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I was reading this article last week about what some companies look for when hiring a PR agency and it’s the same things publicists joke about from time to time. Whether it’s wanting to be on Oprah or expecting X amount of placements during the first week of business with the respective agency, it remains a difficult challenge to manage client expectations when they are spending money (some lots, others not so much – it’s irrelevant), especially in a down economy.
One of the things I often ask mentors and senior-level executives is how those expectation levels are set. What I’ve learned is that it’s not an exact science. Since every client is different, so is the way you handle this issue with them. Some clients have a great understanding of the PR and journalism industries, while others do not. As a result, it’s our job to educate them from the moment they sign-on to be a client. Just as the client is an expert in their field (consumer products, financial services, food & beverage, etc.), we’re the experts in our field and should not fear telling a client what they can realistically expect from a coverage standpoint. Whether they are happy or not with what they hear we really can’t control, but being transparent and honest with them is still the best option we have.
I realize that PR is more than just getting media opportunities and generating coverage in targeted outlets, but for most companies I think this is still their top priority. As such, we all need to do a better job of level setting from the beginning of the relationship in order to ensure we avoid the questions about when the next opportunity with Oprah is coming.