If They Say Jump, Do You Say ‘How High’?

skateboarderThe PR industry has a problem. It’s in the business of building and maintaining beneficial relationships for clients, whether that be with journalists, bloggers or, increasingly, direct with the public. It’s a people business.

So you’d think we’d be on top of our game when it comes to client relationships, right? Wrong.

What the PR industry is very good at is saying ‘yes’. And as an industry, it costs us.

PR companies are great when it comes to account management. There are lots of very talented account managers and directors out there who understand how to relate to clients and work with them for mutually beneficial results. Far better, in my experience, than those in similar positions in other types of agency.

As a general rule, they’ll bend over backwards to help and advise clients, to ensure that clients are happy, and to facilitate a client/agency relationship that runs very, very smoothly. Which is brilliant if you’re client side.

But from an agency perspective, PR people are generally awful when it comes to saying ‘no’.

In their desire to please clients, it’s my opinion that far too often PR people fail to challenge client directions even if those directions are at odds with overall strategy or will be very hard to implement successfully. The result is the industry standard 20% over-service levels that significantly affect profitability, or PR people desperately scrabbling around to gain some kind of traction or result from a weak initiative.

We need to get much, much better at saying ‘no’.

We need to get much, much better at valuing ourselves and our opinions. We need to stop saying ‘yes’ to things that undermine the profession and our reputation. After all, who wants to be called a PR anymore?!

If we seriously want a seat at the strategy table, we need to earn it. And the only way we’ll earn it is to gain the respect of our clients. Respect not for how much we can do or how lovely we are to work with or how compliant we are. Respect for the experience, knowledge and value that we can bring to the table. Respect for our honesty.

Start saying no. Now.

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Posted by Paul Sutton

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