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It’s no secret that clients hire us for our contacts. That our relationships are often the bait that gets them to sign on the dotted line. But at the end of the contract, the course the agency’s relationship with the media has taken while representing said client has lasting benefits or consequences for both parties.
For the Agency
As PR pros, we all know the importance of building and maintaining strong relationships with the media. The relationships influence our ability (or inability) to secure placements, likelihood of getting a response and overall effectiveness.
To that extent, having built a solid relationship which has endured a variety of different clients, helps to minimize damage when things go astray. It’s common sense that the PR pro who has always come through and been in constant communication with the reporter for the duration of several media opportunities, is less likely to destroy a relationship if things suddenly go off course.
For the Client
Clients share an equal responsibility for building and maintaining effective relationships with the media. The timeliness of their responses, ability to work within reporters’ schedules for interviews and willingness to share photos, ideas and answer questions, all impact the relationship. However, it sometimes seems, from this PR pro’s perspective, that these responsibilities to help build and sustain the relationship are often overlooked.
When the PR contract is over or a new AOR is appointed, the reporters and editors will still have the memories of what it was like to work with the client. (And equal memories of the firm(s) they have worked with on behalf of said client.) Changing PR firms or ceasing to have a PR firm doesn’t take you back to ‘day one’ with the media. If you were uncooperative or failed to provide the info they wanted to include with their story, they will remember that. In turn, they may choose to interview one of your competitors instead.
The Bottom Line for Both Parties
Instead of falling into the sometimes too-easy trap of blaming each other for the failure of a media op or a burned bridge with a reporter, let’s look at the basics of the shared and individual responsibilities of the client and the PR firm.
- Timely response – whether it is the answer to a question or a photo request, both parties share the obligation to get the reporter what they need in a timely manner
- Courtesy – in advertising you pay, in PR. . .well. . .you beg?!? Be appreciative of the opportunities media offer you, act as though the reporter is doing you a favor and extend the appropriate courtesies.
- Patience – deadlines change. News breaks. Stories get postponed. Instead of getting mad, be proactive and offer the reporter information and resources that can help move the story along in light of their other story obligations.
- Cooperation – don’t be a roadblock. Do whatever it takes to get them the info they need, work around the obstacles and be a partner in making the story come to fruition. Do not expect the media to work on your terms. (Remember, you asked for the favor of coverage.)
- Expectation Management – prep your clients accordingly and set forth the media’s expectations of them. The less surprises there are, the better it is for all parties involved.
- Nudging – gently push your client in the right direction to ensure they make a good impression with the reporter. Help them to become a go-to source and someone the media can rely on for information.
- Information – the PR firm can secure the opportunity, but they cannot make it come to fruition without your assistance in obtaining the necessary information. Remember, the PR firm is only as good as the information they are given to work with.
As reporters continue to be tasked with covering more news with less resources, following these seemingly simple ‘rules’ is more important than ever. All parties need to be accountable for the success (or failure) of media relationships and the corresponding benefits or consequences that may occur.