Seeing red: giving PR teams a real business objective

Speed Communications director John Brown talks client behaviours he can't stand.

John Brown: " Let’s all get a bit more commercial, eh?"
John Brown: " Let’s all get a bit more commercial, eh?"

One thing that will guarantee a glazed look in my eyes in chemistry meetings is the phrase "it’s about getting coverage". It would be a more productive and ultimately valuable relationship if agencies stopped claiming victory and swinging their [column] inches about, and clients looked to give their PR team a real business objective, rather than a shoddily-put-together coverage KPI. Why am I so adamant that this is the way forward? Here are two of my favourite scenarios that outline why we should all grow up a bit when it comes to setting objectives:

The world is not enough

A client sets a coverage goal and the agency reaches it. The client sets a higher goal, the agency reaches it and increases its journalist entertainment budget. The following year, the client sets a goal that would saturate the media with positive tales of the client, the agency gets sacked and the process starts again with a new agency. The client’s business doesn’t notice much difference.  

The great deflation

It is frustrating for the client-side PR manager and the agency to walk into an end-of-year review with the CEO or MD to be told: "This coverage looks lovely, but I’m not sure it has done anything for our business. How much are we paying you?" That question is directed at both parties.

Coverage targets are security blankets that can ensure everyone meets some sort of a target. But surely we would all be far happier trying to solve a big business issue, where media relations might be a part of the solution, rather than the less challenging conundrum of which A4 binding process to use to best present the achievements of the year. Let’s all get a bit more commercial, eh?

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