By Mark Macias
No one wants to believe you’re a bad client, but in business let’s be honest: strong personalities exist and will frequently clash.
And that’s okay. Be who you are, but when it comes to managing PR and outsourced agencies, be aware of the image it projects.
In my early entrepreneurial years, I didn’t factor personality conflicts into my budgets. When clients asked how I determined cost, I was transparent. We look at the resources and time needed to succeed and the complexity of the campaign. That still holds true.
But during COVID, a new variable factored into the budget formula: client relations.
If you’re a publicist or agency, these observations will help you better vet clients. And if you’re a client looking to hire the best PR or marketing consultants, perhaps a personal reflection might help you forge better partnerships.
Observation One: You Think the Work is Easy
Over the summer, I was speaking with the founder of a B2C startup who graduated from Wharton and spent some time inside the media as an associate producer. She approached us about launching her publicity campaign after a mutual acquaintance told her about my experience. The initial consultation started great, but alarm bells rang early.
She had strong opinions on why publicity for her startup would be easy. When I tried to manage her expectations and shared a client story, she was brutally honest: “I don’t care about your other clients. I only care about my business.”
I understand why entrepreneurs and business owners are short with words. Our team deals with reporters and journalists on a daily basis where seconds matter. And as a former Executive Producer with NBC, I remember all of the bad pitches I heard that only made my attention span worse.
The best PR agencies will learn from every campaign and improve on them. They’re likely speaking with dozens of journalists every week, giving them more insight into what works and doesn’t work. If they don’t think the workload is easy, they’re likely being honest with you.
Observation Two: Everything is Based Around Cost
You’ve probably heard the phrase, you can get something cheap or fast – but you can’t have both. The bigger red flag is when a client wants something cheap and fast without even understanding workflow. This is bad for everyone.
The publicist falls short when workflow isn’t adequately understood because they fail to map out the time and resources needed for success. Likewise, the client will face missed projections.
When potential clients start asking me for budgets or “a ballpark” off the top of my head, I see a red flag over the horizon. They want to know now whether they should move onto someone else if my budget is too high. Not everything is based on cost. Mental health, stress, family time and commuting time are factors for many people. If you try to squeeze everything out of your agency or publicist, they will resent you overtime.
The more experienced publicists will just raise their initial rates on you.
Observation Three: They Don’t Know What They Want
Many budding entrepreneurs don’t have any experience with PR or marketing, and as a result, they ask everything. A consultation is not the time to get a lesson in PR101. You should go into every consultation with an idea of what you want or need.
If you’re not sure how PR or digital marketing works, do your homework.
Over the summer, I had three 30-minute conversations with a potential client from Arizona. He’s a super, nice guy and I genuinely wanted to help him. I shared articles with him that I wrote, and gave him my honest advice. But I can’t explain a fourth time how PR works, and why content is so important to his brand.
New business is similar to dating. If the other person doesn’t know what he or she wants, they’re probably not going to commit to you. And that leads to the final observation.
Observation Four: They Don’t Want to Get to Know You
If you’re going to trust someone to take over your company messaging, you better take the time to get to know them. Try to identify what drives or motivates your potential publicist. What are they passionate about? Does their communication style work for you, or does it annoy you? How open are they to your concerns? Do they understand how your product or service works?
We’re all adults and understand how time is money.
But when these observations begin to roll over each other in early discussions, don’t be surprised if that PR campaign budget comes in higher than you anticipated.
Remember that B2C entrepreneur who thought her startup had an easy campaign? She told me she went with an agency that was cheaper. As of today, I still haven’t seen any earned media coverage. It’s never as easy as you think.
ABOUT MACIAS PR
Marketing peers named MACIAS PR the 2017-2021 Strategic PR Firm of the Year. In 2015, 2016 and 2017, Finance Monthly named MACIAS PR the Financial PR Firm of the Year. Our founder is a former Executive Producer with NBC and Senior Producer with CBS in New York. City & State Magazine named Mark Macias a Top 50 PR Political Power Player in 2021.