I know it sounds odd for a PR person to write that there may be a time with hiring PR counsel is a bad idea. But, having been in the business for 27 years has shown me that there are situations where public relations will not help you but rather just frustrate you. Below are some of those scenarios:
- Your staff doesn’t care. I don’t mean they aren’t on the same page or have their own ideas about the correct business strategy. I mean, they don’t believe in your organization or your products and services. You’ve already lost the battle here. Work on them first.
- You are in a leadership transition. Your key staff people have left and you are in a significant hiring mode. This doesn’t mean you don’t continue to communicate with your publics. In fact, you need to increase the level of communication to your stakeholders, customers and others during this time. But, hiring a new firm should wait until you have key people in place.
- The CEO or executive team doesn’t believe in public relations. If you don’t think we can help you, why hire us? Having your PR firm spend endless hours “justifying” their existence is a waste of your investment dollars. Unfortunately, I have been in those meetings where it comes up, spent hours on reports to just “prove a point,” and talked my team “off the ledge” after being told again and again that what they do “doesn’t matter.” It is a fruitless activity for both of us. Either your reputation matters to the C Suite, or it doesn’t.
- You have no spokesperson and aren’t interested in having one. Public relations is a partnership, where we tell your story on your behalf. But, this does not exclude you from telling it, either. When the Wall Street Journal or NBC Nightly News calls, someone from your company has to be able to face the microphone. They should be articulate, well steeped in the messaging, sound human, and be passionate about the company and what it does. It helps if they have the “right” title for the messaging, too. (More on that later.)
- Your issue is asking a lot of society, and you want to rely on a PR firm to make it happen. This last one is tough. I almost didn’t write it. But, it has to be put on the table. PR people won’t ever be able to adopt the level of passion you have for your work. We get pretty enthusiastic. But, if you believe passionately that the public is wrong about its perception or ideas or something needs to change at a society level, you need to lead the troops. PR people aren’t mercenaries (as much as we’ve been called that).I realize the women’s suffrage movement, Planned Parenthood, The Civil Rights movement – they were all pushing rocks up hills, right? Yes. And, they won because the people who took those ideas on were the people who had the most at stake. If your issue is that charged – be willing to take it on, directly, and not have a PR firm be your front line. Use us as support.
I expect to get push back on this last one. Feel free. I would love to hear what you have to say in the comments section.