Opinion: A checklist to help the little people of PR

This column is being written under pressure. I have just spent a most enjoyable morning talking about media management to a small PR company’s staff, who extracted from me a promise to use my column to help the little people of PR in their daily battle with clients. ’Give us a checklist,’ they said, ’which we can thrust in front of clients saying: ’Look, this is what Ingham tells us in PR Week we should be asking you if we are to give you our best shot.’’

This column is being written under pressure. I have just spent a

most enjoyable morning talking about media management to a small PR

company’s staff, who extracted from me a promise to use my column to

help the little people of PR in their daily battle with clients. ’Give

us a checklist,’ they said, ’which we can thrust in front of clients

saying: ’Look, this is what Ingham tells us in PR Week we should be

asking you if we are to give you our best shot.’’



The list is based on my conviction that the PR ignorance of general

management and the weakness of PR managers - well, they have to live in

this competitive world - daily compounds the problems of getting the

most out of a contract.



So what - diplomatically, of course - should you ask a client? Let’s

take it in logical steps. First, fill in the background.



Why are you employing us? Is it because other companies have PR agencies

- in other words to keep up with the Joneses? Is it because you somehow

think you should? What gave you the idea? Or have you done so in the

past and are giving it another go? And how in the past - no names, no

pack drill - did you find it? Commentary: that should give you a feel

for what you are up against because, make no mistake about it, the

client is often the greatest single obstacle to effective PR. Now to

objectives.



What do you want us to achieve? To sell your products/services like hot

cakes? Register your presence in the market? Raise your reputation? Get

over your point of view? Change attitudes and actions? Get you personal

publicity - perhaps even a knighthood? Or a combination of these things

- and if so, what combination? Commentary: if your get the objective of

the exercise down in writing, at least you have a guiding star you can

point to. Now let’s turn to liaison, where it often goes wrong.



Are you, the boss, going to be our contact? If not, who? Does the person

responsible for liaison know why we are being employed, what the

objective is, in an informed and authoritative position and able to make

decisions? Has he/she had any experience of managing a PR account?

Whether or not, will they have direct access to you, the boss?



And do you recognise that, if PR is to be effective, you - the boss -

have to take a close interest in it? Finally, to operations.



Are you employing us for our expertise or as an extra pair of hands?



For example, do you recognise we know how to draft press notices and

statements for the media and that your job is primarily to check facts?

And how many people will we have to clear a press notice/statement with?

Bureaucracy and PR don’t mix. Commentary: wouldn’t it be luvverly to get

the right answers and the contract?



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