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Is Your PR Company Ruining Your Brand Image

Working in digital marketing and magazines, I understand the need for a steel set of gonads. Over the years, I feel mine have grown considerably and I can now fight my own corner tenaciously.

This doesn’t mean I like it though, I hate being a bitch and would much rather have days at work where I don’t have to fight my corner. Unfortunately, business isn’t like this, especially in PR and Marketing as many of us are narcissists, while quite a high percentage of successful entrepreneurs have psychopathic characteristics, namely the inability to show empathy.

In the beginning, many moons ago, I would roll over and try to be the nicer person regardless of the rudeness or arrogance thrown at me. Today, I’m not so forgiving and dealing with PR companies on a regular basis has made me realise that some of these agencies are actually damaging the reputation of the brands they represent.

Please don’t start firing poison arrows at me in a bid to protect all PR companies. The ones I’m suggesting are, thankfully, in the minority, most of the PR companies I work with are absolutely delightful.

Is Your PR Company Ruining Your Brand Image

I do think though, that brands should be aware of how their PR company interacts with the people who give them free advertising, those who spread the word and those that ensure they build their following, in short, magazine editors like me.

The Clue is in the Name

I’ve mentioned it before in another post, how the words rude and PR shouldn’t go together in the same sentence. Even as I groan about it I still consider the term “arrogant PR person” to be an oxymoron but they do exist. Public Relations (forgive me if I’m wrong), should be about building great relationships with customers, magazines and peers, yet they are some PR companies destroying these relationships and I wonder if the brands know.

Here’s how a small minority are doing it:

Making Demands

Some PR companies make demands, with very little in return. I’ve had companies send products for review and assume this means they’ll receive over £3000 worth of advertising for free. I’ve also dealt with those who demand they have a mention in a magazine, as they’ve sent a PR, high res images or a product.

It really does befuddle me. I’m not asking for PR companies to be creeps or to give me oodles of lip service. I am asking them to remember the brand they are representing and how their communication with me sullies my whole view of that brand. Why would I want to work with someone like this and why on earth would we want to give free mentions to a PR company that thinks making demands will fill up their end of month reports which leads me to:

Bullying

At Sunday Woman magazine and The Consumer Voice we have a strict policy on product reviews and guest posts. Now, any company can send us a product to review but we never promise to feature it. This is because we test everything we recommend (we’ve been caught out by recommending a product that looked great but was recalled quite quickly many moons ago).

We also don’t test loan products, again, this is because a few years ago a product was delivered damaged and we were responsible for footing the bill as we couldn’t prove the damage was done in transit. If we don’t like a product, we won’t give it our seal of approval. This does not go down well.

We’re happy to give honest feedback, which we have on a handful of times, and the response has usually been quite acidic, not very nice at all. The PR companies get angry, they shout about sending a product (worth anything from 20 pence to 500 pounds) and make all manner of threats about how they will go public with our approach.

Our products usually end up in our huge giveaways, are given to local schools or donated to charity if still usable.

The same with guest posts. We don’t allow more than one link and our guest bloggers are all experts in their field yet PR companies sign up and become quite angry when we remove the links or reject the posts. In fact, we’re doing these a favour, as with the new Google rules, their employer really doesn’t need sub-standard copy associated with their brand.

The bullying can get quite nasty, and it’s quite clear that the PR rep completely forgets that with every word they are still representing their client. It’s quite astounding really as personally, as soon as an email hits my inbox that I’m not looking forward to opening, it’s filed neatly away into spam.

Life is far too short to deal with arrogance and narcissism.

Harassment

Most PR companies are good at harassment, they need to be. There is a fine line though between reminding a magazine about a product and sending incessant nagging emails. High quality PR companies have a strategy, and know how not to overdo it with the emails. The few that don’t will ring, email and text umpteen times a day until they receive the free coverage they crave. This has a negative impact in the long run as although I may hurry content along this time, to get them off my back, I will block the email addresses so I don’t have to deal with the company again.

Spam

It’s so disappointing when a great brand is represented by a PR company that really doesn’t understand PR. For example, there are some high quality brands out there who have made it to my spam folder for a number of reasons. These usually include:

  • Impersonal emails or press releases. I understand the round robin, I understand the mailing list. I don’t understand why, after communication, these spammers carry on sending spam or fail to respond to requests for more information. It is a wasted opportunity and seems as though they prefer quantity over quality. If they get enough PRs out there, their job is done. Unfortunately it’s the follow up that usually produces the results the brands actually need.
  • Mistakes and errors. One typo is ok, maybe even two but when this happens on every press release it does damage the reputation of the brand. It has an effect on the image and some companies don’t seem to care as long as the message is out there.

Focused on Reports not Results

Unfortunately there are more than just a couple of PR companies who focus on reports rather than long time results. PR should be about building relationships, opening channels and gaining momentum but many burn bridges as long as they can detail the link juice in their end of month reports. They will sacrifice relationships by spamming and harassing towards the end of the month, just so they can include the coverage in the report. This may look good on paper, but it doesn’t bode well for future coverage.

Lack of Passion

As a digital marketer I am fortunate enough to cherry pick my clients and I only take on brands I truly believe in. I want to be able to promote them with genuine passion as I believe this is the only way to convince others how good the product or service is. I understand that not everyone is this fortunate and so may take on brands they’re not really au fait with, but really, for the sake of your client, please learn a little about the audience and the product itself.

I’ve had many PR companies pitching products that they obviously have no interest in. For example, one confessed to hating cooking yet pitched a kitchen appliance, another admitted to knowing nothing about plants or gardening but pitched a type of compost. The list is endless here.

If a PR company must take on a brand they’re not passionate about please, at least learn about it, about the audience you’re pitching to and actually try the product out.

A lot of a brand’s budget is spent on PR and businesses pay a high price for those end of month reports. If you have a PR company, it may be wise to look beyond the reports to see how they’re really communicating with the people who will make or break your products.

Images: “Public Relations Concept in the PR Industry/Shutterstock.com

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Martina Mercer is a copywriter and digital marketer working extensively in the eCommerce sector. She won the award for "Working Mum of the Year 2014" and has given eCommerce advice on the BBC and in many magazines. She is the editor of eSeller News and the founder of The Consumer Voice, while still offering business copywriting services to brands across the globe. Working with clients such as Shell, Wilko, Calpol and more, she brings her expertise in eCommerce, sales, marketing and copywriting to her articles http://www.martinamercer.com

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Comments
  • Thanks for another excellent post Martina – it’s good to hear others are as strict on quality and links as we are here at TYB. It’s very important to be fair to all writers and keeping the site (and brand) clean. I look forward to your next post for us.




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