PR execs: train your clients!

Today I’m annoyed. I’ve had two pieces I was writing fall through on me and all because the PR people were themselves let down. Or were they? My guess is that they hadn’t taken the trouble to train their clients.

Guys, you’re called a PR “consultant” and the “consultant” bit is very important.

Here’s the scenario. I sent out a request to contacts for case study candidates on a particular subject on which I’m writing for Professional Outsourcing, which I edit. I made it clear that the involvement of the user was essential – nobody is interested in an article that says “the vendor of the solution to the problem thought it was very good”. I need to speak to the user company, the manager.

Someone came up with what sounded like the ideal candidate. I said yes please last Tuesday. On Friday the PR person came back to me and said the end customer had decided not to talk to the press. So I moved on to choice B – still an excellent example of how to make this particular technology work.

And the second PR person came back to me and said sorry, the client has decided not to speak to anyone about it.

Why get in touch?

Now, nobody appreciates more than me that some things are not possible. People have scheduling conflicts, people don’t want to co-operate, people have had a bad experience with the press in the past. I understand all of that.

I’d love to know, though, why someone would¬†write a release without the knowledge that the client would at least be speaking to people. The answer is probably simple: because the vendor in these cases is the PR person’s client, and they’re insisting a release be sent out.

So I get back to the “consultancy” part of the equation. A good PR person will know the press. They will understand that I’m not going to write anything without comment from both sides, so if the end client won’t speak to the press it’s a dead story. And this good PR person will be brave enough to tell their client this is not going to work.

So many people seem not to bother – but if you know your story lacks the basic building blocks, such as “availability of the key spokespeople”, why bother sending it?

Does your client need to be persuaded that journalists won’t let them check copy, won’t necessarily put a link to the landing page they want and that we need a proper interview rather than cut and pasted prefabricated quotes? They often take this better from a journalist than from their PR people – get me in for a media training session – pop your details down below and we’ll talk.

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