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Managing Client Expectations: What PR Can and Cannot Guarantee

Emily TaffelBy Emily Taffel, Founder and Co-Owner, Mugsy PR

PR is tricky. We are salespeople, but we do not sell product—we sell stories and words. However, in today’s media environment, there is a limited demand for words: Newspapers are getting smaller, magazines thinner, TV news segments shorter and filled with hard-hitting news and less fluff. Not to mention there are more businesses now than ever, with new startups entering the market every day online, so the fight for that limited word space is tougher than ever.

Now add to that more and more PR firms popping up every day, with access to media databases and reaching out to the same producer at the “Today Show,” the same editor at Vogue and the same photo desk at their local news outlet.

That means that as a PR rep, you have more of an opportunity to shine—and more of an opportunity to fail. While we all want to craft the perfect pitch, we sometimes have to admit that our client’s product, service or event just doesn’t connect with the media like we thought it would. Sometimes you can pull a comprehensive media list, write a phenomenal pitch, press release or media alert, provide b-roll and high-res images up the wazoo, media-train your spokespeople to perfection, and execute a supreme campaign—and no one really cares.

When that happens, it is disappointing to the client and the PR rep, and leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. However, the one thing we have learned over the last 16 years of PR (3 years with Mugsy, but we have been doing this a long time) is that certain things cannot be guaranteed in public relations.

In every new client meeting, we stress the following statements—and as much as we hate to have to say this to clients, it has become a mantra of ours to make sure they understand. Of course, we still have a disappointed client from time to time, but overall, we find that setting realistic expectations is key to a happy relationship.v

What We Can and CANNOT Guarantee:

As PR professionals we have contacts in the media. We guarantee we will contact them. We guarantee we will tell them about you, your brand and your story. We guarantee we will share photos, video and news with them. We guarantee to research the media contacts relevant to you. We guarantee we will learn their outlet, their niche, their interests and how to best pitch a story to them. We do not and CANNOT in any way, shape or form, guarantee that they will cover your story. We guarantee that even upon confirmation that an outlet says they will cover your story, that nothing in PR is actually guaranteed until it prints or plays. We guarantee that we will work every angle of your story, but we do not guarantee that the media will have the space or staff to cover it. We guarantee that if your story is covered, it is still not a guarantee that it will translate to sales. However, we would not work with you if we did not believe in what you are selling, and we will represent you with as much passion as we would if we were selling our own story – and THAT we guarantee.

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