Let’s be honest: Not every PR campaign will be a shining success. As much as we like to share case studies that drive amazing results, every single one of us in PR has been part of a campaign that didn’t quite go as planned. Want to hedge your bets against a PR flop? Avoid these four campaign killers:
Product/market disconnect. This is totally out of the PR person’s control, but if the market doesn’t get, need or value your product, it’s virtually impossible to overcome that disconnect. If you’re involved in an agency’s business development, or if you’re thinking about taking a new job, it’s your responsibility to evaluate whether you think the product is something you want to work on. Do you think it can be a success? Can you convince the market that there is, in fact, a need for this kind of product or service? If you don’t get it, don’t believe in it, or don’t see the value, it’s probably worth passing on the opportunity. Save your time and energy for a better opportunity.
Mobile gap. In PR, we need to adopt a mobile mindset to ensure our strategies and tactics resonate with today’s mobile consumer. We recently worked on a client campaign that involved a heavy amount of Facebook advertising. We knew through the analytics that Facebook Mobile was a major driver of traffic to the website, a percentage that only increased as the ad campaign unfolded. But, the campaign wasn’t converting as highly as we all had hoped. Why? Because the website was outdated, clunky and virtually impossible to navigate from a mobile device. So, even though our Facebook campaign was successful in terms of increasing traffic, it wasn’t a success if you looked at conversions. The client’s refusal to build a highly functioning mobile site prohibited the campaign from reaching its full potential. As PR pros, if we’re recommending mobile strategies, we need to make sure the rest of the tools and elements involved in the campaign (like the landing page) are mobile-friendly. [Bonus read: Check out this prTini post from Carolyn Kent for tips to infuse mobility into PR, particularly around events and influencer relations.]
“Vendor” attitude. When I’m talking with prospects, I welcome the opportunity to explain why type of client we’re looking for. We want clients who are seeking a PR partner, not someone they can just outsource stuff to. PR works best when it’s a partnership with open lines of communication. For example, if an agency can’t get a hold of its client contact for two months, that’s a relationship doomed to fail. If you just need a vendor who can write press releases and similar one-off tasks, as a client, you need to be upfront about that from the get-go. If you don’t have time to engage with your PR firm, be honest with yourself and with the PR firm. This clarity is critical for establishing a productive, mutually beneficial relationship. (And, many agencies — myself included — will choose not to work with that type of client, one that is just looking for a vendor, not a partner. That said, there are plenty of freelance writers or PR people who are happy to take on those kinds of task-oriented projects.)
Unrealistic or unclear expectations. Clients and agencies get off on the wrong foot when they don’t set clear expectations from the beginning of the relationship or at the beginning of a new campaign. Then, as variables impact the work, it’s important to communicate if/how this will shift outcomes. Managing expectations is critical for the health of a PR relationship. What are you trying to accomplish and are those goals feasible within the allotted period of time? Get clear about that right away.
Photo credit: Jaramey Jannene