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An Open Letter to PR Professionals

By: Guest | January 3, 2011 | 
90

This first ran on Dec. 23, but we are re-running guest posts from the holidays to be sure you didn’t miss them!

Guest post by Doug Davidoff, founder and CEO of Imagine Business Development.

I am not a PR professional. I’ve been exposed to, and used, PR professionals in a variety of ways:

* As the owner of a growth-oriented business,
* As an author and speaker, and
* As a marketing and sales advisor to my clients.

I’ve seen the wonderful things PR people can do. However, there are very few that have earned “a seat at the table” with CEOs and senior executives.

In my experience there are three gaps that PR and social media professionals must bridge if they want a seat at the table and to be treated with the seriousness they deserve:

  1. A focus on process rather than results.
  2. A failure to prioritize.
  3. A lack of integration and alignment.

A Focus on Results

The first challenge I have with PR as a profession is that they are really good at telling me, and others, what they need to do; and they’re really bad at telling us what is the effect of these actions.

Business executives, especially senior ones, are operating with a dearth of attention span. We don’t have the attention span to understand the nuance of process. What we care about are results; and what’s necessary to achieve them.

If you want to be taken seriously in the board rooms of America, start talking about how your recommendations will solve the strategic problems that are preventing critical results from being achieved.

A Failure to Prioritize

PR and social media professionals are great at telling companies what they should be doing. I’ve never met a CEO whose list of things they’d like to be doing, but aren’t, isn’t longer than the list of things they’re doing.

We know we need outreach. Yeah, getting our name in the media is nice. Researching the competition sounds great. But where are we going to get the resources to do what you want us to, and what initiative are we going to take those resources from?

My advice: Less is more. Talk to me (and other executives) about the crucial actions that I should take. Help me understand how I’m going to fund your recommendations – financially and otherwise.

A Lack of Integration and Alignment

My final challenge is that far, far too often PR and social media initiatives take place in a bubble. If you don’t understand how customers are created, revenue is produced and profit is shaped, you can’t earn a seat at the table.

It is your job to bridge this divide – to connect and align PR initiatives with all aspects of the company’s go-to-market strategy. Failure to do so will cause you to be marginalized.

I’m a fan of PR and social media. I truly believe companies can gain tremendous advantages by utilizing the tools you provide. To gain this benefit you need to stop being PR people who support business and become businesspeople who support engagement.

Are you with me?

Doug Davidoff is the founder and CEO of Imagine Business Development in Severna Park, Md. He works with companies desiring fast growth who want to hear the truth about achieving it.

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90 Comments on "An Open Letter to PR Professionals"

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HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 6 months ago
Great post Doug! Who needs a PR Pro anyway I have the Twitter! 8)(just got booted from this site! hehe) Marketing and PR are very esoteric subjects. Very hard to measure impact with data of substance. It can be done. But often the ‘Pros’ try to sell this view of trust them it’s an art. Too much warm and fuzzy. Why? It protects their billings. The way I counter this because I have a Sales and OPS background combined with a Finance Degree is simple. The CFO and CEO allocate resources based on what makes them the most money. Every… Read more »
HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 6 months ago
Great post Doug! Who needs a PR Pro anyway I have the Twitter! 8)(just got booted from this site! hehe) Marketing and PR are very esoteric subjects. Very hard to measure impact with data of substance. It can be done. But often the ‘Pros’ try to sell this view of trust them it’s an art. Too much warm and fuzzy. Why? It protects their billings. The way I counter this because I have a Sales and OPS background combined with a Finance Degree is simple. The CFO and CEO allocate resources based on what makes them the most money. Every… Read more »
HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 6 months ago
Great post Doug! Who needs a PR Pro anyway I have the Twitter! 8)(just got booted from this site! hehe) Marketing and PR are very esoteric subjects. Very hard to measure impact with data of substance. It can be done. But often the ‘Pros’ try to sell this view of trust them it’s an art. Too much warm and fuzzy. Why? It protects their billings. The way I counter this because I have a Sales and OPS background combined with a Finance Degree is simple. The CFO and CEO allocate resources based on what makes them the most money. Every… Read more »
HerzogIND
HerzogIND
5 years 6 months ago

Damn fine post, Doug. Agree. Completely.

HerzogIND
HerzogIND
5 years 6 months ago

Damn fine post, Doug. Agree. Completely.

HerzogIND
HerzogIND
5 years 6 months ago

Damn fine post, Doug. Agree. Completely.

3HatsComm
3HatsComm
5 years 6 months ago

Doug, You are preaching to the choir with me. I remind people, clients is that PR and social media is about accomplishing both communications AND business goals. A business won’t get anywhere if it doesn’t communicate effectively: with vendors, investors, employees and of course, paying customers. Without a seat at the table, if we don’t work together to plan how that release and that PR placement will be best used by the sales team, how that blog post can move the needle, etc. … then yeah, hard to align those marketing communications campaigns with the overall business goals. FWIW.

3HatsComm
3HatsComm
5 years 6 months ago

Doug, You are preaching to the choir with me. I remind people, clients is that PR and social media is about accomplishing both communications AND business goals. A business won’t get anywhere if it doesn’t communicate effectively: with vendors, investors, employees and of course, paying customers. Without a seat at the table, if we don’t work together to plan how that release and that PR placement will be best used by the sales team, how that blog post can move the needle, etc. … then yeah, hard to align those marketing communications campaigns with the overall business goals. FWIW.

3HatsComm
3HatsComm
5 years 6 months ago

Doug, You are preaching to the choir with me. I remind people, clients is that PR and social media is about accomplishing both communications AND business goals. A business won’t get anywhere if it doesn’t communicate effectively: with vendors, investors, employees and of course, paying customers. Without a seat at the table, if we don’t work together to plan how that release and that PR placement will be best used by the sales team, how that blog post can move the needle, etc. … then yeah, hard to align those marketing communications campaigns with the overall business goals. FWIW.

DannyBrown
5 years 6 months ago

@HowieSPM Haha, Howie, I thought you said “I have the Twitter 8”, like some kind of Tarantino gang. D’oh!

DannyBrown
5 years 6 months ago

@HowieSPM Haha, Howie, I thought you said “I have the Twitter 8”, like some kind of Tarantino gang. D’oh!

DannyBrown
5 years 6 months ago

@HowieSPM Haha, Howie, I thought you said “I have the Twitter 8”, like some kind of Tarantino gang. D’oh!

DannyBrown
5 years 6 months ago
Hey there Doug, Great post, and some very sensible points that any business professional, agency or consultant could learn from. One thing that did stand out, though, and a reason I find a lot of client/vendor relationships become strained, is this statement: “We don’t have the attention span to understand the nuance of process.” While I agree that CEO’s and CMO’s, etc, are busy people, you (and I say this generically, not at you specifically) have to take some form of personal responsibility when it comes to understanding the process. Without that understanding, CEO’s and the like can (and do)… Read more »
DannyBrown
5 years 6 months ago
Hey there Doug, Great post, and some very sensible points that any business professional, agency or consultant could learn from. One thing that did stand out, though, and a reason I find a lot of client/vendor relationships become strained, is this statement: “We don’t have the attention span to understand the nuance of process.” While I agree that CEO’s and CMO’s, etc, are busy people, you (and I say this generically, not at you specifically) have to take some form of personal responsibility when it comes to understanding the process. Without that understanding, CEO’s and the like can (and do)… Read more »
DannyBrown
5 years 6 months ago
Hey there Doug, Great post, and some very sensible points that any business professional, agency or consultant could learn from. One thing that did stand out, though, and a reason I find a lot of client/vendor relationships become strained, is this statement: “We don’t have the attention span to understand the nuance of process.” While I agree that CEO’s and CMO’s, etc, are busy people, you (and I say this generically, not at you specifically) have to take some form of personal responsibility when it comes to understanding the process. Without that understanding, CEO’s and the like can (and do)… Read more »
Doug_Davidoff
Doug_Davidoff
5 years 6 months ago

@DannyBrown Danny, thanks for the comment – I’m glad it resonated.

I don’t mean to say that we (generically) have no tolerance for process, just very little. What we need is results context. Too often the focus of PR professionals in on process. If I feel understood and I’m confident that we are aligned about the results I have both more tolerance for process – and less need, frankly, to hear about the detail – because my trust in you is much greater.

Doug_Davidoff
Doug_Davidoff
5 years 6 months ago

@DannyBrown Danny, thanks for the comment – I’m glad it resonated.

I don’t mean to say that we (generically) have no tolerance for process, just very little. What we need is results context. Too often the focus of PR professionals in on process. If I feel understood and I’m confident that we are aligned about the results I have both more tolerance for process – and less need, frankly, to hear about the detail – because my trust in you is much greater.

Doug_Davidoff
Doug_Davidoff
5 years 6 months ago

@DannyBrown Danny, thanks for the comment – I’m glad it resonated.

I don’t mean to say that we (generically) have no tolerance for process, just very little. What we need is results context. Too often the focus of PR professionals in on process. If I feel understood and I’m confident that we are aligned about the results I have both more tolerance for process – and less need, frankly, to hear about the detail – because my trust in you is much greater.

DannyBrown
5 years 6 months ago

@Doug_Davidoff I hear you on that, and agree 100% – if content is king on blogs, then context is king in business. Cheers, sir!

DannyBrown
5 years 6 months ago

@Doug_Davidoff I hear you on that, and agree 100% – if content is king on blogs, then context is king in business. Cheers, sir!

DannyBrown
5 years 6 months ago

@Doug_Davidoff I hear you on that, and agree 100% – if content is king on blogs, then context is king in business. Cheers, sir!

Doug_Davidoff
Doug_Davidoff
5 years 6 months ago
@3HatsComm Completely agree with you. My point here is appies not only to PR professionals, but actually anyone who wants “a seat at the table.” Keep the focus on results, keep the conversation on the critical points and executive will give you the authority to work on the details with the people in the organization responsible for managing the details. I’ve found that executives (myself included) have far more attention and patience when the people we’re talking with provide greater context around results and why the conversation matters. If I’m left to figure out why it matters, that’s when you… Read more »
Doug_Davidoff
Doug_Davidoff
5 years 6 months ago
@3HatsComm Completely agree with you. My point here is appies not only to PR professionals, but actually anyone who wants “a seat at the table.” Keep the focus on results, keep the conversation on the critical points and executive will give you the authority to work on the details with the people in the organization responsible for managing the details. I’ve found that executives (myself included) have far more attention and patience when the people we’re talking with provide greater context around results and why the conversation matters. If I’m left to figure out why it matters, that’s when you… Read more »
Doug_Davidoff
Doug_Davidoff
5 years 6 months ago
@3HatsComm Completely agree with you. My point here is appies not only to PR professionals, but actually anyone who wants “a seat at the table.” Keep the focus on results, keep the conversation on the critical points and executive will give you the authority to work on the details with the people in the organization responsible for managing the details. I’ve found that executives (myself included) have far more attention and patience when the people we’re talking with provide greater context around results and why the conversation matters. If I’m left to figure out why it matters, that’s when you… Read more »
Doug_Davidoff
Doug_Davidoff
5 years 6 months ago

@HerzogIND Thank you – glad you liked it.

Doug_Davidoff
Doug_Davidoff
5 years 6 months ago

@HerzogIND Thank you – glad you liked it.

Doug_Davidoff
Doug_Davidoff
5 years 6 months ago

@HerzogIND Thank you – glad you liked it.

Doug_Davidoff
Doug_Davidoff
5 years 6 months ago

@HowieSPM well said. I’d add that executives – especially CEO level executives – understand that all results don’t translate to units and easily measured activities. Let me know what levers it impacts, let me know how it will increase sales or make it easier to make sales and I’ll be able to understand your points and allocate the appropriate resources.

Thanks for the thoughts.

Doug_Davidoff
Doug_Davidoff
5 years 6 months ago

@HowieSPM well said. I’d add that executives – especially CEO level executives – understand that all results don’t translate to units and easily measured activities. Let me know what levers it impacts, let me know how it will increase sales or make it easier to make sales and I’ll be able to understand your points and allocate the appropriate resources.

Thanks for the thoughts.

Doug_Davidoff
Doug_Davidoff
5 years 6 months ago

@HowieSPM well said. I’d add that executives – especially CEO level executives – understand that all results don’t translate to units and easily measured activities. Let me know what levers it impacts, let me know how it will increase sales or make it easier to make sales and I’ll be able to understand your points and allocate the appropriate resources.

Thanks for the thoughts.

HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 6 months ago

@DannyBrown @Doug_Davidoff I want to comment on Dannys observation. The accountability issue. If your work for a business there is a command structure of who is accountable to who. If you are hired as an outside contractor/service it is not as clear.

I accoutability is key and there needs to be proper delegation of authority. If a big company for example hires a PR firm, but has say a VP of Communications, shame on the CEO for feeling they have to manage PR and not put someone in charge and focus on other things…like turning down $6bil from Groupon 😉

HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 6 months ago

@DannyBrown @Doug_Davidoff I want to comment on Dannys observation. The accountability issue. If your work for a business there is a command structure of who is accountable to who. If you are hired as an outside contractor/service it is not as clear.

I accoutability is key and there needs to be proper delegation of authority. If a big company for example hires a PR firm, but has say a VP of Communications, shame on the CEO for feeling they have to manage PR and not put someone in charge and focus on other things…like turning down $6bil from Groupon 😉

HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 6 months ago

@DannyBrown @Doug_Davidoff I want to comment on Dannys observation. The accountability issue. If your work for a business there is a command structure of who is accountable to who. If you are hired as an outside contractor/service it is not as clear.

I accoutability is key and there needs to be proper delegation of authority. If a big company for example hires a PR firm, but has say a VP of Communications, shame on the CEO for feeling they have to manage PR and not put someone in charge and focus on other things…like turning down $6bil from Groupon 😉

HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 6 months ago

@DannyBrown LOL! You made me think now of Harvey Keitel in Pulp Fiction.

HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 6 months ago

@DannyBrown LOL! You made me think now of Harvey Keitel in Pulp Fiction.

HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 6 months ago

@DannyBrown LOL! You made me think now of Harvey Keitel in Pulp Fiction.

DannyBrown
5 years 6 months ago

@HowieSPM @Doug_Davidoff Hire a Chief Delegator! 😉

DannyBrown
5 years 6 months ago

@HowieSPM @Doug_Davidoff Hire a Chief Delegator! 😉

DannyBrown
5 years 6 months ago

@HowieSPM @Doug_Davidoff Hire a Chief Delegator! 😉

PabloEdwards
PabloEdwards
5 years 6 months ago

I know the exact bubble you are talking about. We need to break out of that bubble and make a bigger impact in new ways.

PabloEdwards
PabloEdwards
5 years 6 months ago

I know the exact bubble you are talking about. We need to break out of that bubble and make a bigger impact in new ways.

PabloEdwards
PabloEdwards
5 years 6 months ago

I know the exact bubble you are talking about. We need to break out of that bubble and make a bigger impact in new ways.

Doug_Davidoff
Doug_Davidoff
5 years 6 months ago

@PabloEdwards Yup. The good news is that there is more than enough need to go around. thanks for the comment.

Doug_Davidoff
Doug_Davidoff
5 years 6 months ago

@PabloEdwards Yup. The good news is that there is more than enough need to go around. thanks for the comment.

Doug_Davidoff
Doug_Davidoff
5 years 6 months ago

@PabloEdwards Yup. The good news is that there is more than enough need to go around. thanks for the comment.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 5 months ago

Doug, as you know, I would have fought you on this a couple of years ago. But after you began pushing me to show results in our proposals, it’s been smooth sailing. No more invoice questioning. No more wondering why things aren’t happening as quickly as they would like. No more questioning, period. All our clients care about are the results. They don’t care how we get them. And, as long as PR pros refuse to work this way (I just reviewed a proposal for a friend and it was all about the process), we’ll keep winning.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 5 months ago

Doug, as you know, I would have fought you on this a couple of years ago. But after you began pushing me to show results in our proposals, it’s been smooth sailing. No more invoice questioning. No more wondering why things aren’t happening as quickly as they would like. No more questioning, period. All our clients care about are the results. They don’t care how we get them. And, as long as PR pros refuse to work this way (I just reviewed a proposal for a friend and it was all about the process), we’ll keep winning.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 5 months ago

Doug, as you know, I would have fought you on this a couple of years ago. But after you began pushing me to show results in our proposals, it’s been smooth sailing. No more invoice questioning. No more wondering why things aren’t happening as quickly as they would like. No more questioning, period. All our clients care about are the results. They don’t care how we get them. And, as long as PR pros refuse to work this way (I just reviewed a proposal for a friend and it was all about the process), we’ll keep winning.

thebrandbuilder
thebrandbuilder
5 years 5 months ago
Solid post, Doug. You’re right. But I have to point out that many of the executives on the client side also have no idea how to integrate PR and SM into their business, tie their activities to specific objectives, or set targets themselves. My advice here, unless you are lucky enough to be working with a PR firm or SM professionals who actually have business management experience (client side), is to not expect the hired specialists to be able to figure this out. I would call on the client side to take the reins here and create the mechanism by… Read more »
thebrandbuilder
thebrandbuilder
5 years 5 months ago
Solid post, Doug. You’re right. But I have to point out that many of the executives on the client side also have no idea how to integrate PR and SM into their business, tie their activities to specific objectives, or set targets themselves. My advice here, unless you are lucky enough to be working with a PR firm or SM professionals who actually have business management experience (client side), is to not expect the hired specialists to be able to figure this out. I would call on the client side to take the reins here and create the mechanism by… Read more »
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