By Bekki Bushnell, Associate Director
There are a few age old debates in PR – demonstrating impact is one of them. From this, there’s been a lot of discussion around whether PR agencies really should be guaranteeing results, i.e. coverage. As you might expect, a lot of B2B PR agency professionals tend to believe they shouldn’t be, whereas those more likely to be on the client side usually say the opposite.
What do I think? Should PRs guarantee coverage? Absolutely. Here’s why…
Transparency is key
As consultants, we have a duty to be transparent and give our honest advice on what is going to deliver the outcome for our clients. That absolutely must work both ways. For example, if we have a client that wants to make a big splash about a non-newsworthy story, then we need to acknowledge that objective, understand the motives underlying that and then propose a strategy moving forward that will deliver impact but in a way that we know will work.
Clients look to us for our PR & Media expertise, so if we are proposing the right strategies and working with businesses that trust us to execute them, then why should we not be confident enough to guarantee the result?
Trust your strategy
The point around trust is interesting. We talk a lot about trust in our industry. How can we expect businesses to trust us if we don’t trust ourselves enough to be able to guarantee a result from a strategy that we ourselves have put forward?
If you don’t believe it’s going to work then it shouldn’t be on the table, and if you’re going to ask a client to believe in it enough to put their cash on the line then you ought to do the same.
In practice, understanding what success looks like needs to start with a conversation and agreement between both parties on what the desired outcome will be and how that will be measured. On one hand it’s impractical to agree things you have no control over, e.g. saying that a specific publication will run your story, but it’s also detrimental agreeing to metrics that are devoid of any meaning, e.g. talking about reach if your client is being mentioned in a story that is entirely irrelevant to the campaign objectives.
Being upfront, transparent and looking at the bigger picture of what you are doing within a much broader ecosystem driving growth are all important things to do.
Don’t stand still
But let’s be clear. PR and communications is not an exact science, and unfortunately things don’t always go exactly to plan. Sometimes the story just doesn’t land the way you think it will or the news gets dominated by something out of your control, among many other possibilities. That shouldn’t be an excuse to not commit to guaranteed outcomes. If you’re quick to adapt and skilled in spotting opportunities that others may miss then you will be able to tweak the strategy, deliver results and apply your learnings from that experience to do even better next time around.
Ultimately, whether you are agency or client side we all want the same thing – for our campaigns to be successful, our teams, clients and stakeholders to be happy and our bottom lines to be healthy. It’s only by being as equally committed to the process as each other that we will achieve that.