CAREERS: Pandora's Problem Page

Q The company I work for has been in business for 38 years. Only recently has it sought the help of a communications professional. As the first one, I am very limited in my campaign budgets until I prove my ability.

Q The company I work for has been in business for 38 years. Only recently has it sought the help of a communications professional. As the first one, I am very limited in my campaign budgets until I prove my ability.

Knowing how important and effective clipping services can be, I fought hard to get a basic, three-month trial contract. The embarrassingly low budget tied my hands as far as how many writers I could reach with our recent campaign. Clearly, my inability to reach many reporters hurt my chances of obtaining coverage.

So when very few clips came in, our new clipping service seemed like a waste of money to the president. Though he agreed to the three months, he wanted out after only one, and now has a bad taste in his mouth about clipping services. What's more, I feel my credibility has suffered. I've had ten years of PR experience, and know how vital it is to see who is writing about your company that you might not know of.

How do I get the president to give it another shot, when he seems totally closed to the idea?

Ms. P, New York

A I think that you and your president are placing too much emphasis on clippings to prove your value to the company. While measurement of PR performance is an incredibly important tool for both you and the organization, you first have to determine how you define success, and find the appropriate way to track that.

You say this company has not previously wanted or enlisted the help of a PR pro - so why has it done so now? What is the problem that you have been brought in to solve? If the answer is to get more clippings about the company, you must find out what kind of media is most important to target. If the company's sales have declined, you may want to target the trade press, rather than the general business media.

Whatever the goal is, you need to define it clearly. This is the kind of conversation you should have with your president before thinking about measuring your effectiveness in meeting his expectations.

Q I'm an experienced PR pro with a mid-size agency. My problem is with my newest and largest client. The marketing VP, supposedly my contact, is disinterested in PR, and passes everything down to a 23-year-old staffer.

"Junior, the low man on the corporate totem pole, takes the opportunity to treat his agency with condescension, and occasional outright disdain.

Even worse, he makes rudimentary errors that illustrate his inexperience and incompetence. It's all I can do to bite my tongue and not bring this too-big-for-his-britches whippersnapper down to size. I hesitate to go over his head because the VP hand-picked Junior, and I don't want to jeopardize this relatively new client relationship. Your advice?

Mr. K, Ohio

A I thought that breed of whippersnapper was extinct by now. I know it's hard to manage a difficult relationship, and the days of firing your client are long gone. I'd ask the VP if you can set up brief monthly or quarterly progress report meetings. Document everything about your relationship with "Junior - every phone call, meeting, and e-mail exchange, so that you have an accurate record of grievances, in case they arise. You'll soon demonstrate that any problems "Junior brings up have been solved.

I also firmly believe in the "killing them with kindness route around awkward people, especially when they are unseasoned. Treat his criticisms and mistakes with nothing but benevolent interest. If he senses that he is getting to you, he will be that much more difficult.

Do you have a problem that no one else has been able to solve? Try Pandora. E-mail her at pandora@prweek.com.

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