3 Things Senior Marketing People Get Wrong about Working with PR Agencies

By Scott Signore

When you’ve run a PR agency as long as I have – ten years and proudly counting – you begin to notice patterns of behavior from the marketing folks who are your prospects. There are a lot of brilliant CMOs and marketing VPs who are great at their jobs, but aren’t quite as skilled at picking the right PR partner because they evaluate faulty criteria.

Here are three things some leading marketing honchos get wrong:

1.       They think they need to hire an agency in the same city

The thinking goes that if the company hires a PR firm in the same zip code, they can better manage the relationship and have regular face-to-face meetings with the PR team. It’s a logical thought process, but in reality geography should be a non-factor. We have clients all over the country, and meet with them whenever needed. We’re also always connected via email and IM and phone calls, so to clients it’s really no different than if we were located next door to their office.  That said, geography is a deal-breaker for some marketers, which is a pity when the best PR firm for their business resides in a different state.

2.       They think that in PR, it’s all about “who you know.”

The reality is, it’s who you can get to know. Listen, folks, relationships are valuable in PR. But here’s the thing: the turnover is extraordinarily high in the publishing world, and the PR firm that knows how to start conversations with the right reporters at the right time with the right pitch is the one who will win long term. Today, PR is more about storytelling than “calling in favors” to friendly reporters, especially when they’re increasingly measured by click-throughs and social shares these days. Advertisers don’t care who you know. They care that people are clicking on stories and seeing their ads, and reporters know it.

 3.       They hire too many vendors to perform related strategy and services

I’ve encountered a number of prospects and clients who have kept separate vendors for PR, social media and creative services such as video and infographics. What makes most sense from a storytelling perspective is to find a single firm that excels at all of these disciplines, for two reasons: First, there are cost-efficiencies to be gained from bundling these services, which is great for the bottom line. Second, and perhaps more importantly, an agency that does all of the above can more tightly integrate messaging than can a collection of disparate vendors. Plus, who wants to manage several vendors when one outstanding firm can do a better job?

I’d love to hear from marketing execs and fellow PR folks to get your perspective.