Margaret Heffernen is upset. She writes in a BNET blog post, titled, “Don’t Waste Money on a PR Firm: 4 Smarter Ways to Get Press” that “every PR agency I’ve ever worked with proved to be disappointing.”
Heffernen’s complaints are nothing new. We hear them a lot from folks who paid an agency a $5,000 retainer – or more – and then received “no results.”
She continues: “Over the years, I’ve talked to many CEOs and Chief Marketing Officers and I’ve never found one that truly raved about their PR company.”
Hmm. Maybe Heffernen hasn’t spoken to Jason Putorti, the digital designer behind Mint.com, who recently said:
PR was extremely high quality traffic for us, and the optics for the brand were undeniably good. We trounced all of our online competitors, including Quicken — who sent us legal threats. [Founder and CEO Aaron] Patzer talked to every outlet from Entrepreneur to Essence.
Mint.com was acquired by Intuit for $170 million.
The problem with Heffernen’s post is that she uses her experiences to categorize an entire industry.
Also, her own bio states that she won a Silver SABRE award for public relations in 2001 from industry publication the Holmes Report. This begs the question: if you are so adept at public relations, why have you had so much trouble partnering with a firm and/or executing on PR?
Heffernen goes on to list four very general tips so people can get press on their own. For example, tip number three is, “Build awareness through social networks.”
In my agency days, I once represented a client in a subset of an industry that was getting beat up a bit in the press. The CEO was always asked by the media something along the lines of, “Why are there so many negative things being written about your kind of companies? People say you’re all hurting the industry.”
The CEO responded along the lines of, “Every customer we’ve worked with, we’ve helped grow their business. My question actually goes back to the companies that are making these claims: if companies like mine are truly hurting their business, why are they working with us?”
That answer usually worked pretty well. So, I would say the same to Heffernen. It takes two to tango, and just because you had a few bad experiences with a few firms, doesn’t mean an entire industry is at fault.