story told on CNN in the first few weeks of your engagement? Also, it’s best to make it clear upfront what they should expect from your efforts. Never over promise.
Anyone who has ever worked in public relations knows it’s a career with many peaks and valleys. One day you are getting a client the media interview of their dreams; the next day they are blaming you for everything that is wrong with their business (or lack thereof).
It’s the peaks that get us through the rough times, but sometimes getting to the top is almost as tough as climbing Mt. Everest. Obtaining that much-sought-after interview rarely comes in the form of one-call-does-it-all.
Case in point, I had been pitching a reporter for months, every time my client put out a press release I would send our latest and greatest news to him. If I didn’t get the silent treatment, I got a “thanks but no thanks” or “I’m too swamped, maybe next time.” I was always pleasant and thanked him for his time. I did not tell him why he needed to write the story, nor did I demand to speak with his editor. (Believe me, there are some PR people who will do this. When I was a journalist I was on the receiving end of these kinds of folks).
I paid attention to his social media posts, commented when appropriate, read his stories and got to know him. Then one day we had more news to report. I pitched an angle I thought would fit and … got the snub again! Then something miraculous happened (cue the harps). He was working on another story that my client fit into and he asked us for an interview.
One of the challenges of being in the field of public relations is trying to explain to companies why they need your services. Many think PR is nothing more than another name for advertising, which could not be further from the truth. Others think public relations costs a lot of money. That, of course, depends on who you hire, but it doesn’t have to break the bank. When people ask me why their company or organization needs PR, here’s what I tell them:
Regardless of whether you are just starting out, or have an established business, hiring a public relations firm can help you to gain brand recognition and grow your business.
Susan R. Miller is founder of Garton-Miller Media, a full-service, South Florida based public relations firm. Susan is a former journalist with more than 30 years of experience. She has two daughters, two golden retrievers and two cats, but just one guinea pig who is happy not to have to share his cage or his daily stash of veggies with anyone.
Garton-Miller Media is a full-service, South Florida-based public relations firm. Founder Susan R. Miller has 30 years of experience as a writer, journalist and PR professional.