Client relationships are a balancing act between being an expert, bestie, mom, and walking reality check.
We have all been there. You are telling your PR firm that you have exciting news and they are looking at you like you dropped something dead in the middle of the table. On the flip side, the PR team knows what is trending in the news, what other clients are doing, and who is willing or not to write about you. It's an uncomfortable situation and hopefully your relationship can grow to where you both acknowledge you are on the same team and are doing what's best for the company. But for now, here is what all that hemming and hawwing and umming is about.
1. That's not news - The crazy thing about news, it that it has to actually be new. Sometimes you have an thought or an opinion or an idea that legitimately should be discussed in the media. But "evergreen" might just be a way of saying there is no reason why someone has to write this story more than saying this story has a lot of legs. Give them something timely so the journalist can understand why they should care. Sometimes they are praying "Please don't make me pitch this!"
2. That call was awful - You know when you didn't prep for the media interview and didn't read the briefing doc and got on a call and you were all over the shop. Please don't jump on media calls after back to back business meetings. You need time to prep and focus on delivering a story in a way that the person listening can keep up, not in the random meandering of your mind at the moment. You prep for other meetings, prep for interviews.
3. Hot damn now this is news! - Under promise over perform is real in the service business. We know that you want us to say this is a WSJ story. But frankly even if it is, we have no idea whether we are going to get that story. We could get the interview and your story gets bumped because someone at Yahoo! leaded a memo about Google that talked about Apple and had rumors about Microsoft - maybe. In other words we don't know. We know we have the anatomy of a good story but we can't promise a thing. So we are excited but we are also optimistically cautious.
4. Let me off my leash - We are ready to launch - except you may not be. You want everything to be perfect, and so do we, but sometimes it is time to just go! Pull the trigger! Bite the bullet! Kill all the birds with one stone! Because we are locked and loaded! (The metaphors get more and more violent as we go.) But not without approval. So that is why you are getting those emails every 5 mins about whether we can move on this.
5. Don't touch this one - there are just some news cycles you don't want to be apart of because they could hurt your brand or draw attention to an part of your business or industry that you would rather not discuss. There is a reason why security tech companies lie low during security breaches, why PaaS players keep silent when the same Amazon instance that hit Netflix is hitting them, why companies don't mention that their biggest client is Haliburton. And maybe you might not have the expertise to wade into these dangerous waters. Sometimes you have to let the news cycle pass so you can be apart of a more positive cycle when people are willing to really listen instead of make you part of the storm. When there is a big accident you don't see doctors placing TV ads, you see lawyers chasing tragedy. Don't be the lawyers.
**Bonus - Analysts matter - I know. We all want to poo poo the analyst firm. But the truth is that they matter. Because when your startup grows up it will have big customers, that are not in tech, who turn to the analysts for advice. And while you are too busy to deal with a briefing, your competitor is in the wave or quadrant and you are not even listed. You are right, analyst outreach is not for every company, at any stage. However they are great for lead gen and reaching your core customers. Are your customers reading and paying analyst reports? Gartner wouldn't be in this business if no one was.
Look I don't want to say PR folk are right all the time. (We are) But I can tell you that most of us have been doing this for a long time and have seen the ups and downs. All we can do is give you counsel as bluntly and truthfully as you can take it. Some of you might need to learn to ask for that kind of counsel because it seems you might not take it too well.
And PR folks, speak up. If you are truly on your client's team, you have to be willing to make them a little itchy to get the best result. In the end, its about a partnership that makes the company look awesome to the world.