“Fame, puts you there where things are hollow”
Recently I joined a Facebook group for freelance PR professionals. Like all social media, a percentage of it isn’t really of use to me, some of it is really helpful and makes me look at things from a slightly different angle, and some is right on the money. In among this, there are a few posts that are eye-opening and quite funny. One was posted this morning and is a screen-grab of a potential client’s demands before they interview or engage a new public relations company.
Under the question, ‘Which PR service(s) do you need?’, they write:
“Raise brand awareness, Generate new customers, Generate press coverage, Manage social media channels, Strategic planning, Reputation management, Corporate communications, Press office, I’m looking for guidance from the Pro.” (sic.)
There are a lot of requirements in this list but, depending on how many hours they are willing to pay for, they are not unreasonable demands. I should point out, however, that while PR can help with brand awareness, turning that into new customers is actually the job of the sales team.
The problem really comes in the answer to the second question – ‘Please describe your PR requirements’:
“I’m looking for someone to make me famous my brand has grown so much now I should be getting noticed more not looking for rip off Pr companies that lie.” (sic.)
It is at this point that the alarms bells begin to ring. Apart from the obvious aggression, their first requirement is to be famous. This is, at best, a nebulous concept which is difficult to accommodate. It is true that many people who become famous do use PR but, if your sole aim is only to be famous then, as the comedian Ricky Gervais once said, “kill someone”. This glib response contains a fair amount of truth. If all you want is to be famous, then gaining notoriety will achieve that quickly and without much effort. After all, we all know who is supposed to have killed JFK and that was 53 years ago!
What stands out in this is potential client’s response, is what is missing - there is no mention of the product or service they are selling. If we take them at their word, then it has seen growth and we must therefore assume the product is good. The question they are really asking is, ‘why am I not famous when my product is successful?’
In a recent article in the Observer PR expert Kris Ruby noted PR “brings attention to what it is that makes you special, not make you special!”
At Blueberry PR, we do not work with clients who want to be famous, but this does not mean we don’t get clients onto the radio or television. For example, we have helped Sevenoaks-based auctioneers, Ibbett Mosely, when they appeared on ‘Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is”, Catsfield Christmas Tree Farm when they appeared in television adverts and on BBC’s ‘Down on the Farm, and Cleankill Pest Control when they appeared on ‘Panorama’, ‘Help! My House is Infested’ and ‘The Alan Titchmarsh Show’. In addition, Cleankill’s managing director Paul Bates is also a regular on BBC local radio talking about different aspects of pests, insects and pest control.
And that is the point, the auctioneers of Ibbett Mosely appear on a programme about auctions because they are experts in their field. Paul is often asked to appear on radio and TV because he is expert on his subject. To paraphrase Kris Ruby, they are not on there to be special, they are on there to demonstrate what it is that is special about them – their expertise.
Over the years, I have worked with academics, building designers, estate agents, turkey farmers, accountants, lawyers and dentists, to name a few, and what has always been clear is that they know a lot more about their subject than I do. What makes them special is the fact they know more about their subject than other people and they can provide the answers people need.
For example, if you need help with a planning application for a Grade II Listed building, you go to someone who has helped numerous people get the planning consent they need, someone like Glenn Moore of G.M. Moore and Associates. As PR professionals, we don’t need to become as knowledgeable about planning or building design as Glenn, in fact remaining on the margins of understanding can mean we ask the questions a customer may ask and therefore we can help to make Glenn’s message clear to potential clients. This is not to say we don’t pick up a surprising amount of knowledge along the way and you’d be surprised about how much I know about bed bugs after working with Cleankill for a number of years.
Each of our clients is special because they know their subject better than most people. This is a commodity we can bring to the general public’s attention, via traditional and social media. It is the very essence of that well-worn phrase, a ‘unique selling proposition’. I can personally recommend someone like Glenn because I have used his services as a client but, as a PR professional, I can tell when I talk to him that he is a man who really understands his business. This is the same with all our clients, they are extremely knowledgeable in their own fields of expertise.
When we look at our friend from the start of this blog, it seems that the product is no longer that important to them. PR would have been able to help them if they had asked, how can I expand my service into this territory? Or if they had asked, how can I get my successful product in front of these potential clients? However, they want to be famous because their product has reached a certain level of success. They seem to have forgotten what it was about the product that made it special but, since he or she is only interested in fame, the product is no longer special to them. They obviously don’t need PR, because PR cannot really provide them with the instant gratification they require.