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The missing link

Most companies do not realise that their MDs are vital to a successful public relations strategy.

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It is in the nature of public relations that the success of the exercise between PR agency, as supplier, and the company, as customer, will be based on the quality of the relationship between them. This is axiomatic but worth stating: most things in life that work are based on a relationship. And this one is subject to the vagaries of all relationships.

The first one is commitment from the MD. The PR relationship cannot be built in the absence of the MD. For surely it is the MD who, in driving and fulfilling the company`s strategy, is best positioned to inform the PR and thus to align the two.

Instead, we see far too many MDs delegating the relationship with the PR company to a junior person who is two or three levels removed from company direction, strategy and events. In such a case, the firm cannot conceivably align its public image with its activities.

In effect, all parties are compromised:

  • The MD expects to see wonderful coverage. Comments go along these lines: "We`re paying ABC Associates so much money each month. Why aren`t we seeing results?" The reason is that the MD isn`t directly involved.
  • The PR contact person can`t do her job properly (I use the female genitive as in our experience nine out of 10 of these contact people/marcom managers are female).
  • The PR company is on a mission to hell. The best PR-client relationships are based on performance. Yet, without the direct involvement of the MD, such performance simply is not possible. Who knows better than the MD what is happening in sales? In strategy? In joint ventures, acquisitions, new software agencies, recruitment of top people, technical analysis for opinion pieces? Who better to express disappointment/delight in the service being provided?

Getting involved

For us it is a source of some frustration to find the PR process often impeded by the lack of involvement by the MD. As a corollary, our most successful clients are those where the MD is directly involved.

It stands to reason. If the nature of all relationships is towards entropy (an inevitable winding down to a state of decay), then every possible measure should be exercised by both parties to ensure these relationships are constantly energised.

But the mere involvement of the MD is not enough. The MD must make it patent to all in the company that ultimately they are answerable to him for PR success. To say no to the PR company is to say no the MD. That is how strong the chain of answerability must be.

This carries enormous weight and it resolves the ongoing issue of sales executive and line management assigning no weight to PR. We`ve all heard the comment: "I`m too busy for this PR stuff." or "This PR thing doesn`t work."

A vital tool

Yet PR is indispensable to the overall sales and marketing effort, as these same salespeople will testify when their direct competition builds a better press profile.

Of course the MD`s time is expensive. But then so is PR - the market tells us so. (Inexpensive relative to advertising, of course, but that is another discussion entirely.) It is expensive in the PR`s fee, in opportunity cost, in the time taken in meetings, in the time taken up with clients to drive out customer success stories. Yet if it is approached correctly it moves from being a cost-based service to a value-based service.

On this tack, both parties know when PR is delivering value, or when it is simply incurring cost. These things are not rocket science. Neither is the need to involve the MD.

Tip of the week

The Internet touches us all, every day of our lives. You are in fact reading this via the Internet. As a PR company or PR client, have you considered the Internet in all you do? Are you maximising your Web site? Are you integrating your Web site with your print campaigns? Are you considering push campaigns? Are you maximisng as simple and effective a mechanism as ITWeb? Are you using all the search engines?

The Internet remains the best-kept secret of the IT/PR community. Strategise it and see your PR effectiveness take off.

See also
Frank Heydenrych

Frank Heydenrych is executive chairman of Predictive Communications. He writes for ITWeb in his personal capacity.

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