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December 11, 2019

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PR Tip #20 – Don’t be a People Pleaser

January 13, 2016

 The days when PR folks were the “people pleasers” of the organization are over. Why? PR has evolved to become the voice of the company - helping set direction and foster understanding of the who, what, why, when and where of company news.  All within an environment where an evolving media and social networking communications network is often at odds with sales, finance or HR.


Too often, I’ve seen PR professional cave into client demands that just don’t make sense or are more complicated than necessary. Worse is when a PR person promises results that aren’t realistic or allows their client to do the same internally. It is often hard to convince a client that while their news might be critical to them, the interest from the broader media might be limited.


This is particularly true when it’s perceived a competitor received more coverage in the last 12 months. What the client needs to understand is on any given day, a different piece of news might be more or less relevant to a reporter. Could be as simple as a slow or busy news day or as complex as the competitor’s news follows a regulatory announcement or something associated with a major end customer.  It could simply be your client didn’t put in the same effort or make themselves as available to media.


We had a client a few years back that announced an acquisition that didn’t generate the coverage the CEO wanted. The news was interesting, but was missing some relevant facts the business press need to move from “interesting” to “covering.” Five critical factors impacted the coverage of this announcement, including:

  • The client was a private company;

  • Purchase price wasn’t disclosed;

  • Company acquired had never done any media work so was an unknown;

  • Release crossed the wire mid-day so out of the typical acquisition news cycle;

  • CEO wasn’t available for media until 2-days past announcement.

Anyone in PR can see how these factors could impact coverage, let alone all of them combined, but the client couldn’t. We tried to level set expectations that coverage would be impacted, but that counsel wasn’t internalized. In the end, we generated over 40 original stories, but few from the business press. While this was expected – and communicated – the client didn’t like it and soon decided to move on to a different agency.  While that wasn’t the outcome we hoped for, we knew we provided the right counsel and stood firm in our recommendations.  


Even under those circumstances, your opinion has value.  Within your organization or your client, you most likely have the most direct PR experience, better media and analyst relations, are more in tune with what reporters and analysts are writing about, and hopefully, in a strong to help position your client or company into new stories.


Instead of letting yourself become sidelined by an executive that has to be the smartest person in the room or stepping away from conflict just to avoid an uncomfortable situation, believe in your recommendations and provide the counsel and guidance the client is paying you for in the first place. You might surprise yourself, and in the long run, the client will respect you more for it.

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