Monday, April 30, 2007

Can PR Agencies Help?

The topic of agencies came up in the office today; and not too long ago, we sat down with a university student who was doing a project and wanted to pick our brains about public relations agencies: when do we find them useful? Are they helpful, or more trouble than they're worth? As with anything, I really think it depends.

In my position, I deal with several PR reps on a daily basis, and for the most part, it's great. The way we work (and this probably holds true for most magazines) is that we always need everything yesterday. It might be a high-resolution image to accompany an article in the magazine. It might be a quick spec clarification for an article about to be submitted. Whatever it is, we always need it now. Anyway, I thought I'd give my top-five list of things a PR agency can do to make my life (and likely every magazine editor/writer/reporter's) life easier:

1) RESPOND QUICKLY. I am an impatient person by nature, and when I need something ASAP, I absolutely hate waiting. This doesn't mean sit by your PC with your fingers outstretched in front of the keyboard just waiting, and waiting, and waiting, to mash those keys vigorously. But answering in a timely matter is always appreciated, and never forgotten. If you don't have what I'm looking for right away and need to look into it, a quick note to this effect lets me know "hey, I'm on it."

2) HAVE RESOURCES AT YOUR FINGERTIPS. Of course there will always be a question you don't have an answer to, but the more answers you have, the better. Pricing? Everyone wants pricing. Know It. Product Images that are suitable for print? As long as the manufacturer has them, so should you. Basic Specs? This should be something easily researched. Nuff said.

3) BE FRIENDLY. The PR reps I most often turn to when I need something are the ones that go that extra mile to be nice and build a rapport. Phoniness can be detected a mile away.

4) STUDY THE PRODUCT. You don't need to know everything about what you're repp'ing, but being at least remotely familiar with what it is and what it does, helps. That thing-a-ma-jig that does somethin' or other won't really help!

5) PERSONALIZE E-MAILS. Larger companies who work with big PR firms typically send information through newswire services, and therefore, I don't expect to see "Dear Christine" as the intro: I know I'm part of a blind-copied message sent to every Canadian news service under the sun, and I'm OK with it (OK, it hurts a little, but I forgive ya!) But if you're a small and unknown company, do something to grab my attention, or your e-mail will likely end up in my deleted items box before Outlook can even seen it comin'. "Dear <<>>", "Dear Sir or Mr.", or any mispelling of my name tells me that you don't care, nor pay any attention to what you're sending. Just like with relationships, it's the little things that count!

I've been asked by PR reps that I see often what I think of PR people in general, and whether or not I like dealing with them. The answer is "yes". I've rarely come across a PR rep that I loathed contacting, but it has happened. The way I see it, if it's easier for me to go directly to the manufacturer/distributor/retailer for answers to my questions, there's something wrong. I've been fortunate in this industry, so keep up the good work. For those in the industry that I actually deal with, please, if I ever sound terse in my e-mail or phone call, don't take it personally. We're always on some sort of deadline here, and scrambling to give our readers the best possible product we can!


Mike said...

I think you're asking too much. :-)

Anonymous said...

Why are you so demanding?

Marketnews - Christine Persaud said...

Hi Mike & anonymous,

Thanks for the comments. In response, our readers are certainly demanding about the quality of the content we provide (as are we!), and in turn, we require a lot in order to provide such engaging content.

I appreciate your input!