Four Things Your Public Relations Clients Want Right NowOne of my favorite things about PR pros is they all have an inner therapist to their clients.

They have to develop this skill to be successful.

We know when the client or boss is ranting about something no one has any control over, all they really want is to be heard.

So we listen and perfect our concerned sympathy eyes with a side head tilt that says, “I know. The struggle is real.”

It wasn’t easy for me to develop the therapy skill.

In fact, it took me almost the entire 15 years I worked in PR to get there.

But I’m glad I learned it and it’s served me well in my transition to PR software.

I wasn’t expecting it, but I’ve found myself in hundreds of therapy sessions with corporate marcomm leaders.

When I ran an agency, I believed our public relations clients were a squirrely, subjective, often times, unpredictable species.

But after charting out the challenges and desires of these folks—a practice we use to develop our product road map – I’ve realized most of their PR challenges can be bucketed into four core desires.

Some of these might be signs of the times, such as the wide availability of marketing tech, the changes happening in the influencer market, and a shift in the role of the marketing leader.

Today’s CMO is a data scientist, pure and simple. And thus, these will most likely continue to morph in application over time.

But looking back on some of my biggest mishaps in running a PR agency, I believe at least a couple to be evergreen.

Here are the four things your public relations clients clients want from you right now.

Public Relations Clients Want to Know What the Heck You’re Doing

If there’s one thing that comes up 100 percent of the time in our conversations it’s this.

And I know it makes you want to punch something just thinking about it.

You’re the expert!

They hired you for your expertise, track record, and the relationships you’ve spent a decade or more building!

I know.

So let me explain where this is coming from.

In recent years marketing leaders have been granted a level of transparency that is unprecedented.

Public relations clients can tell you why their best performing sales reps achieve a 30 percent conversion from MQL to SQL, and which landing pages drive the highest number of leads, down to the referral source, and what time of day is the best time of day to tweet an eBook for maximum clicks.

They know this because they track all of it.

They’re not doing it to be a jerk and micromanage their teams.

They’re doing it to optimize performance.

They need to see with data who the top performers are, in what specific areas of the funnel they excel, and know with precision what it is that makes them the top performers.


So they can teach those best practices to the rest of the team to get more leads, sales, and revenue.

This process happens across every area of marketing, from content to search to ads.

So yeah, they want to see your process.

Trust me, they don’t want to spend all day in your weeds.

They are looking to spot trends, insights, and benchmarks so they can optimize and improve PR outcomes.

This is what data scientists do.

Public Relations Clients Want You to Care About Measurement

You’d have to be living under a rock to not be getting on the #measurePR bandwagon.

That’s good.

So here’s the next step: Measure like a data scientist.

Scientists don’t accept metrics at face value.

They ask, why?

  • How did this thing, right here, happen?
  • What about the initiatives we tested that failed?
  • Why did they fail?
  • What can we learn?

We are in a remarkable time in business.

Leaders are embracing failure and learning in a spectacular way.

Public relations clients are desperate to examine your failures.

Scary? Yes.

But also an opportunity.

They’re not doing it to be a jerk. They simply want to learn and improve, and they want you to want to learn and improve.

So imagine nine out of 10 agencies won’t let their public relations clients see their flops, but you’re the one that will.

What does that make you?

It makes you the one PR agency who isn’t going to BS the client.

The one they can trust.

Which brings us to number three.

Public Relations Clients Want You to Stop BS-ing Them

About a year ago, I was having breakfast with the managing partner of a prominent global agency.

They had taken over a client of mine when I shut down my own agency.

They were fired by this client after eight months.

The reason was very simple—they promised something they couldn’t deliver and got called on it.

It wasn’t about a specific PR outcome, either, as his agency would never guarantee results.

He was talking about the typical stuff that plagues the hyper-competitive proposal process in our industry: A more senior account team than is actually realistic, domain expertise that wasn’t really in their wheelhouse, and accountability practices they weren’t prepared to produce.

I admire him for admitting it.

Because we’ve all done it, and it needs to stop.

Public relations clients don’t expect perfection (really).

You don’t need to fluff up the RFP to compete.

You may not have the biggest team on the bid or the most domain expertise, but if you can show them you’ve done the research, you’re willing to be agile and learn as you go, and prove you care about measurement as much as they do, you have as good as chance as any of winning the business.


Public relations clients are dying for a fully transparent agency.

When a company invests in your agency, they have to defend that investment to their CEO, CFO, board, and shareholders.

When they have to admit they didn’t get what they thought they were signing up for, it makes them look bad.

Public Relations Clients Want to Invest More in PR

They know at least 50 percent of the PR is working, they just don’t know which half.

Help them learn, then rightfully ask for more budget to double down on what works.

They want to give it to you.

Be a data scientist, be transparent, learn the types of PR measurement they are looking at (not just what you’ve been taught to measure), and help them confidently invest more in you.

This is what public relations clients want right now.

image credit: shutterstock

Aly Saxe

Aly Saxe is the founder and CEO of Iris, software for agencies and in-house PR teams. She founded Ubiquity Public Relations, an agency representing high-growth B2B tech startups, in 2007.

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