How to know if you should fire your PR rep

How to know if you should fire your PR rep

Flacks get a lot of, well, FLACK. Some of it deserved and some of it not. If you’re a new product, new author, small business or otherwise lower profile brand it can take a long time to establish a media footprint, digital or otherwise. Getting placements right away isn’t always the best measurement as things can take a long time.

It’s time to give new buyers of public relations services a checklist for separating the rock stars from the ones with rocks in their head. Please add your own thoughts but let’s not rant. We’ve got the Bad Pitch Blog for that!

1. They want to send out press releases – A LOT of press releases. I’m not saying the press release is dead – traditional media still uses them and as long as we have RSS feeds and news there will alway be some form of release. But if your PR person thinks the press release is the way they’re going to get the media’s attention and land a story, dump ’em. The press release is for background information – sending them isn’t a substitute for pitching. (Ask Chris Brogan, who has a spam filter for the words “For Immediate Release” in his inbox.)

2. They give you advice on social media but a) have an inactive Twitter profile b) are not on LinkedIn and haven’t found your business page c) think Facebook is for kids d) don’t know what PitchEngine or Digg is or e) all of the above. I was at the Inbound Marketing Conference in Boston a few weeks ago and was saddened by the lack of traditional publicists. They should be there learning -or so several of their CLIENTS told me!!

3. PR folks who don’t call back in a timely fashion are a huge pet peeve of mine. When I was freelancing there were some PR folks that I actually had to nag to get things set up. Listen, if they don’t call YOU back in a timely fashion – which to me is at a minimum within one business day – they probably aren’t getting back to the media either. A sense of urgency is critical to public relations because journalism is built on deadlines. Heck, with social media we don’t even get a deadline anymore.

4. Anybody that’s representing you should be able to give an elevator pitch on your book, product or service in a short, concise and CORRECT manner. Ask them what they’re saying about your business – if it doesn’t sound good it’s not. I was on a conference call with a high-profile publicist in New York once who gave the WORST pitch I’ve ever heard. She didn’t understand the product and never got any hits.

5. As PR people, we’re paid to be nice. When you reference a PR person everyone should say they’re nice. That’s not what you’re looking for. You want media and other clients to tell you this person is sharp, has great follow-up and knows how to pitch a story. We have to be a little tough sometimes – don’t let that put you off. There are a million bad PR people who are really good at telling you what you want to hear as a client. Go for the person that is telling you the truth whether or not you like it.

6. If you’re dealing with an agency insist on knowing who is actually pitching your stuff. Don’t rely on the principal or account rep to tell you what’s being done. You might not be the biggest billing client and therefore have Joey from Oskogee, the CEO’s dumb nephew, working on your account. Find out, and if it’s Joey, fire the whole agency. You’re just a check to them.

7. Make sure they keep records. You should know who they’re pitching when and they should have that information easily available. If they say they pitched Time but can’t remember when they did it, well I would be suspicious.

9. If they come running to you thrilled with a placement in a magazine that has nothing to do with your business, then they probably only get placements where they have relationships. A publicist I know was SO happy she got a placement in Pink (women’s business magazine) for a sports energy drink  geared to young males. She was so proud of that, but it was the only print placement she ever got for them.

8. I know we have a bad reputation for this and in some cases deservedly so but if you catch them lying, to you or the media, fire them.

I’ve been fortunate to work as a writer who needs PR folks, as a PR person myself and as a member of a marketing team with other great publicists and marketers. There are some really great folks out there who do a fantastic job. But we’re a little bit like the kid in that nursery rhyme. When we’re good, we’re really really good. But when we’re bad, we’re horrid.