Home > PR Agency, PR and social media, PR ethics, Public Relations Strategy > Public Relations in a Vacuum…Well, Sucks

Public Relations in a Vacuum…Well, Sucks

September 27, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Recently there have been a number of blogs and articles that discuss how companies should treat their PR firm in order to get the best results. Many of these tips are usually hard to argue basics such as: treat the PR firm as an extension of the client’s marketing department, provide open flow of communications, respect the agency’s advice, and work together to establish realistic goals.

As a man of relatively few words, let me simplify this – public relations shouldn’t be conducted in a vacuum. This means all of the above teamwork-related elements and also includes the need to have corporate oversight of PR in the hands of someone tied into the company’s goals.

Well this sounds like an obvious statement, let’s take a look at the signs that PR is working in a vacuum.

– If the public relations program is ONLY chasing arbitrary tactical measurement goals (press releases issued, press release pick-up, total coverage and interviews secured), PR is probably operating in a vacuum.

– If the only time the c-suite checks-in for an update is for the quarterly board meeting, then public relations may be working in a vacuum. And if the ‘check-in’ is simply to get some highlights for a PowerPoint slide, then the odds are really really good that you can change your agency’s letterhead to Hoover.

– If the new agency of record is required to produce a public relations plan simply based on the RFP process, then congratulations to the PR agency, they just signed up a new client that wants PR to work in a vacuum. Another give away is if a PR plan is required, yet no marketing plan exists, the new agency account representative  better put on headphones to block out the giant sucking sound.

– If the only feedback to a public relations plan is, ‘yep, sounds good’, let’s be very clear, PR is, well you guessed it. I’m sorry, but I don’t care how good you think you are, a third-party with minimal interaction with top executives shouldn’t nail a PR plan. Of course it is possible to produce a top notch plan, but, if the client company accepts it at face value – well they are not even trying. And that sucks.

– If you only hear about the company’s new business-altering new product simply because they need a press release issued next week or if you have Google Alerts set up just to figure out what is happening at your client’s company, you just may be working in a vacuum.

– If the only way you can determine in what topics the company executives want to be considered thought leaders in, is by throwing a handful of opportunities their way and seeing which ones they accept, you are not only wasting everyone’s time, but welcome to the vacuum.

A PR program that is executed in an informational vacuum, may not necessarily fail to produce results, but it certainly isn’t reaching its full potential. It’s no guarantee that adding resources and c-level commitment will make the program a tremendous success, but no doubt it will make it suck a whole lot less.

Photo by Renjith Krishnan

  1. September 27, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    Good points, and I’ve found myself in that situation. That silence could also be an opportunity to help shape a strategic communications plan…if the client and all the other moving parts are open to it.

    • September 28, 2011 at 10:09 pm

      Thanks for the comment. I appreciate you stopping by.

  2. September 28, 2011 at 9:30 am

    Oh dear, from your list of signs of PR sucking, it reads like the majority of my PR agency experience! I often felt the inkling that we were stuck executing the same strategies for our clients, which while some worked, didn’t challenge us as PR professionals. Some of this can be attributed to the industry we served (pharmaceuticals) it’s no excuse for operating in a vacuum. It’s a fine line to walk down and some agencies are lucky when they can escape the hamster wheel.

    • September 28, 2011 at 10:12 pm

      Thanks for your comment Krista. Yeah, it’s apparently not that uncommon. The unfortunate part of this is that the client wants PR to be successful and most agencies really do want to do great work, but getting the stars to align is challenging.

  3. Tony Loftis
    October 13, 2011 at 9:38 am


    As always well done and very insightful. Thanks and keep up the good work.


  1. September 30, 2011 at 10:02 am
  2. October 4, 2011 at 6:46 am

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