Four years ago this month, I left the agency side to move in-house. During this time, I’ve had the opportunity to work with different types of agencies, do an agency search and consider the value of working with a PR freelancer. If you decide to bring in outside PR help, here are five points to consider:
The general rule of thumb is that 10% of any retainer goes toward administration. On this point, I do favor opting for a PR freelancer over an agency, especially if you have a smaller budget. Working closely with a contractor streamlines the process, focusing more on the tangible PR work versus administrative activities such as detailed weekly reports, activity reports, etc.
More Arms and Legs
Let’s be frank, the idea of bringing in outside PR is to provide more arms and legs to get the work done and deliver results. This will vary on your budget and PR objectives. A PR agency has a slight edge as the agency can grow with your PR needs. A PR contractor will be limited by the number of hours in her work week.
Along with administration, another aspect is transparency on what work is being done for your monthly retainer and by whom. Like administration, I believe a PR contractor has the edge over an agency. A contractor’s work is very evident based on the results provided and daily interactions. With a PR agency, it can be difficult to know who is truly pitching your business to the media – the seasoned account manager or the fresh-on-the-job account coordinator. Believe me, when a reporter forwards you an obvious mass pitch sent from the AC, you start wondering about the “transparency” that an agency provides.
Our world is more economically intertwined that it’s ever been. At some point, so will/may your business. Being able to reach global media, understand local customs and cultures, and communicate your messages accurately will be difficult with a PR contractor – no matter how well connected she may be. A PR agency with a global network or branches will provide an advantage for expanding your business and messages globally.
Experience & Strategic Counsel
On this one, I believe an experienced PR contractor and good agency will be on pare with one another. My one beef is the use of “name dropping” as a sign of experience. No – that’s a sign that you are a good networker but not necessarily a good PR person. The things I look for are:
* Chemistry: Does the person/team have a good rapport with you?
* Results to date: What results have they delivered in the past and for what type of client? Getting cover stories for a Fortune 100 does not apply to a start-up company.
* Referrals: Who is willing to vouch for the person? Ask for referrals to support what is being said in the room
* Does the Tail know what the Head’s doing? This one mainly refers to PR agencies. Oftentimes (and this has happened to me), a Director/VP and above will promise something to the client that falls to the team to implement. Or there is too divergent of thinking between the “team” handling the day-to-day and the “executive” counsel that parachutes in.
* Domain Expertise: This is tough one for me. I lean towards selecting someone/agency that really knows PR over domain expertise. Why? If you know how to speak with reporters and position a company, this transcends industries. The one exception that I can consider is if you MUST launch immediately; thereby requiring instant access to the reporters/influencers in your space.
In the end, selecting a PR contractor or agency depends on your objectives, budget constraints, size of company and working style. Pease let me know if there are any other points to consider in the comments.
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PR Contractor versus PR Agency: 5 Points to Help You Decide by @csalomonlee: http://bit.ly/8GDGSJ #marketing #pr
Note: This past year has been one of reflection regarding family, friends and career. This will be one of many posts regarding various topics that I’ve mulled over from time to time through the year. Thank you in advance for your support and comments as I explore these topics.
My husband likes to say that marketing and public relations is about who lies the best. When he tells me this, I am completely offended. Yet, I have to admit, there is a kernel, and probably a big one at that, of truth in his perception.
Our job is to present our companies or clients in the best possible light. The question is how far are we willing to take it in order to land the big story or customer? At what point does “spinning” lead to outright lying?
The Ethical Quandary
We’ve all probably been in that situation – we’re marketing or publicizing a product /company that we know deep down can’t deliver on the promise. Or a competitor is blatantly lying and no one is catching on. It’s a very difficult position to be in, especially in today’s economic times when you don’t want to jeopardize your job security.
“The Truth Will Set You Free” – Gospel of John
It reminds me of the movie Liar Liar of Jim Carrey. His whole persona is about lying to win, until one day, he can only tell the truth. At first, this creates embarrassing situations for him. But the moral of the story was that by telling the truth, he was able to win a court case, and more importantly, his family back.
Or more recently, David Letterman’s predicament. He honestly, and painfully, revealed himself on his late night talk show. He didn’t downplay the situation or minimize his role. He took it head on. And in doing so, he defused the inevitable media storm, refocused it on the blackmailer and gained sympathy from most viewers.
“To thine own self be true” – William Shakespeare
Staying true to oneself is important. The decisions you make today do have an impact on you professionally and personally down the road. While it may not be easy, there will be times when you have to stand your ground.
In the end, who do you want staring back at you in the mirror?
One of the great things about LinkedIn is the ability to start a group around an organization or topic. I co-manage the Virtual Events Forumwhich addresses topics related to virtual events and environments. In managing this group and looking at successful examples as the Event Planning and Management group founded by Julius Solaris, whom I’ve met virtually and one day will meet in person, I have these five simple tips for managing your LinkedIn group:
1. Set Up Email Templates: There is an option to set up automatic email responses to people seeking to join the group and when they are approved. This is a great way to add a personal touch while saving you time.
2. Create a Group Logo: When people join a group, they have an option of displaying the group’s logo. This is a great way to brand your group and spread the word through members’ profiles.
3. Communicate Ground Rules: Whether you have tens or thousands of members, it’s good to clearly communicate the rules of engagement for your group. Highlight what is tolerated and what constitutes banning a member or deleting a posting. This will keep things orderly for your group.
4. Assign Group Moderators: At a certain point, say about 150-200 members, you will want to assign a co-manager. This enables you to monitor the group and spread the responsibilities to a trusted member of your community.
5. Share it with Your Contacts: Finally, when you start a group, share it with your contacts by updating your status with the group name and link. I would then selectively send an email to contacts who may be most interested in the group. This way, you’re not spamming everyone in your contacts.
Any other recommendations?
Every Sunday, my husband and I watch 60 Minutes. While most of the stories are reruns this summer, 60 Minutes aired the first public interview with Michael Vick who recently left prison on dog fighting and cruelty charges. Check out the video and article here. I’m a huge football fan and was surprised that the Philidelphia Eagles took a chance by signing Vick earlier this week.
While watching the interview, I couldn’t stop thinking about the strategy that Vick and his team (lawyers, agency and brand/PR folks) are using to manage and rehabilitate his reputation.
- 60 Minutes Interview: Lends credibility that Vick truly understands the gravity of hissituation and previous decisions and his true intent/desire (?) to redeem himself.
Association with Humane Society: With the Humane Society’s willingness to believe in Vick’s resolve to atone for his mistakes, the hope is that fans will also take that chance on him as well.
Controlled Public Appearances: Since being released, Vick has been very careful about his public image and statements. To my knowledge, he’s been dressed conservatively with a serious demeanor, further emphasizing that he is not the same person he was 2 years ago.
If Vick is truly sincere, I think these efforts will eventually have their desired affect with most out there – let’s be honest, a certain segment of animal lovers will never forgive him for his actions. There will be a healthy level of skeptism that Vick hasn’t changed and is just implementing a very sophisticated PR strategy to make money.
Regardless of which camp you belong in, I do believe that he is executing the right strategy to start down the road to redemption. What do you think?
On Saturday, I attended the San Francisco Electric Vehicle Association meeting where two representatives of Nissan gave a sneak peek before the 6:30 pm PT worldwide announcement of the Nissan Leaf. While the details of the electric vehicle (EV) was interesting, I was curious to better understand the motivations behind Nissan for this move.
CEO Mandate for Electric
According to the representatives, Nissan’s shift toward electric is part of the company’s larger mandate for zero emissions. Instead of following the trend of rolling out hybrid versions of its car brands, Nissan is seeking to leapfrog the market by innovating a vehicle specifically designed for electric. The strategy is quite bold – a goal to encourage sustainability without dependance on oil.
Driving a New Market
I think Nissan is embarking on a great vision that has a potential to truly revolutionize the car industry. Going electric will require forging new infrastructure to support EV, including innovations in battery technology, service, recharging stations and(hopefully) green sources of power to close the lo0p. For Nissan, this even extends to leveraging recycled materials for the interior and constructing the Leaf in a way that the parts are recyclable at the end of the car’s lifecycle.
The Nissan Leaf was formally announced last night at 6:30 pm PT worldwide in conjunction with the company’s new corporate headquarters in Okinawa, Japan. While initial marketing will be based on the car’s announcement, it will be interesting to see how these marketing efforts develop. Nissan recognizes that communicating the experience of the car will be key, yet difficult, with only a couple of prototypes available worlwide.
This will include reaching key early adopters and influencers who will spread the word. I envision that social media will also play an important role. At this time, the car website doesn’t seem to incorporate any social media/community features yet. At most, I can provide feedback via a 7-point questionnaire when you sign up for a newsletter.
While I applaud Nissan’s vision and wish them luck, I still wonder what would have happened if the California Air Resources Board hadn’t abandoned it’s electric car initiative.
Other post of interest:
Last year, my husband and I had started shopping for pick-up trucks. We had narrowed it down to a Ford Ranger of Toyota Tacoma. While we preferred the Tacoma, we decided not to buy at that time. That turned out to be a good decision based on what happened earlier this year. Fast forward 7 months. We felt comfortable enough with my new (now 4-month old) job to start looking again.
Cash for Clunkers Program
Part of this was spurred by the Cash for Clunkers program that was signed into law by the Obama office. In a nutshell, the goal of the program is to incent car owners of gas guzzlers to purchase more gas efficient vehicles. If your car qualifies for the program, you can get anywhere from $3600-4500 back. Brilliant move by the administration – good for environment, good for the car owner (especially if these cars are only worth a few hundred dollars) and good for car manufacturers pummeled by the economy over the past year.
Ford and EV Vehicles
Interestingly, while we had favored the Tacoma last year, we made a decision to buy Ford this time. Why? For two reasons:
1) Of all the American automakers, Ford was the only one not in bankruptcy or to take money from the Government. The impression is that Ford is better of economically, which may or may not be accurate. But for finicky car buyers, this is an important distinction. I am comforted that Ford will be around in the near future.
2) While attending the Marin County Fair, there was an electric vehicle (EV) showcase. We learned that of all the pick-up trucks, the Ford Ranger is best for EV conversion because of the truck width and carriage is ideal for adding batteries. Who knew? Too bad they didn’t continue improving and manufacturing the EV Ranger (please bring it back Ford), but this point turned us into Ford Ranger buyers.
Scott Monty Who?
After making our decision, we visited Novato Ford. Since we spent a good portion waiting for paperwork and discussing which car to buy (used or new), I naturally wanted to see if Ford’s social media programs filtered down to the sales guy at the dealership.
When asked about Ford’s PR and social media campaigns, got blank stares, “Scott Monty Who?” None of the sales folks on the floor seemed to be aware of the efforts. And when my husband asked the contract gal about how dealers provide feedback to Ford, she stated that the owner of the dealership did.
Ok – I know this isn’t a scientific study. For this dealership, the folks who connect with consumers (you and me) on a daily basis have minimal participation in the conversation with Ford’s headquarters and larger campaigns. It’ll be interesting to see what happens as Ford continues to expand their social media outreach.
Cash for Clunkers + Rebates = 50% off
In the end, we decided to buy a used truck (1200 miles) that came with a shell. However, there is evidence that the Cash for Clunkers program is spurring sales. Interestingly, if we had participated in the program and with the manufacturer’s rebates, we could’ve driven off the lot with a new 2009 Ford Ranger for 50% of the list price! The program officially begins on July 23rd. I wonder if the auto sales numbers will start to climb in August?
It will be interesting to see if the Cash for Clunkers program, combined with Ford’s social media efforts will be the turning point for this American classic. While we may be the exception to the rule, I found it interesting that Ford Rangers are the best for EV conversions (Ford, are you listening?) Maybe there is a niche here that you can get the word out. And finally, it will be interesting to see if Ford’s own social media best practices will filter down to the sales associates and dealer networks working directly with customers.
What do you think? Have you bought a car lately?
Note: This has been cross-posted on my previous former employer’s company’s blog, which . Furthermore, my company offers virtual events solutions.
Over the past year, virtual events (e.g. virtual conference, virtual tradeshow, etc.) have gained in popularity due to the economic recession and budget restrictions. As more conferences consider a virtual companion to a physical conference or even going virtual all together, this represents a new arena for public relations professionals:
- - No longer can you stand outside the press room and grab journalists for an impromptu interview
- - You don’t have to walk or run a mile to get from one meeting to another with your client close behind
- - What? – no late night cocktails with the reporter listening to a band from the 80’s?
How Public Relations Can Take Advantage of a Virtual Event
All kidding aside, I think this is something that will become more commonplace. Here are my recommendations the next time your client attends an event with a virtual component:
* Staff the Booth: In a virtual world, there are no limitations on the number of booth staff. Your team can now staff a virtual booth alongside your customer. You will get to read what customers and prospects are seeking, which will make you more informed about your customer’s business. When a media or analyst comes to the booth, you would be the go-to person.
* Include Media-Ready Content in the Booth: Depending on the virtual event, the client will have 3-5 tabs for content. Recommend that one tab includes information that would be valuable to press and analysts, such as fact sheets, company backgrounder, link to the corporate blog, link to your online newsroom, and other resources.
* Participate in the Networking Lounge and Auditorium Chats: Most of the participants are in these two locations. Participate in these discussions as reporters may be asking questions of attendees, seeking resources, or participating in a subject-matter discussion. If the topic discusses your company or product, consider inviting the reporter to a private chat or to come by the booth to learn more. As everything, just make sure to be relevant to the reporter.
* Hold a “Virtual Press Conference” in Your Booth: Like a physical event, you can schedule time to have a “virtual press conference” for an announcement and Q&A with your executives. The benefit is that you can potentially drive more participants as there are not travel requirements. The Q&A would take place via the group chat, recognizing that this is visible to everyone. And remember, this takes the same amount of preparation as a normal press conference!
* Invite Press/Analyst to the Virtual Event: Virtual conference and tradeshows are fairly uncommon. If this is one of the first events in your industry, then press and analysts may be curious to learn more. Take this opportunity to invite them to the virtual event and discuss why your company is participating in the virtual trade show. Just be aware that registration is required to attend. Since most of this is free, consider setting up email aliases, e.g. email@example.com, to manage reminders directly with the reporter. Otherwise, have the reporter sign up directly.
In the end, a virtual conference or trade show represents an opportunity for public relations. I’ve heard of a few instances where press and analysts have been invited to invitation-only events online, I do anticipate this to increase as larger, more public conferences consider virtual components. When this happens, will you be prepared?
Cece Salomon-Lee is director of marketing for ACTIVE Network, Business Solutions division, and author of PR Meets Marketing, which explores the intersection of public relations, marketing, and social media.
This blog contains Cece's personal opinions and are not representative of her company's.
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