Now this one’s a toughie. In a profession that is more strategic and works on smart decisions, where very few understand the nuances of the same, it is tough to make people understand that some things are alright and others are not. Especially when they assume you have a magic wand to make it so! Especially, since we PR professionals also pride upon our ability to make things happen. Without knowing it we very quickly get caught between a rock and a hard place making it difficult to gain acceptance for a ‘no’. So when do you say the dreaded word? Where do you draw the line?
It’s “OK” to say “NO”: There are story ideas which we come across which are not PRable according to us but for the client is it a big thing because for them it is an achievement. Yes we agree and acknowledge that but if it’s not PRable It is ok to say ‘No’ because apart from being their agency you are their consultants also. Not only are you handling a brand you are also handling several media relationships. Journalist friends, who trust you to be a good source of credible and relevant news. If you give in every time a client wants a press activity done for every little thing they do then you will be undermining your relationship with a journalist by bringing them a story which is substandard. You have to show the client the big picture and trust me they might not like it then and there but will appreciate it in the long run.
Give respect – Take respect: Each of us is doing his/her job to the best of their abilities. A little etiquette, kindness and compassion never hurt anyone. It will, infact raise your status with the client and journalist alike. That also means you don’t be a doormat and let people walk all over you. When the other person in front of you starts to lose it for an error on either side, it is perfectly fine for you to state in a polite but assertive voice to calm down. When crisis hits it is very difficult for some people to keep it together. Their first reaction is panic and then to find a scape goat to pin the blame on someone. As a PR professional you are expected to keep your head above the others and a cool one at that. You need to lead with authority and be the voice of reason. That also means that headless chickens and rude eager beavers are to be kept in check with a firm hand. Say ‘No’ to rudeness on any level.
PR is not magic: There are things PR can do and things it can’t. For example, if a media pitch gets the client an interview, is that a guarantee the client will be in the final version of the story? No. Any number of things could happen along the way to change things up. There’s many a slip between the cup and the lip. Maybe the reporter was suddenly assigned to a breaking story. Maybe the editor killed the story because there wasn’t room in that issue. Maybe the story took a different direction and the client was no longer a good fit. Do we like it that when it happens? Of course not, but, the reality is that it can happen. PR opens the doors to opportunities, but if you want a guarantee, buy ad space (and by the way, have you checked the prices of that lately)?
Update and educate your client team on a regular basis on what is possible. Bridge building meetings with senior journalists also gives the clients a good perspective of what is expected from them to make a good story. That helps to keep the expectations in check. And it is perfectly acceptable to let your client know on a ‘no’ from the journalist. And it is your turn to say ‘no’ if the client does not like the response and insists on speaking to the journalist to argue about the merits of his/her quote. Work a different story.
Meeting deadline on both ends: Exploring an opportunity for a story is a joint task which needs to be achieved and worked upon by all three parties- the PR professional, the journalist and the client. A journalist relies on you when you commit to a quote and a client relies on you to give them enough time to put together a good quote. If the deadlines seem tough on both ends and it might result in more angst than glory then it is perfectly fine to say ‘No’ and decline the offer for a quote inclusion.
The bottom line is that it takes time. Don’t be fooled by the hype. Be prepared to invest the time required to achieve the results you want.
Chaittali Dave | Nucleus PR