PR: A Game of Chess

Amanda Whitcroft
August 27, 2021

After being struck with a brilliant idea, you quickly assemble a team to execute it. With your newly-formed company, you throw together a roadmap and a concept, eager to share your project with the world. Who cares that you’ve only spent a few weeks on development? Nothing could possibly go wrong. Other projects like yours have seen meteoric success, so why not yours? In this frenzy of creating a startup, you set your sights on engaging a PR firm, because the world must know about your idea, your concept, your baby. You want the world to know that you have arrived.

But what happens when the PR firm is employed too soon? What happens if you are many steps along before realizing you may be in over your head? What if you forget to do your due diligence, consult with legal counsel, and get a clear and defined roadmap before spreading your message? What happens if you realize you’re not sure you want to commit to the project long enough to see its success, after attaching the PR firm’s name to it?

This is how toxic relationships can be formed between PR firms and clients. Boundaries are suddenly non-existent, as the client scrambles to bring a half-baked idea to market. Clients begin asking the PR firm for duties outside of their scope. Suddenly, the PR firm is working well beyond the hours agreed upon in contract in attempts to salvage the client’s product and their own reputation. As trust slips away, it allows a space for animosity to grow, all because clients neglected to understand what the job of PR actually is.

The PR firm’s mission is to provide the client with necessary tools for success. Much like it is unrealistic and unprofessional for the firm to ask the client to do their job for them, PR cannot do the job of the client. The firm can provide contacts, press releases, connections, and more, but if the client isn’t participating, the work becomes sterile. Projects are a team effort; they cannot succeed on their own. PR must fulfill the duties outlined, and the client must do their part. As a client it is your job to approve releases, communicate with the partners secured for you, and follow up on opportunities created, all in a timely manner. Most importantly, clients have to understand that any healthy business partnership involves not only communication but also trust. If a strategy is presented to the client and they choose not to follow the team’s lead, it is no longer the responsibility of the PR firm if the result is less than desirable. Understanding the nature of the PR-client relationship provides the opportunity to avoid common pitfalls that will squash an idea before it has a chance to soar. It is imperative that both client and PR communicate clearly from the beginning, to ensure that goals are aligned for an effective team.

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