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
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?