There is an interesting trend coming out of Silicon Valley.
Startups realize the traditional PR model is broken and are creating technologically-savvy platforms to fix the problem.
Some have found a way to quickly disseminate news to journalists without relationships or conversations. A way to get their news out quickly without paying PR firm retainers.
But there is a larger problem at play. Yes, the traditional PR model is broken, but it can’t be saved by keyword-stuffed news releases blasted all over the web.
It also will not save all.
- “Yes men” PR firms are not adjusting to social media;
- News releases generally don’t drive conversions; and
- Organizations and their PR firms don’t (generally) value social media and content strategy.
“Yes Men” PR Firms
If you’re looking for some help with communications – either by hiring an expert to join your team or working with a PR firm – you are bringing them in because they offer a skill you do not have.
They are consultants, by nature, and therefore are not going to always agree with you. PR experts know how to craft a story, they know how to engage your customers, they know how to nurture your prospects through a decision-making process, and they know how to mitigate an issue before it becomes a crisis.
In many cases, you are going to think you have a story because you are passionate about it, but no one else will care. A good PR professional will know how to tell you it’s not a story, but also offer alternative ideas.
The most success you’ll have is when you empower your firm or team to direct strategy, detail messaging, and communicate on your behalf as they see fit.
If you want someone to do your bidding, the relationship will sour very quickly.
It’s going to be uncomfortable. It’s sometimes going to make you angry. Put your trust in them and let them so their jobs.
News releases about new features and benefits and clients added are so rampant – and stuffed with keywords – that Google changed their policy on how they’ll rank them in search results (hint: Not at all).
Even in that very, very small chance a large publication runs with the new feature or benefit, a person may scan the article. And then a very small percentage of those people will go to the website. And an even smaller percentage will actually ask for a demo or sign up for a free trial or download the app.
The lack of conversions will drive you crazy. You’ll keep asking what’s next and you’ll be frustrated the story that ran a week ago didn’t do anything to sales.
Rather, you want to think about the relationships that will help convert customers when a story runs. That is where your PR team should be spending their time…and where you should spend your time when a journalist calls for an interview.
In some cases, it will be with journalists. In others, influencers. And yet others, brand enthusiasts and critics.
If you and your PR team are smart and strategic about this, stories that are written or produced will have large conversions.
Remember, it’s quality over quantity.
Social Media and Content Strategy
We recently won a piece of business and, when I spoke with the new client, he told me we were up against four other large firms. He said it ended up not being a competition because all four other firms regurgitated social media and content strategy they’ve read about on the web, but it was clear they didn’t know how to actually implement.
Our proposal, on the other hand, looked at what the client was doing now, where they could make some changes for quick effect, and what we’d likely recommend for ongoing efforts.
He said, while some of our recommendations were painful to read, we were the only ones who were honest about what needed to change in order to be successful.
The other firms were yes men and told them what they thought they wanted to hear.
A cookie cutter approach, if you will, to the things that evolve so quickly, it’s impossible to execute the same way every time.
If the people you’re interviewing to help you with PR all sound the same, keep looking. Even if they have industry experience or have worked with your competitor, keep looking.
Many firms have added on social media and content because they have to, but don’t actually understand it beyond building a Facebook page or having a blog.
Do your due diligence. The relationship you have with this person or team will be intimate. You want to know they can do the job you expect.
Traditional PR and Conversions
It’s certainly not easy to go against the grain. We’ve had clients who accuse us of not knowing what we’re doing because we push back.
It feels uncomfortable to you because it’s not what you were taught. The PR industry, itself, 15 years ago told business leaders the way to measure effectiveness was by a sheer number of stories.
That was before we could scientifically and mathematically measure results.
It’s a mindset change to think less about quantity and more about quality, but this is what will result in sales.
Even though we all intuitively know numbers don’t matter, it’s hard to pay for something that takes time. You want to see lots of things happening – news releases written, Facebook fans increasing, videos being produced.
But those things won’t convert. Do the things that will. Empower your team to do the same. In that way, you’ll win.
A highly modified version of this first appeared on Spin Sucks.