Baltimore-Based Planit’s President Talks Brands, Clients and the Relevance of AORs

The key to this game is relationships.

Our inboxes fill up with pitches frequently. Some are appealing, with senior executive hires, bigwig clients signing, and trends in the making. Others? Well, they don’t follow the recipe.

And then, there are the few that really get us thinking. That’s when the interview occurs and we find an opportunity to strengthen the PRNewserverse, which is our goal daily.

One such pitch that got us talking: Baltimore-based Planit, a leading integrated agency, recently signed Sheetz, one of America’s fastest growing family-owned and operated convenience store chains.

This is mid-Atlantic grocer with more than 500 stores and 17,000 employees went against the grain when they chose not to sign with one of the Top 10 or 20 agencies on the Holmes Report. To which, we applaud them.

matt doudIt got us thinking about the AOR process. As we join Planit in relishing their big score, we asked Planit’s Matt Doud, president and co-founder, a couple of questions about the AOR process and its place in the industry:

In today’s public relations, it’s almost a rarity for a large company with multiple locations to offer an AOR label to an agency. What made Planit successful there? Was it simply a case of supply and demand for Sheetz? 

Love at first sight is a myth. Relationships take time and effort to grow and evolve. Over the past year, we put time and effort into projects for the convenience store chain, generating great results while building the relationship among our teams. Initially we were challenged to garner media attention for their 500th store opening. We secured nearly 58 million media impressions, including 18 TV segments, as well as the attendance of many local dignitaries and community members.

Following this success, Sheetz awarded us work for the new Sheetz Brothers Coffee launch and the opening of a new Sheetz store on the Penn State campus. Over time, both sides gained a better understanding of each other’s culture, personalities, quirks and goals – and as our relationship grew, so did the forward thinking perspectives as we helped with strategic planning for the upcoming year, leading to our AOR status.

Editorial: Most agencies — both the global pioneers and the community leaders — consider their approach to public relations successful but not all of them can back it up with an AOR signing. With AORs a little “on-the-outs” for various reasons (e.g., competitive juices, singular focus, economic parsels), this speaks volumes to us because Sheetz saw something different in Planit than the bigger agencies. Why? That’s up to them.

It is presumed that a global agency, or even a PR firm with several U.S.-based locations, can serve a multi-unit operator like a grocer. Provide some insight and inspiration for “the little guy” on how service can be offered and successful, despite size.

Clients are people. And people work with people they like and can trust. It isn’t so much a matter of agency size. Now don’t get me wrong, no matter our size, we need to deliver on the promise. But it’s really about having a team that truly understands our client’s needs, goals and pains to form a smart partnership that has clearly defined roles. Planit relies on Sheetz to know their business. We need to be the voice of the consumer. So each of us has a role in getting the right message in front of the right audience. Knowing our role and how it complements theirs – and when to push and when to pull – is how success happens.

Add to that the fact that Sheetz and Planit have very similar perspectives on how we work and our corporate cultures. We both put a high value on innovation and bold ideas – we work very hard to achieve great results, but not at the expense of fun. So from the start it felt like a good fit. At the end of the day, it’s about personal connections and trust earned over time.

Editorial: Signing any client is much like Chuck Woolery’s “Love Connection.” There’s the courting, the experience, an interview, a few commercials, and then both parties decide what’s up. This is why most agencies get project work these days — “I love your style, and you have a sweet ride, but I’m not seeing a long-term fit here.” Possibly, we are all just a little extra perfume on the neck and possibly a haircut away from signing our next AOR contract. Oh, and tuck in your shirt. Didn’t your mother teach you better?

[PHOTO: Courtesy of Planit, Twitter]