Strategy: it’s the one thing we always try to sell our clients and, arguably, the thing we most often fail to deliver.
No worries, though; it’s understandable. We’ve all had clients call in a panic while we’re neck deep in creating a strategy that would make Alexander the Great scratch his head.
As longtime residents of Tactic Town, we’ve all heard this one:
“Do this, now! We are in a bind and need some help.”
Now it’s sweet that clients call with their hair on fire, imploring us to take the lead. But tactics don’t always pay the bills unless you have a desired goal.
So, here’s another listicle for every flack to enjoy: the 5 PR Strategy Mistakes to Avoid.
1. Make the CEO the only spokesperson. I understand ego, narcissism, and “do you see the name plate on my desk,” but this will screw your PR team every time! How many times do you hear from your client contact, “Yeah, uh, the CEO is in another meeting,” or “Sorry, I was told our bigwig is out of town.” At least once a week, and why? He or she runs the joint so you can imagine a schedule of that magnitude winding so tight that the rubber band will snap at a moment’s notice. Besides, a CEO isn’t always an SME (subject matter expert). Diversify your top talking heads and you will be able to get more faces on camera.
2. Knowing the difference. Here’s something fun. When you are bored, visit your agency server and look at past communications plans. You would be stunned the force to stop a Kardashian in its tracks at the Golden Corral buffet to see how many people confuse strategies with tactics. Confuse the two and your teammates end up just doing stuff with no goals, no metrics, and no clue. Still have difficulty with that one, kind of like “affect” vs. “effect” so you give up and use “impact”? This should help — “Tact.” It’s the root of one of those, and it’s what you should use to deliver a strategy with effectiveness (see what I did there).
3. Understand deadlines, and that your client isn’t the only one with them. This one puts a stranglehold on any PR campaign more than most because it is attached to three intrinsic items — ego, ignorance, and apathy. What do they all have in common? Possibly, your client. Here’s an example: You call your client with the hot interview and one of three questions come your way — 1.) “So, is it worth it because I’m busy.” 2.) “Can they wait because I’m busy.” 3.) “Should I really do it because I’m busy.” Guess what, big shot? The media person on the other line is a skosh busy, which is why they are calling the throneroom to speak with you. Sometimes as flacks, we have to push back. Gently.
4. Put the wrong person in charge. Typically, the person that “oversees” the campaign with the client is your director. However, every vertical is different and without real-life experience rather than something read on a Bazooka Joe bubble gum wrapper, the campaign may have inept leadership. No one understands your client better than your client; however, said client hired you because they admit you should know more about PR than them. If you don’t have a firm understanding of the nuances of your client’s business, be certain someone on your team does … and is in your ear constantly. Without that counsel (regardless if that person is an intern or a director), the “strategy” will become a tactic and a prayer quickly.
5. No sharing. Hard as you may try to prevent it, there is always that one client who isn’t exactly open with the details. And sometimes, it goes the other way. This is a colossal no-no when it comes to PR representation. Make the plan with the client and then review the plan … you know, with the client. At that point, you ensure everything that needs to be in the plan is there — items like announcement, calendar notes, pending news, and other stuff that should be covered by the NDA. If all the chips are on the table, both you and the client know what you have to gamble. Without the “sharing is caring” mantra in the boardroom, your strategy is just a pile of chips.