There a lot of things you can speed through in life – traffic, a new book, your monthly data usage allotment, and marathon-viewing of season one of Stranger Things on Netflix. But, there are many more things in life you should take your time and walk carefully and alertly through – house-training your new puppy, teaching your teenager how to drive a car, and managing the expectations of your current clients and prospective ones and not promising them overnight success.
Things are no different between agencies, clients and even with in-house creative marketing support teams where the expectations are ridiculous and increasingly demanding. It appears everyone is on deadline and no one communicates “early and often”.
Everyone knows good things take time. In fact, my parents use to preach patience to me nearly every day growing up. I wanted “it all” and I wanted “it now”! Overnight success can happen, but it doesn’t happen every time you step to the plate. Even the mighty Babe Ruth hit a few singles on his way to his home run record fame.
As early as the RFP process begins realistic expectations must be set. If the RFP doesn’t include their idea of a “home run” then it’s up to you to ask. When I first jumped head first into PR, many client’s first words where either – “we’d like to have our product on Oprah”, or “we want to have a story in the pages of The New York Times”. Once the awkward silence was broken, we expressed to them – “well, do you have an Oprah story?” Those lofty expectations are great, but not every company and product has that type of story. And, honestly that is not a bad thing. Many of those top-tier outlets request “exclusives”, which are fantastic, but limit your next phase of outreach with other media.
It’s wise to educate/remind clients of the role of a reporter and how best to position their product or news. In some cases it’s better to place several smaller stories and create a “trend” story. Trends are amazing because they grab the attention of those bigger outlets your clients so enthusiastically coveted in the first meeting. Obviously, you want to make sure your client stays on message, but offer each outlet just a little something different so they’re not just writing the same story as their competitors.
Another piece of this puzzle is the matter of time. Just like a great dinner, the best PR takes time and your client needs to realize that. There are always the low hanging fruit opportunities – the easiest placements to get. But, the outlets with the greatest potential impact need time. PR pros need time to make sure the recipe (story pitch) they’re using has the right amount of ingredients (the story). And, this takes time.
As much as I would love to tell our clients that journalists are standing by take our calls, the truth is they receive so many pitches each day and are already working on other deadlines that this story might take some time. In some cases, a few months.
Unless your client has some type of “earth shattering” news a journalist isn’t going to drop everything and make accommodations – no matter how strong your relationship is with them. Be sure to have those upfront conversations and limit your headaches later.
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