Gini Dietrich

What Is Wrong with PR?

By: Gini Dietrich | February 28, 2011 | 

It was a rough week in public relations last week. The New York Times let a business owner rant on their blog, TechCrunch took a stab at a PR professional, and Jeremy Pepper, Mack Collier, Shannon Paul, and I debated a PR vs. publicity Quora question on Beth Harte’s Facebook wall.

When we started Spin Sucks, it was with the idea that we would be able to publicly promote all of the good work the PR industry does and help to change perception that we’re all snakeoil salesmen. But, as of late, it seems everyone is highlighting the really bad professionals in our field (aren’t there bad professionals in every field?) from stray hashtag tweets and advertising gone wrong to fake personas and astroturfing. All is amiss and we only have ourselves to blame.

We have a new client. No, we had a new client. I spent a really long time with them (to the tune of nearly four months) educating them, building trust and confidence, helping them build their financial model for a new business they’re launching, and teaching them that PR (online and off) is a marathon, not a sprint. For free. They finally signed on the dotted line last month and we got started.

The relationship lasted only five weeks.

Five weeks.

Sure, we can point a bunch of fingers and say they were all in the wrong, but after I read the New York Times blog and after what their CEO said to me (“you trumped your online expertise”), I have to stop and think about what we didn’t do right.

If you’ve not read The Problem with Public Relations,” it’s a good piece to read (especially the comments), but this is the most stabbing point:

So many questions, so few answers. I have been dealing with P.R. people for a very long time. It would be crazy to categorize all public relations people as crazy, so let’s just say that P.R. people drive me crazy. All of them. As a client, as an interviewer of clients, as an avoider of clients they are selling too hard, and now as a client again. What I have finally come to understand is that P.R. people are paid to twist reality into pretzels and convince you that they are fine croissants. At some point, they actually believe their own concoctions.

What a nice generalization, isn’t it? All PR (since when does PR have periods between each letter?) people drive him crazy. All PR people are paid to twist reality into pretzels and convince you they are fine croissants. All of us.

But the point, after my blood stopped boiling, that I took away from this is that the author really believes all PR professionals do this. Our former client really believes I sold him a bunch of shit in order to get the business. Never mind in the very first meeting, he said to us, ” Don’t screw this up” as if screwing it up were the very first thing on our minds. Never mind that what I really want to do is trump our expertise to win some business and then not deliver results. And never mind that, as PR pros we all believe our own concoctions.

And it’s our own fault.

In both of these cases, the ranting blogger and our former client had a perception in their minds they thought we should deliver. There isn’t anything I can do about the perception of the blogger, but (knowing hindsight is 20/20), I should have been more careful to really understand the expectations and perception of our client. The things he wanted us to do weren’t included in our proposal, but I never dug deep enough to fully understand that, even though it wasn’t included, it was what he wanted us to deliver.

So we were working a proposal he didn’t even want. And that’s our own fault.

As PR professionals, we are part consultant, part coach, part implementer, and part shrink. If we forget one of those four things, we won’t be able to build the confidence and trust we need from our clients in order to help them build confidence and trust with their audiences. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and any of us who say we want to “create a preopening buzz so loud that it would announce our arrival from sea to shining inlet, instantly creating a name and a brand” are downright being untruthful. If we say those things to win the business and then can’t deliver, it’s not only hampering our ability to deliver, it’s killing the perception of the industry, as a whole.

I fully realize how difficult it is to determine goals and projected results before you begin working with a company, but I also know how easy it is to underpromise and overdeliver. It’s easy to educate and discuss the milestones it takes to be able to run the marathon. It’s easy to discuss the difference between PR and publicity and fully understand what it is the buyer wants from you.

If the client or business leader doesn’t want to hear it, it’s likely not the right fit for you. Let them go find a professional who will overpromise and underdeliver. After all, they’re out there.

They just don’t read this blog.

I snagged this image from Brian Solis’s blog, but I’m not sure where he got it. So thanks Brian…and whomever drew it!

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • You speak to many PR pros’ pains, Gini!

    I’m encountering more people lately who have a tough time understanding the “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” aspect of PR. Often times, we have to first put on our counselor/advisor hats and help the client make several adjustments in the business before we can even begin to think about generating publicity. And it’s challenging to convince someone who is ready to move forward ASAP that they need to slow down and put all the puzzle pieces into place before we can even think about doing media/blogger/public outreach.

  • Gini sorry to hear but at the same time I believe some clients are just never meant to happen. I think this client did you a huge favor by realizing you were not a fit for each other. Whatever ‘expectations’ of his you didn’t meet, or didn’t propose, we can’t win them all. You hit the nail on the head with the part shring/coach/consultant, in the end you don’t know what is actually going on in this person’s head. Regarding the bad PR for PR peeps, well it’s ironic that brand reputation specialists are unable to change perceptions on this. I think that in the end the press (off and online) loves a juicy Fail and in the end will go a long way to research and write big fail stories rather than celebrate big wins. Hope you enjoyed Canada!

  • TorontoLouise

    Great post Ginny. Love the candour and soul searching. There are many reasons why client/agency relationships sour (or part ways amicably for that matter) and as John points out below, some of them are just not meant to happen. I have found however, that one of the things that sets our profession apart from, say, law, accounting or even advertising is that many of the people who engage us do so without knowing what they want. When clients meet with a lawyer or an accountant, they are very clear on the desired outcome (e.g. keep me from going to jail, get me a bigger tax refund) but when they approach a PR agency, it’s often more of a conversation or a thought process, a means to simply explore if PR is for them, if it will help solve their problems. Often, by the time they realize that they’re not ready or interested in PR, they’ve used up countless agency hours and effort. We’re left wondering what happened but the reality is it was never going to happen. We were just helping them to think out loud.

  • craigritchie
  • Sorry to hear you lost the sale. Interesting post. (Postmotum?) The picture is from Hugh MacLeod. He just released a great book, Evil Plans, Having Fun on the Road to World Domination. Sound familiar? I read it over the weekend. Pretty good stuff.

  • ShellyKramer

    Brilliant. And so true. I get the same crap about “marketing people” and how we’re all snake oil salesmen. Really?

    But you’re right. At the end of the day we usually have ourselves to blame. For wanting the business without really setting the right expectations. Or thinking we HAD set the right expectations, and spelled them out, only to later realize you’d miscalculated.

    It’s failing. In its own way. But you know what, Gini-Gin-Gin … every time we fail we get smarter. Lesson learned. Won’t happen again.

    Oh, and you actually said “shit” in a blog post. I was shocked!

    Thanks for a good start to my week.


  • JeromePineau

    Wow, what an heartfelt, honest self-assessment post – If I might chime in, re: “Never mind in the very first meeting, he said to us, ” Don’t screw this up”” – that in itself was a red flag that this particular client may not have been on you wanted to take on anyway – From the sound of it, this is a lost sale you might end up thanking your stars for 🙂 I find it’s sometimes OK not to hire (or even fire) some clients…

  • DonovanGroupInc

    In deed a tough week on the public relations industry – managing client expectations seems to be more and more an elusive goal especially when the perception out there is killing all of us in the communications field. It’s sometimes a difficult task to get a client to see the difference between public relations and publicity – how many times have clients and pr practitioners sat across from each other and heard what they wanted or thought they heard only to have expectations come up short from both ends. What’s the answer? I think continuing the discussion in forums such as this and beyond to educate a population that doesn’t eat, sleep and breath what we all know is a slow and methodical process – and ultimately keeping our eyes on the ball – if it doesn’t seem like the right fit at the beginning it won’t be in the middle or the end.

  • Kenwork57

    Great, thought-provoking post, as usual Gini. The question it raises for me–and this is not a critique–is were you surprised by the ending? In my experience, many agency owners know in the gut that the new client’s expectations are unrealistic, but ignore that feeling and hope that they can create the client’s desired magical outcomes or that they’ll eventually persuade the client to see the light. Neither is likely. And it’s the agency that loses, due to how long it takes for a new account to be truly profitable, when you factor in most agencies’ high investment in pitching the account and starting it with a bang. My advice to agency owners when pitching an account: 1) Have your antennae on high for client expectations, and 2) Ignore your gut at your own peril!

  • MimiMeredith

    We, as a society, don’t do delayed gratification anymore. So a marathon to good results and a stable brand just isn’t as appealing as thinking that a little razzle dazzle can make a brand go viral. (“How can we make this go viral?” is one of my favorite new business B.S. phrases. It may have even replaced, “How can we maximize this?” in my Mimi’s Book of Irritatants.)

    PR has always been misunderstood, underappreciated and saddled with expectations for miraculous results. And understanding what clients really want is hard, hard work because a great deal of the time, they really don’t know themselves. Their target objective is the newest bright shiny thing.

    I’m not in the business anymore, but I’d love to take all my friends who are out for a glass of wine and remind you that those who understand the R (or R.) in PR are rare; and that this industry, when administered effectively by people with good hearts and pure intention, still has the power to dramatically improve the world. Keep the Faith good people of PR. This too shall pass. Good works endure.

  • That might have been funnier if I had spelled “Postmortem” correctly the first time!

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  • JordanDrake

    Well thought out – well written – thought provoking:-)

  • Gini sorry to hear but at the same time I believe some clients are just never meant to happen. I think this client did you a huge favor by realizing you were not a fit for each other. Whatever ‘expectations’ of his you didn’t meet, or didn’t propose, we can’t win them all. You hit the nail on the head with the part shring/coach/consultant, in the end you don’t know what is actually going on in this person’s head. Regarding the bad PR for PR peeps, well it’s ironic that brand reputation specialists are unable to change perceptions on this. I think that in the end the press (off and online) loves a juicy Fail and in the end will go a long way to research and write big fail stories rather than celebrate big wins. Hope you enjoyed Canada!

  • ScottHepburn

    Thanks for sharing, Gini. It’s experiences like this that remind me why I don’t use a label to define what I do for a living. It’s too inexact.

    There’s always a disconnect between what we think we do for a living and what the client wants us to do. And if that gap is too wide or lingers for too long, trouble happens. Sure, in some cases we take time at the beginning to have clear understanding on all sides, but just as often that’s not the case.

    Dating is so hard…

    My biggest struggle is to find the sweet spot between turning away “bad fit” clients and being more flexible for the sake of building a business.

  • GayleJoseph

    Great post, Gini. I agree with John. Some clients are never meant to happen and are clearly not the right fit. I also echo (and have preached this for a long time) that it is best to underpromise and overdeliver. We may never stop fighting the fight – defending our character and our own reputations while we help our clients build theirs – but in the end, if we do the right thing and remain honest, ethical and professional, we’ll be just fine. Thanks for sharing.

  • Wow, where to start … as a strategy minded “Big Picture” kind of person, I see two very key points.

    The first is that there is a sense of desperation in many clients They want immediate results, not the kind of solid benefits that come from long-term relationship building. That’s probably true for all the PR firms that are out there swinging for a home run but wind up whiffing it badly as much as the clients that are expecting too much too fast.

    The second is that you are right on when you say that sometimes you have to say that a client just isn’t a good fit. I spend so much time explaining to small businesses that just getting onto twitter or facebook isn’t going to do you any good without an overall strategy. Essentially none of them want to hear that at first, but a few come to accept it. They become my clients. The rest? I have no idea, but I’m guessing that someone else tells them what they want to hear (as any good con artist would do, not that I’m bitter).

    PR has become such a bad word that you may need to find a new one. Something like BD for “Brand Development”. Wait, that sounds like the BBD (Bigger, Better Deal) of a good con, too … nevermind … 🙂

  • ladylaff

    Dear Gina, I love your blog. Thanks for daring to tell it like it is. Apologies in advance for a mega-comment, but this stuff is really is on my mind lately. I work in the technology sector, which gets a particularly bad rap and recently drafted a white paper around a topic I rather nerdishly coined “systemic failure in influencer communications”. I think systemic failure exists when all stakeholders in a particular industry or practice are unsatisfied with the experience, the outcomes and the economics. In my case, the stakeholders are PR industry professionals, company leaders and the influencers, most notably journalists. I have racked my brain thinking about how this came about and have concluded it is certainly not because PR people lack will or intellect, but mainly because the operational model for PR remains fundamentally unchanged since its dawn (I’m talking about tech PR here) in the early 80s, when communications was more of a ‘one-to-many’ process and venture capital funded massive PR budgets compared to those available today. Agencies are trying too hard to fund expensive vertiginous hierarchies with too much beaucracy and points of failure and a basic instinct in professional services is that you try to sell your capacity rather than trying to reshape it. This surely leads to poor, ethically dubious decision-making.

    As PR budgets and agency profit margins slowly eroded over the years following the bust, communications managers under internal pressure to cut costs and demonstrate ROI started to behave more and more like procurement managers, measuring success based on cost per ‘deliverable’ – and agencies responded to this demand. Although this might appear on the surface to represent progress, it has led to a tactical ‘tick box’ approach to PR that rewards communications people for internal reporting and meeting poorly defined internal KPIs, which are actually deliverables rather than outcomes – and herein lies a major systemic flaw. If the critical success factors for successful influencer communications are absent (see below) no amount of “deliverables” will lead to successful outcomes.

    The critical success factors are (1) having a differentiated business strategy and product, (2) executive sponsorship and engagement and crucially (3) accepting more internal accountability and ownership. PR people do not explore these rigorously enough and often try in vain to compensate for them. We have to think more like investors, due diligence on our end and be more selective about who we engage with.

    This latter point about companies needing to accept more accountability is key because when companies abdicate all responsibility for success to a PR firm and establish a mindset that failure is an option, ensuring that they are blameless when it does, of course they are will undermine and sabotage the effort when it becomes uncomfortable or internal stakeholders challenge it. Then they fail to achieve their goals, learn no meaningful lessons and are destined to repeat the process, continuing to play the blame game. This where companies are to blame for the systemic failure.

    This is solveable but we PR professionals have to lead the way by reshaping the operational model underpinning our business to one that leads to better, more rigorous decision making and effective services.

  • BethHarte

    Gini, this post was made even better by sharing your personal client story. In reading about said client, I almost need to wonder if he got all he needed from you in those four months of “courting” (I only bring it up because it’s happened to me more than once, but not a third time!). Those types of people string us along for free IP and often the proposal doesn’t match their needs because their needs have already been met. If people need education to get PR, they must pay for it.

    I don’t have much more to add on the topic of PR being completely misunderstood (I’ve said it all on Facebook). That said, I am 100% positive that social media will force companies to rethink their PR strategies, which are typically publicity and not PR. Here’s to changing the future and not being frustrated over the present!! 😉

    By the way, the graphic is from Hugh McLeod, author of Gaping Void (blog), Ignore Eveybody (book) and the soon to be published Evil Plans (book). Gini, you’ll appreciate his sense of humor.

  • BethHarte

    @ladylaff It’s GINI… 🙂

  • HowieSPM

    I think PR and Advertising have very public aspects that jade people’s view and gives them broad generalization expectations. For PR they think of boring press releases which most people view as biased in some way (which I have to assume they are including the few I have written), and Spin Control when something goes wrong. Like BP Spill or Tiger Woods when they see spokespeople (think of half the Presidental Press Conferences just have the Press Secretary).

    I also think having accurate expectaions and reasonably achievable goals are important. They are very hard to get them right.

  • BethHarte

    I will add this…

    PR is not publicity, just like promotion (advertising, email, social media, sales) is not marketing.

  • BrianSolis

    Hello! The image is an original created by Hugh MacLeod @gapingvoid to commemorate the release of Putting the Public Back in Public Relations

  • KellyeCrane

    Bottom line: when a potential client says “Don’t screw this up” – run far, far away. They are coming from a negative place from the get-go, and they’ll never be satisfied (and will take part of your reputation with them when they go). Thanks for sharing your personal experience, Gini!

  • shakirah_dawud

    I used the same term, “snake oil,” to describe the way so many see those of us who freelance in a post last week. I provided several humorous reasons for this, but I appreciate your delving into it in a serious tone. I think it’s a common assumption about marketing people in general, but PR–being PR–appears to get the most flak. Possibly because people trust that there are regulations on things like advertising copy, and see PR as reactionary rather than relationship-building. And yes, just as my own point was, it’s up to us to make them see us differently.

    Thanks, Gini

  • ginidietrich

    @BrianSolis Thanks Brian!

  • ginidietrich

    @Nikki_Stephan You’re exactly right! And, like the guy who ranted in the NY Times, business owners don’t always like to hear a PR pro tell them what they’re doing wrong. We once had a client that was charging more for shipping than for the product. When I pointed this out to him and said we’d have a hard time building trust among his target audiences, he fired us. I guess they expect us just to be yes men and not push back?

  • ginidietrich

    @johnfalchetto You’re very right. I knew this wasnt the right fit late last year, but you get excited about a business idea and believe in the team and go against your gut. Wish I’d listened to my instinct instead. I did enjoy Canada (minus customs), though I didn’t get to see much of it. But I enjoyed the people immensely!

  • ginidietrich

    @TorontoLouise Were your ears burning this weekend? You came up in conversation at least four times! Such a good point about companies wanting PR without really knowing what it is they want. I think that’s our own fault because we don’t do a good job of creating something tangible out of the intangible. Publicity is easy to understand. You get me in the Globe and Mail and I’ll become famous. I don’t think most people really understand it’s so much more than that.

  • ginidietrich

    @craigritchie Thanks Craig!

  • ginidietrich

    @LesLent Except I read it as postmortem. LOL!

  • ginidietrich

    @ShellyKramer I’m kind of grouchy so you get curse words in a blog post!

  • ginidietrich

    @JeromePineau Yes, you’re right. And we laughed about that comment here because it was so ridiculous. It’s definitely OK not to work with people who aren’t the right fit.

  • ginidietrich

    @DonovanGroupInc We talked a bit about this during the live inside_pr recording on Saturday when measurement came up. Even the webinar we did last week on financials in the PR business discussed this. Yes, we can have affect on business growth. Yes we can measure our results. But it takes more than a couple of weeks to affect change. After all, we’re building trust and credibility. You can’t do those things overnight. Ever.

  • ginidietrich

    @Kenwork57 Oh no, not surprised by the ending at all. In fact, I wouldn’t have blogged the result if not for the NY Times article. When I first read it, I was really pissed. Then I really thought about it and realized it’s not about PR people being crazy. It’s about setting expectations. And this client result just happened to illustrate that well.

  • ginidietrich

    @MimiMeredith I’ll let you take me out for a glass of wine in Vegas to discuss this more! You’re so right about the delayed gratification. We see so many “overnight” successes and don’t look at how long it’s taken to get there. A good example? We’ve had Spin Sucks for five years. It took until middle of last year before it began to get any real traction, but people keep asking me how we did it so quickly. Um. We didn’t.

  • ginidietrich

    @JordanDrake Thank you!

  • DorothyCrenshaw

    Sigh… thank you for this excellent post. Whenever I look back on failed/short client relationships (and we all have them), it does seem to come down to expectations – on both sides. After a disastrous parting with a company after a too-long courtship (the client fired us after one day!) several years ago, I decided I’d rather risk underselling and losing an opportunity than suffering the emotional strain and potential reputation damage of a short union. The benefit is that clients tend to remember who was honest and it’s not uncommon for them to come back after a poor experience elsewhere. It also helps to examine one’s motives for pursuing a client. (I’ve been too caught up in the chase at times.) But, what’s tougher to address is the imperfect nature of the typical agency model, as so aptly pointed out by commenter ladylaff, that grows to a size that encourages those multiple “points of failure” and our tendency to sell the services we have rather than adapt to changing client needs. Most importantly she offers a checklist of what we should look for in a client. When we don’t insist on those “success factors” from a client – or at least a commitment to arriving there as a team – we are nearly always bound to fail. It’s just a matter of time.

  • ginidietrich

    @ScottHepburn The funny thing is that we had NO publicity in the proposal. Never even discussed it during the four months of courting. So it never even occurred to me that they’d want some feature stories as soon as they signed on the dotted line. So, even without the labels, you still have clients who know what they want and why they’ve hired you. It’s your job to figure out if they’re telling you everything.

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  • @ginidietrich Right, and what they need to understand is if they hire a good PR firm, it’s our job to push back…not just to nod our heads in agreement with everything they say if we know it’s not right. If they’re not going to listen and take our counsel to heart, then the relationship will never work and their expectations won’t be met.

  • ginidietrich

    @GayleJoseph This is why I like you so much, Gayle. Honest, ethical, and professional.

  • BethHarte

    @ginidietrich Gini, perhaps it was a case of them assuming that PR = INK even if they didn’t mention or vocalize it. I think that is the BIGGEST challenge our industry faces is that people think PR is publicity. When we start discussing research and strategy, their mindset switches to marketing (again, promotion). I think a lot of business people want to by-pass building their own relationships with customers for the quick buck they think publicity and promotion will get them…allegedly. (Hmmm, so much for having nothing to say, this is my 3rd comment). @ScottHepburn Thoughts?

  • GayleJoseph

    Thanks! Feeling is mutual.

  • coffeewithjulie

    Hi Gina,
    To answer your question: Aren’t there bad professionals in every field? Yes, of course there is.

    But these kinds of generalizations about PR peeps don’t actually bother me that much because you really can’t take it personally. There are stereotypes about ALL professionals: greedy lawyers who charge per minute, disrespectful doctors who keep their patients waiting for hours, car salespeople who manipulate prices, diva actresses, etc, etc. Alot of it is simply ignorance — not actually understanding all the elements of the person’s job.

    As for the New York Post blog, it seems to me that he has very clearly portrayed himself as an impossible client. He’s hired two different PR firms and fired both? It sounds like he needs a business plan, then a marketing plan and only then — a PR campaign.

    Anyhooo …. loved this post and the ensuring discussion! Thanks.


  • KeithTrivitt

    Gini, you have hit the nail perfectly with this post. Your client story brought back many old memories for me of my agency days where some clients – though certainly not a majority – would string the agency along for weeks with endless discussions about potential srategies, yet never fully committing to a contract, only to pull out at the last minute and tell us they had everything they need.

    The unfortunate aspect of the New York Times blog post you cite is that it had the ability to be really good. It could have given the blog’s readers (mostly small business owners) and PR pros some terrific insight into what goes through an SMB owner’s head whenever they engage PR firms. Instead, we got what I perceive as a fairly rote response from a disgruntled business owner. I completely undrstand his frustration, as it does sound like expectations, deliverables and general goals simply were not communicated well from either side, and thus, he ended up with a fairly poor experience with PR with two different agencies.

    What I can’t understand is why he chose (and the New York Times blog editors didn’t edit this) to lay blame across the entire PR industry, based solely off two poor experiences. That would be like me saying every restaurant in the Hamptons (where the blogger’s restaurant is based) is awful because I didn’t like the food at one specific restaurant.

    That’s simply not the case. And with more than 10,000 PR firms in the U.S. and over 200,000 public relations professionals, it’s unfortunate the good work of many got lumped in like this.

  • coffeewithjulie

    I mean “Gini” ! 🙂

  • KarenARocks

    What a great topic and how timely. I think sometimes PR folks (myself included) get enveloped in the industry so much that we somehow forget that others (like CEOs) don’t have the same perspective and knowledge behind them to accurately determine their needs. Or what THEY think their needs are. In the case of your former client, I have found sometimes you need to outline what you are NOT going to provide in addition to the services you can provide. And clarify expectations at every possible juncture, thus avoiding a disillustioned douchy client.

  • ScottHepburn

    @BethHarte @ginidietrich I agree that the “PR vs. Publicity” confusion is a big part of this mess. And I understand the clients’ perspective here: “Publicity” sounds like something that yields results (sales), where as “public relations” sounds like an activity (aka, cost) that may or may not generate income.

    Beth, your point about building their own relationships is an important one. This is why I dislike the idea of consultants/agencies managing client Twitter accounts and Facebook pages. Even if an outside vendor does social media “the right way” — listening, engaging, building community, sharing relevant content, etc. — the relationships and knowledge walk away with that person when they leave.

  • ginidietrich

    @wabbitoid I was just having this very conversation with someone else. There are lots and lots of people who will take a client’s money and do what they ask. Which is why this perception exists, to begin with. Sigh…

  • ginidietrich

    @ladylaff I love your entire thesis here, but what I love most is “we have to think like investors, due diligence on our end and be more selective about who we engage with.” This is so smart! We also have to think like business owners, which is something I talk about all the time. I’m adding the investor piece to what I discuss – it’s really smart and I appreciate your taking the time to leave it here.

  • ginidietrich

    @BethHarte Yes, you and I agree on the PR vs. publicity and promotion vs. marketing. I hope you’re right that social media will force companies to rethink their PR strategies. I also really love with @ladylaff says about thinking as investors when taking on new clients. We’ll keep fighting the good fight!

  • ginidietrich

    @HowieSPM Just like anything else in life, anything worth working for isn’t easy to achieve.

  • ginidietrich

    @KellyeCrane Yeah…you’re right. We joked about that internally, but that should have been our first clue. Actually, it was our first red flag and then we got a few more and decided it was time to part ways. I don’t think he disagreed with the decision, but not until getting in a jab.

  • ginidietrich

    @shakirah_dawud I’d love to see your post! Can I find it on Deliberate Ink?

  • ginidietrich

    @DorothyCrenshaw Holy crap! A day?! It’s like what @BethHarte says – we spend all of our time doing the real work for free, only to have the relationship end as soon as it’s time to start paying us. Don’t you love what @ladylaff says about thinking like an investor? I’m totally changing my mindset to that in new business meetings. From now on!

  • lisagerber

    @coffeewithjulie that’s an interesting point – you’re right – a lot of professions deal with the negative stereotypes.

  • lisagerber

    Interesting that @ladylaff says we (as PR agencies) need to think like investors. I agree, and that is a different perspective than how I have approached it in the past. Additionally, our clients need to look at it hiring PR as an investment. It is a long-term relationship that takes time to build momentum. Like the floating iceberg, there is a LOT of work taking place underwater that is intangible, but fundamental to our work.

    At the beginning, there aren’t a lot of deliverables or measurable results, an impatient client won’t stand for that if they don’t understand the process, to @HowieSPM ‘s point.

  • ginidietrich

    @ScottHepburn @BethHarte I own a business. Granted, it’s a business that does communication – online and off. But it’s a business. We report financials every month to the bank. We make payroll twice a month. We have goals and projections and we try to exceed them every month. And, through the life of my business, we’ve done PR and we’ve done publicity for ourselves. Publicity is great because it’s an ego stroke. Do I like being included in lists and blogging for Crain’s and having people ask me to sit on their boards because of the publicity surrounding my agency? Yes. Does it add an immense amount of credibility? Absolutely. Have we gotten any business from it? No. The business and the leads and the conversions come from public relations, marketing, and advertising. Not from publicity. So we take that same approach with our clients – we recommend strategies that drive their businesses forward, not those that make them feel good.

  • ginidietrich

    @coffeewithjulie And it’s a great point about his hiring and firing two different PR firms. Apparently he’s, um, very difficult (I found a bunch of articles he’s written). But I chose not to prove him wrong through my own writing; rather finding a way to learn from it.

  • ginidietrich

    @KeithTrivitt I was just telling conversationage what you said about his missing the opportunity to provide some terrific insight into hiring a PR firm. It’s really too bad. It’s shocking to me the NY Times let the blog post run this way…I guess this is what happens when we’re all required to pump out content. We lose the formalities of a good edit.

  • ginidietrich

    @KarenARocks Well, we did do that. It really wasn’t a good fit, all around, but you’re right in that we need to be clear upfront, in the middle, and at the end. Repeating ourselves and constantly educating can’t hurt.

  • ginidietrich

    @lisagerber Totally makes you think differently about our new business meetings, doesn’t it?!

  • ParkRidgeDDS

    Hi Gini,
    This article broke my heart…I have followed you and your excellent blog for almost a year now and I can’t imagine a more credible, sincere and authentic person than you. My feeling is that much of this discord is about language. I’ve been in the people business for a very long time and one of the lessons that I have learned is that each of our industries has its own very specialized language. Some industries even have actual words that describe techniques, events, diseases, etc. We are so enmeshed in the passion that we have for our business/industry that we don’t even realize that we are speaking “dental speak” in my case….”PR speak” in your case etc etc. I can’t tell you how many hundreds of times I hear a dental student tell a patient that they are going to remove the old amalgam and replace it with a resin. They might as well have said it in Russian because, so often, that is what the patient has heard….a bunch of jibberish. And invariably, the patient or client or customer, will want to either not look stupid or take the time to ask questions so they will nod their head in collective agreement leaving a HUGE possibility for upset and bad feelings later when they finally figured out what they had done. The languaging we each have learned in our respective businesses intentionally sets us apart from others and I think that is a potential mistake. So, what I encourage my students to do is to talk to their patient in their own language. Be an astute observer of the patient’s body language and frequently ask if they understand. Cover all possible outcomes of whatever it is that they are doing….good and bad so that if the bad thing happens, they aren’t surprised or upset….only prepared. It changed my business life when I changed my language. Sometimes it means spending longer with a client/patient to cover all possible outcomes and to have them iterate what has just been said but to me…it has been so worth that time expenditure.

  • KarenARocks

    @ginidietrich I am sure that you did do those things (because you are awesome). I sometimes feel like a broken record repeating myself to clients. Bad fits suck but better to have it end now than six months from now when you are pulling out all your hair in a fit of frustration. I don’t have a lot of hair, so I need to conserve what I have!

  • lisagerber

    @ginidietrich whats the expression about the cobbler and his wife with no shoes? we have to do better PR for our own bad selves!

  • shakirah_dawud

    It’s at

    Just good for a little chuckle, but I think we all need to laugh at ourselves sometims in this business.

    Thanks for checking it out.

  • ginidietrich

    @ParkRidgeDDS So, um, what does it mean to remove the old amalgam and replace it with a resin?

  • ginidietrich

    @KarenARocks LOL! I totally agree (not that you don’t have a lot of hair)…that it’s better to find out now!

  • ginidietrich

    @shakirah_dawud Thanks! I was watching Grover and Kermit…which I loved!

  • KenMueller

    Great to hear your thoughts on this Gini. I’m finding that in the Social Media field I’m beginning to get a better read on clients up front, but it’s certainly not an exact science. I had two particular businesses that turned down my proposals, and I’m glad. I knew from what they wanted that they would’ve been a nightmare to deal with.

    I think we owe it to ourselves to ask them up front, “What are your expectations?”, and then at the very end of the very first meeting, ask them “No, really….WHAT are your expectations??”. I think, like the guy who wrote the post for the NYTimes, people come to us, whether it be PR or Social Media, with preconceived notions about what it is that we actually do, and they try to create us in their own image. When we fail to meet their expectations and perceptions, well, then they look at us as if we’re to blame.

    I’m dealing with a particular client right now where they aren’t living up to their end of the bargain. And I told them up front, and have re-told them repeatedly, what their involvement would need to be. And I just know that when our agreement runs out, they’ll look at us and say “You didn’t deliver.”

    Being honest doesn’t seem to pay. Maybe we should try that snake oil thing…

  • KenMueller

    Great to hear your thoughts on this Gini. I’m finding that in the Social Media field I’m beginning to get a better read on clients up front, but it’s certainly not an exact science. I had two particular businesses that turned down my proposals, and I’m glad. I knew from what they wanted that they would’ve been a nightmare to deal with.

    I think we owe it to ourselves to ask them up front, “What are your expectations?”, and then at the very end of the very first meeting, ask them “No, really….WHAT are your expectations??”. I think, like the guy who wrote the post for the NYTimes, people come to us, whether it be PR or Social Media, with preconceived notions about what it is that we actually do, and they try to create us in their own image. When we fail to meet their expectations and perceptions, well, then they look at us as if we’re to blame.

    I’m dealing with a particular client right now where they aren’t living up to their end of the bargain. And I told them up front, and have re-told them repeatedly, what their involvement would need to be. And I just know that when our agreement runs out, they’ll look at us and say “You didn’t deliver.”

    Being honest doesn’t seem to pay. Maybe we should try that snake oil thing…

  • ginidietrich

    @KenMueller LOL! Nooooooooooooo! Fight the fight with me!! It’s frustrating, isn’t it? Fighting the fight. Educating instead of delivering. Defending ourselves. All because of these pre-conceived notions of what PR does. If only we could figure out how to stop chasing money, too. Oh wait. I have figured it out. It launches in May. 🙂

  • ShannonPaul


    PR is a confounding industry. I feel like PR is what I do for a living, but the actual workflow looks a lot different from the people who do PR in an official capacity. I think that’s the crazy thing — to me it doesn’t make a lot of sense to define a profession by what you do on a daily basis, but rather what you produce on a daily basis. The 20th century made businesses focus on output, the 21st century models could care less — for better or worse it’s all about outcomes these days.

    But, to be fair, the outcomes can be a little difficult to predict (I would never want a PR agency to tell me they didn’t take advantage of an opportunity because it wasn’t in the plan if it was clearly aligned with strategy). This whole thing isn’t for weak stomachs and those who might be a little too uncomfortable with ambiguity. Definitions of what it means to “screw this up” vary and so does mileage.

    I’m so glad I got all nosey on Facebook this weekend — I enjoy where this conversation is going 🙂

  • KenMueller

    @ginidietrich you need to stop playing the tart and just get on with it! Project Jack Bauer is like the worlds longest strip tease. With a dog no less!

    I think i’ve figured out the answer of how to stop chasing money, but I’m a lot further behind on the curve than you are.

  • ParkRidgeDDS

    @ginidietrich 😉 Language can be so intimidating. And thank you for allowing me to chime in…I know this is about the PR industry but something spoke to me and I couldn’t keep my fingers quiet 😉 (and while I’m sure you probably really DO know…an amalgam is a silver filling and a resin is the tooth colored filling 😉

  • ginidietrich

    @KenMueller I’m hoping to be able to talk about it in the next couple of weeks!

  • ginidietrich

    @ParkRidgeDDS Love it! And I appreciate your chiming in. While this situation is fairly new to us (it’s not like it happens all the time), I take full responsiblity in how quickly it fell apart.

  • KenMueller

    @ginidietrich Looking forward to it, with or without clothing.

  • ginidietrich

    @ShannonPaul And it got you over here, too! Except I don’t like kale. Ew. Totally agree with you that a PR agency shouldn’t say they didn’t take advantage of an opportunity because it wasn’t in the plan. We have the opposite problem with a client (who we adore). We wrote a proposal, and then plan, before being entrenched in their business. Now that we’re part of their extended team, we’ve realized opportunities we didn’t expect. And they keep asking when we’re going to follow the plan. So it’s A LOT of education about things that were put on the back burner for opportunities that make more sense right now, without affecting their budget, but still garnering results. You’re right – it’s not for one with a weak stomach.

  • @ginidietrich @ShannonPaul My stomach has definitely gotten stronger over the past 5 years! Still working on not taking these I can’t control so personally though. That’s a whole other blog post!

  • Wow Gini… just getting to read this post and it’s very heartfelt. I’ve had some struggles with a client recently along similar lines, so this all rings very true.

    Good job keeping things in perspective.

    –Tony Gnau

  • ginidietrich

    @T60Productions You know this well. We talked about it last week. Sigh…

  • JGoldsborough

    So you delivered the sun and the moon, but not the stars. What did Meatloaf say? Two out of three ain’t bad? 🙂

    We had a client in the past year who had unreasonable expectations that went beyond the plan. But it was also that client’s first time working an intergrated marketing strategy that included social media comnponents as opposed to a plan based on one or two simple offline promotional tactics they’d been doing for years. We were worried about the possibilities, but also felt it worth taking the risk that we could show the value of a different approach. Didn’t exactly work out the way I hoped…our client contact loved the results, but the boss did not.

    We don’t work with said organization anymore, but we took a shot, gave it a try and earned a solid case study from the campaign we did execute. And the public perception of the organization we worked for and work we did was positive. Call me overly optimistic, but I think sometimes you stand behind what is right and hope you can show that POV through to your clients. That said, it’s impossible to please everyone, hindsight is 20/20, WTF does Meatloaf know, and on and on.

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  • ginidietrich

    @Nikki_Stephan Yeah, the not taking it personally is REALLY hard. If you figure it out, let me know!

  • ginidietrich

    @JGoldsborough WTF does Meatloaf know?! LOL!! I’m typically with you – overly optimistic. I think that’s why I ignored my gut on this one. I should have just let it go the third time they asked me for something else they should have paid to receive.

  • tomgable

    Good work covering a situation that all PR firms have faced or will face if they are in business longer than six months and on the hunt for new business. Your piece and the comments nailed a couple of essential truths: set realistic expectations up front; think long-term strategy to the benefit of the client’s business (versus short-term pyrotechnics in the Twittersphere); weigh the ego of the CEO or client contact against all others you’ve dealt with; don’t work for free, any time; and trust your gut. I have several horror stories related to not paying enough attention to each of these key points, most notably the latter. Thanks again for posting a great lesson for all PR professionals.

  • ginidietrich

    @tomgable The “short-term pyrotechnics in the Twittersphere.” I love that, Tom! I agree…anytime you don’t pay attention to your gut, you get into trouble. Thanks for stopping by! You made my evening.

  • Thomasscott

    It all sounds good and well: PR firms need to work harder to set clearer expectations up front but in my expereince it isn’t that the expectations or even deliverables are not set; its that the conversations that are really driving business are misunderstood all around.
    One of the best things about working in the franchise industry is that it is full of some really professional people who ‘get’ sales on a very high level. I learned from Joe Mathews, author of Street Smart Franchising, that what usually happens in a sale is that the seller (the PR company in this case) is having one conversation about what they want to do for a client. The Client is having a 2nd conversation about what they think they need (which is almost never right) and somewhere in the background is a more important conversation taking place almost entirely in the client’s head: the conversation about what they are trying to achieve which almost always has nothing to do with what they are talking to you about. This is the conversation about what motivates them to be in this business and what they really want to accomplish with it. This is an emotionally driven conversation and its tough to access.
    When I’ve been really successful and have managed to build longer term relationships that grow into being a real team element for a company (and I’ve lost my share of business) its been when I could get the client through careful questioning to start talking about why they are in business and what they really want to see happen. I don’t mean what they are trying to accomplish as an immediate goal; I mean what motivates them to be in this business in the first place. They invite you into the really important conversation and when that happens, they begin to sell themselves on using us as part of the solution.
    When you get to this level – where the client is expressing what they really want to see happen – the what they are hiring you for and what you have to propose often changes. The client sells him or herself on what they really need and better understand what it takes to get there.
    One lesson that carries over from the franchsie industry to the PR industry: we are all salespeople and the salespeople with the best listening skills usually win the race.
    Great post – things always happen for a reason.

  • NancyMyrland

    Gini, don’t necessarily blame this on yourself. There are people who also blame their PR counsel, or Marketing advisors, or whatever their service provider might be because they fail too. It is sometimes easier to blame someone else than it is to take the blame for having unrealistic expectations, or not being able to handle disappointment, or ever holes in their own organizations. I admire you for owning up to that part of it which you now know is yours, but don’t carry the entire burden on your shoulders. If there’s one thing I can tell about you, and there are many, it is that you are thorough, and you know what you’re talking about. If you spent 4 months with this (then) potential client, then you educated them far more than most of us would. I’m proud of you.

  • Business would be so easy… if it weren’t for the people! The comments here are fantastic and tell such a common story: we all want to believe what we want to believe and unfortunately, that means ignoring red flags. I admire you for taking ownership (much like @NancyMyrland said) and I totally agree with @tomgable – trust your gut!

    I have a client now that’s giving me all kinds of mixed signals, red flags and “I’m not so sure this is gonna go well” kind of feelings. Am I facing those head on? Not yet. I’m trying desperately to salvage and make the relationship work, but at some point I’m going to have to face the music and realize we’re not on the same page and no amount of media placements, promotional events, product placements or positive reviews will change that. The really sad thing? I’m working my proverbial arse off to prove that I can do it and meet the unrealistic expectations of this client. Wonder what other really great client I might be missing while toiling away on this one that may not be a match?

    PR IS an investment (I have another client on the opposite end of the spectrum that said that just the other day) and one that may not be for everyone…at least not in the regard with which folks like the NYT blogger (restaurateur) hold it. Thanks as always for fighting the good fight and for engaging so many of us along the way. xoxo!

  • ladylaff

    @ginidietrich Thanks Gini and I’m sorry I called you Gina! You sure know how to launch a debate. This one’s been really interesting to follow and I’m definitely going to reference it in my white paper – I’ll mail you a copy of when it’s final. I eagerly await Project Jack Bauer, even though I haven’t got a clue what it is yet. I trust your instincts, so I’m sure it’s going to be seismic! Keep up the amazing work and don’t let the turkeys get you down, as my mom always used to say. Let me know if you ever come to London!

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  • wearebluesky

    Excellent stuff. What I’ve found out since starting my own agency is that I’m regarded in many cases as a business advisor, passing on my knowledge to companies that should know what I regard as basics.

    It’s also frustrating when a new business comes along and then you realise that they never bothered to factor marketing etc into their business plan despite having managed to get external funding for their venture. What are the financiers up to?

  • 3HatsComm

    Fantastic discussion here Gini. I’ve made this mistake as well Gini, mismanaging expectations and not trusting my gut. Some thoughts from reading all the smart comments:

    1) There will be those who don’t see their PR firm as a true BUSINESS advisor. There will be clients who don’t get PR and/or social media, think it all nothing but publicity and/or likes on FB, RTs. Either they’ll be willing to learn (and pay for said teaching, thank you @BethHarte ) about what PR really is, or they won’t.

    2) Beware on both sides of the table. “Don’t screw up” is as red a flag as a client believing the preopening blitzkrieg hype.

    3) Some clients want it all now, skipping – and not paying for – the steps it takes to get there. They want to win the race without training or running the mararthon, as @MimiMeredith mentioned, “delayed gratification” is a foreign concept.

    4) Some people hear what they want to hear and will ignore what they don’t want to hear. I am not certain that this restaurant’s 2nd PR experience was ALL bad. Looks like this firm reviewed the business, the model, the market and made suggestions based upon thinking there was room for improvement: tweak the menu, adjust prices to reflect market trends and so on. Is it possible that the business owner was so biased of the perfection of their product that he refused to listen, consider any options? Maybe the PR firm was crappy or maybe they had ideas they thought would actually make this business better? IDK.

    5) There is a difference between what a company or brand WANTS and what they NEED. They may think they want/need something, not always the case. Which will alway muddy the waters as the many hat wearing PR advisor tries to get on the same page with the client regarding expectations.

    6) Expectations need to be carved in stone, then burned, reset, cast in bronze and maybe tattooed on someone’s head. And you can’t start or stop with “what do you want, expect?” but you also have to cover what you don’t want, what “success” looks like and doesn’t, what the “deliverables” will be, etc.

    6B) From the PR Firm side, expecations and commitments need to be clear as to what PR can and CAN’T do. The biggest stumbling block here for me, PR and especially social media, is the part where I spell out all I do, then detail the WORK that’s the client’s responsibility. Then I get blinks and Huh?s and they’re shocked that they actually have to put some time, effort and WORK into these promotional efforts be it answering blog comments or giving decent quotes to the media.

    And I’ve ranted enough. FWIW.

  • In my experience, having spent a year and a half at a PR firm and a decade before that doing marketing on the client side in the entertainment biz, it boils down to a combination of two things:

    1) PR are on the frontlines of what people think about their clients, but they are rarely if ever empowered to give suggestion or feedback about the client that WOULD ACTUALLY RESULT IN A SUBSTANTIVE ADJUSTMENT TO CLIENT PRODUCTS, TONE, OR BUSINESS PRACTICES.

    2) PR people think that because they’re the ones on the front lines, they have some sort of magical insight into what could be ‘fixed’ about a company, and if the client would ONLY LISTEN TO THEM, everything would be EVEN BETTER, as if the people within the company are unaware of the stuff about it that isn’t good.

    3) It’s a relationship thats very superficial, almost by definition. A lot of PR folks (especially now) say they want to be a part of the process as early as possible, but you know… Edelman isn’t McKinsey. Theres an overinflated sense of entitlement there. Maybe the whole dynamic is broken.

  • @jeremymeyers Excellent! I’m just a small bit-player who advises very small biz (usually single propprietor) how to use social media and the ‘net. This allows me to have a more interactive role, generally based on coaching as much as anything. You just illuminated very well why I like this practice and why I’m having a very different experience than the real “PR Pros”. I’m constantly learning about businesses and they are constantly learning about the ‘net – it’s a very open relationship with no BS and a commitment to the bottom line. You hit on the difference very well, thanks!

    My next question – is it possible that the “pros” have something to learn from my experience? Is this dialogue-based mutual coaching a model that can be applied to bigger accounts than the tiny ones I run? I’m certainly learning from you all.

  • MichelleDamico

    @JGoldsborough Gini, I don’t know about you but some of these comments are just Bleepin Golden! Makes me wanna steal them! From JGoldsborough and TomGable.

    Your post got this all started because it is excellent, and it’s just the reality of our business, especially when we do work for smaller businesses. They just don’t have the fortitude to stick with the plan, if they don’t see immediate results. How many times have I heard a client say “We love what you’re doing, but the needle hasn’t moved much for us.” They know it’s an investment of time and resources, but after 6 to 8 weeks (or 5 in your case) they get impatient. Can we just write it off to human nature? Unfortunately, I think the answer is “YES” when it comes to business. Everyone is too nervous to have to show immediate results, even after acknowledging that immediate results won’t happen. I think it’s a sorry state for the industry, but shows how jittery this rotten economy has made business people. What do you think:”

  • ginidietrich

    @jeremymeyers I love this!! It’s so funny you say this because we had a client who was charging more for shipping than for the actual product. When I brought this up to him, as a reason that we didn’t recommend starting a PR program yet, he fired us. It’s too bad – his concept was really cool, but the stats on how many people abandoned the shopping cart were astounding.

    The reason Edelman isn’t McKinsey is because, as professionals, we’re not taught business skills. So, unless you run Edelman or own an agency that is a business, you don’t really know what it’s like to be able to consult on business issues.

  • ginidietrich

    @3HatsComm I have nothing to say to you except…WOW!

  • ginidietrich

    @wearebluesky Or when they say, “just tell me what you think it’ll cost” and then freak out when you have no baseline and come back with something outside of their budget. Sigh…

  • ginidietrich

    @EricaAllison The people…and the time sheets! 🙂 So, after reading this, I have to ask…did you decide to face the music?

  • ginidietrich

    @NancyMyrland Thanks Nancy. And, after he threatened me today, I’m no longer shouldering the entire burden.

  • ginidietrich

    @Thomasscott I totally agree with you, unless you’re faced with an arrogant asshole client who thinks he knows more than you (like the NY Times blogger) and doesn’t communicate anything so you CAN listen.

  • ginidietrich

    @MichelleDamico I think you make a great point about being too nervous to have to show results..and also that, for so long, we’ve measured on media impressions and advertising equivalencies and that just won’t fly any longer.

  • 3HatsComm

    @ginidietrich @jeremymeyers That’s it: some business owners hire financial pros for accounting problems and PR pros for publicity problems and HR firms for staffing problems which makes sense but with no integration across the business, it’s only going to go so far. Like you said, it’s not as if the company didn’t already know they had a shipping cost issue. But the PR firm wasn’t hired to fix it that problem, just the promotional one. So it’s better that you were let go as all the PR wouldn’t save a bad business model, then it’d be like the NYT article questioning the industry. Hence my rant earlier.

  • 3HatsComm

    @ginidietrich That’s a good WOW I’m sure. 😉

  • ginidietrich

    @3HatsComm It’s a GREAT wow!

  • @ginidietrich @jeremymeyers Yes, but the thing is, people like Edelman (not picking on them specifically, only because they’re a recognizable name) are trying to position themselves as one-stop-shop to address anything keeping companies from being super rockstars with devoted fanbases on the internet, but they dont actually have the business consulting expertise, reputation, or agency (pardon the pun) to go in and address internal struggles. And they’re not being asked to. Which is just a setup for fail all around.

    Of course, it doesn’t affect the sales pitches, or anything.

  • sparker9

    Gini, this is a great discussion. Your post and the comments are very thought provoking. I’ve been wrestling these alligators for nearly 25 years, and most of that time in the hard scrabble start-up world where no one gets giant wads of cash to throw at thorny problems to make them go away. Here’s what I think.

    First, my hats off to 3HatsComms for her point #5. Prospects need to understand there’s a difference between their needs and wants. It’s our job to discover during the courting process if they get that. The second part of that is, do they get that the only way it makes sense to hire us is if they trust us enough to ask for and seriously consider our opinion of what they need. If there’s any doubt, walk away. You might as well be in some commodity supply business. My second point is simply that when it comes to understanding clients’ goals and challenges and especially perspectives, we have to ask a lot of probing, socratic type questions and dig deep. This “chemistry just clicked” stuff that is sometimes tempting is not enough. It can go haywire. Third, we work in a field where everyone thinks that because they are consumers of PR (or in the case of media and influencers, its targets), that they are experts. Never, ever forget that that is total bullshit, and act accordingly. Sometimes in a pitch you have to get enough of an ego to tell someone, as politely and rationally as possible, why they’re very wrong about something. Which feeds into my last point, which is, the only way to add real value in a client relationship is to give strong counsel, tell them exactly what you think–whether they like it or not, and absolutely be willing to walk away from the relationship at any time, for any reason, on your terms.

    Then and only then do you have the integrity required to do your best profesional work and gain the respect you need from them to deliver the value they seek.

  • ginidietrich

    @sparker9 You swore on my blog! LOL! Your third point is my favorite – “we work in a field where everyone thinks that because they are consumers of PR, that they are experts.” So, so, SO true!

  • ginidietrich

    @jeremymeyers You’re very smart. This is a side of the equation I’d never considered. And, having come from the big agency world, you’re absolutely right. Why share the profits when you can keep them all to yourself?

  • sparker9

    @ginidietrich Oops! Sorry about that, I should know better. My mother said, “Don’t swear, it sounds like hell.” Speaking of which, did you know the web and design people have a new book out, “Clients from Hell”? Seriously. We desperately need a PR edition.

  • ginidietrich

    @sparker9 I love your mom! We have to find out who published this book and approach them for a PR edition. Let’s do it!

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  • LScribner

    Gini, I feel your pain. It’s almost uncanny how you can tell from the get go which client relationships will work and which that won’t. It was a red flag when the client said, “Don’t screw this up.” He had a fatalistic mentality going into the relationship. You had to crawl out of a hole before you even got started. What’s key is working with companies that fully appreciate what you’re bringing to the table. If they don’t respect or take your recommendations, well there’s lots of other fish in the sea as they say! As for the rep for the PR industry as a whole I say this: there are some bloggers and outlets that have it out for us, for their own personal reasons. My advice is be very careful about what you put in an email. If you’re miffed count to 10 and rethink what you wrote before you hit send.

  • @ginidietrich The music was thrust upon me today…and I faced it, sort of. It was a very open discussion (at least for me) and one that I was shocked later to review in my mind – did I really say that?

    Short story: after 10 days of me sending ‘update’ emails, leaving voice mails and ‘touching base’, only to have the client play passive aggressive chess in return, I finally drew the line in the sand. I’m afraid we won’t return to ‘happy’ land after today and I really want to get out of this without ruining a referral. Oiy!

  • ginidietrich

    @EricaAllison This is hurting my heart for you. Having just gone through this myself. 🙁

  • @ginidietrich mine, too! We actually finished up the discussion today and agreed to continue with a few more items/promos this month, but will part ways March 31. I would bet we won’t last the rest of the month…once it’s over, it’s over. I already feel lighter! Thanks!

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  • NancyM.

    ‘What I have finally come to understand is that P.R. people are paid to twist reality into pretzels and convince you that they are fine croissants. At some point, they actually believe their own concoctions.’

    Sadly, that’s what most people believe. I myself was under that impression until lately when my cousin got into PR and showed me how PR can actually benefit the society and work for a good cause.

    • Nancy: Re “pretzels and croissants” Is that what you believe, or what most people believe? I think the reality that you describe vis-a-vis your cousin is much more reflective of the majority of the true PR pros in the business. While there are “twisters” out there, they are definitely in the minority. But they do get found out from time to time.. It’s good that they get nailed publicly, but unfortunately, that contributes to the negative image you describe. That’s why the good ones must stand up and be counted.

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