Recently, I encountered two classic stories of a ‘PR Crisis’. I use that term loosely, as most of us would have differing views about what constitutes a crises.
The first story focused on a customer who shared a video via Facebook about foreign bodies within a plate of food. Let’s call this ‘plategate’.
The second story focused on the relationship between a PR company and a good Samaritan
The initial thing, to mention, about both of these stories, is my inability to pass judgement on any party within these articles and videos. How could I, I do not have the full story – that was very obvious. However, the ‘wisdom of crowds’ reigns supreme and can in some cases, will dictate the ultimate outcome, based on the action and response of the parties within the stories.
The second thing to mention, (especially in the story pertaining to the PR company and the good Samaritan), is the perception about PR professionals. Unfortunately, the un-trustworthiness of Marketing and PR professionals runs very deep.
- Exorbitant retainers
- Lack of accountability
- Lack of personalisation – if you are not a ‘premium’ client or a friend are many of the negative connotations, used to describe the Marketing and PR industry.
The un-trustworthiness of my industry, has led me to delve into understanding and learning about what does the 21st Century business need and require when it comes to working with Marketing and PR professionals.
Your business Intention
In both of the above fore-mentioned stories, all parties concerned mixed up their intention with their actions.
In the case of ‘plategate’, the restaurant went on the defensive and did not consider that in fact, what they needed to do in that moment was demonstrate, care and due diligence for their patrons. Spin and defensiveness is not the action to win hearts and minds. Comments to the tone of ‘anyone who reads this and believes it are ….’ alienates customers. Your ultimate goal should be to protect your existing customers and use it as an opportunity to build relationships. There are of course legal ramifications, that can be processed behind the scenes, however, the initial communication should not be one of spin and counter attack.
- The Good Samaritan
In the instance of the good Samaritan. It is glaringly obvious that the PR company took on this client for personal gain – which is totally acceptable and strategic. However, if within your personal gain, it is one of financial profit, that is both foolish and short-sited. Any PR and Marketing company worth their years of experience knows that most small and entrepreneurial businesses lack the confidence and often the skill when it comes to working with PR. Therefore, despite the best intention of a good-Samaritan to work with a Marketing/PR firm – with the best will in the world, that good Samaritan is initially not equipped to really appreciate the gravitas of signing up to a retainer-based service, within PR and Marketing.
Therefore, when I read a story like this, I shake my head in despair, as I question the real intention of the company that took on that client, as it perpetuates the myth that all Marketers are in it just for the money. Which is not true.
We know that each client has a hope and dream based on their vision, passion and goal. However, we are the professionals in marketing and as such we need to act responsibly. Saying No to a client if they are wrong for you is acceptable. We all cannot work with everyone.
People believe that PR and Marketing, especially when it comes to social media is an instantaneous results driven practice. It is not. To achieve success you need to develop trusting relationships. This takes time. Most PR and Marketing companies operate within specific sectors – (e.g.: fashion, beauty, food) which means that there are many years of developed and trusted relationships and reputations within that sector and if you want to access that as a business, it has a value.
However, the relationships which also should take time to develop and nurture, is that between the business and all of their stakeholders, including PR, Marketing and Customers.
PR and Marketing firms are very quick to expound their successes for a specific company. However, the heart and soul for each business is different. You cannot seek a USP on one hand, but offer generic service on the other. Each client has an individual heart and soul, and should be handled as such.
In addition all businesses have seasons, even if they are in the same sector. Their personal vision, passion and goals is what you are working towards, not just the product or service.
This seems obvious, but too often Marketers get fixated on the agreed plan and refuse to shift or revisit a strategy, despite the facts that the results are not reflecting positively the needs of the business. This lack of flexibility is primarily down to money and the price it would take to create a new/amended strategy. However, more often than not, communication and continued relationship building with the client would have enabled the Marketing and PR firm to pre-empt this discussion and offer professional solutions or suggestions.
As a marketing professional, I have a very specific focus and more often than not I need the Wisdom of Solomon to make the right choices for my business.
The 21st century business requires a lot of tlc and individual attention, especially in their early stage of the relationship. It is the foundation and without it, it is a recipe for disaster.
However, clients also need to take responsibility for being open, honest and focused. Share your goals and ambitions with your marketing team. Be open, to having a dialogue and be prepared to develop a strong relationship with the right company for you.