Your PR firm sucks… and other misperceptions

PR Sucks

Honestly, there are a lot of bad PR firms and consultants out there.  They make promises they can’t back, charge per press release, bait-and-switch you with their new business team vs. those really doing the work, judge programs by metrics versus quality and otherwise lack creative thinking.

However, your PR firm may not suck after all.  But if you think they do, their biggest issue may not be in the quality of their work, but their ability to push back and manage expectations.

Recently we’ve been asked to give proposals for quite a few projects, ranging from tech to action sports.  We’re pretty stoked.  One thing we continue to hear is the disappointment these potential clients have with their current PR representation.  That could be great news for us, but there is the chance that the PR firm is not to blame.

When it comes to media relations, it’s very difficult to guarantee success in advance.  In fact, we’d say it’s impossible.  What any good PR firm should be able to guarantee you is hard work and creative thinking.  If they promise results beyond that, get ready for disappointment.  Regardless of how deep your Rolodex is, just because you “know someone” at a magazine doesn’t mean they’ll cover your client.  PR isn’t buying an ad, which you know will be inserted into X number of outlets and may or may not have any real effect on your business anyway (a rant for another time).

What many PR firms seem to lack (from what we’ve heard from these potential clients), is the ability to manage expectations.  The incumbent firm either set goals based on their own misguided view of the modern media landscape or because they drank the client’s Kool-Aid.


At BBPR we aim high.  That’s how we land clients on CNN, in HypeBeast, and get some great viral coverage.  What we don’t do is make promises.  Not every client makes it onto to Good Morning America or inside the pages of Outside.

If your PR firm does make promises, then they may indeed suck ;-).  But if your firm pushes back on projected results or your own expectations, perhaps you should listen?


~ by doubleb on September 15, 2009.

2 Responses to “Your PR firm sucks… and other misperceptions”

  1. Great post about a common dilemma in the industry. I belong to a small agency and I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen a potential client unfamiliar with PR or with a rudimentary knowledge of PR (which is often worse) demand some form of assurance or guarantee that they will get media coverage because they are too used to dealing with advertising or other forms of marketing.

    For these clients I try and explain that media relations is just like sales. You identify the likeliest customers, develop a presentation or pitch and then try and make a sale. Sometimes they understand and some times they don’t.

    Another problem is when the client can’t see the forest for the trees and believes that everyone wants to know about their product and you are the only person willing to tell them that’s not the fact. Those types just want their egos stroked and is likely why they surround themselves with people who never question his decisions and thoughts.

  2. Thanks for the comment KSniff. “…forest for the trees” happens a lot.

    Not every brand or product is an iPod of game changing… and if you compare yourself to an iPod or use the word game changing, well, you’re probably going to be disappointed by the results.

    Again, not to say that we and many other agencies don’t aim high. We do. But you need to be realistic.

    One of our first clients was a brand that we had a semi-successful campaign with. For the next campaign, all they wanted was to be on Oprah. We gave them a plan that would garner TV, but explained some of the difficulties and costs of making Oprah happen and encouraged them to consider a route that would have a better chance of showing real results instead of a pitch log with 20 declines.

    They said Oprah or nothing… and we walked away.

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