Our guest author says corporate communication professionals need to work in harmony with PR agencies and take advantage of the latter's wisdom.
Media is a fast-evolving field, with new processes and formats being implemented almost every day. Understanding how each medium works is almost impossible for one person. Hence, the PR agency pools its resources and knowledge to keep its clients updated.
When you start a corporate communication position, take advantage of it. No media or agency will look at you kindly if you keep making blunders at the most basic task. And, it is never forgiven when you do this with an attitude. Stay humble. Learn and grow with your agency as a trusted partner.
The conversation below is inspired by real-life events. Some endings are as I wish they were. The advice, though, is real as is the reality of the conversation.
The corp comm and PR dialogue
Corp comm: that bridge-building call went well last week with the wire agency. When can we expect the exclusive?
Me: (surprised) I must have misunderstood. Are you asking me when the journalist will file an exclusive brand story against the bridge-building call we did with her?
Corp comm: Yes.
Me: But it was a ‘bridge-building call’, which is essentially a non-agenda meeting, giving the journalist a chance to get to know more about the client, without the pressure of a story.
Corp comm: But in my last agency, we used to do it this way only. If a story results from the call, and it's an exclusive one, then we will call this a success.
Me: Just because this was misunderstood at your last agency is no excuse for you not to correct it now. Especially when you are in a position where you will be dealing with several agencies on different brands and have the power to set this right.
Corp comm: (irritated) You can’t talk to me like that.
Me: Why? Does discussion or/and disagreement not find a place in your plans? I am your PR partner and my role, apart from helping you create a strong reputation, is also to help you identify red flags in your media approach so that you don’t end up in an avoidable crisis. As a member of the PR community, I would urge you to pick my brains, have a discussion and together and agree on the best approach, instead of putting an irrelevant measuring yardstick against an activity.
Corp comm: (challenging) Really? What is your expert advice then?
Me: What we are planning to do, is put together a good pitch that identifies an industry trend, backed by numbers, so that the journalist can consider it for a possible story.
Corp comm: But it will still be an industry story and not an individual brand story.
Me: You were on the same call. You need to listen more carefully to the journalist.
She specifically asked the founder and us to come back to her with an industry trend she can consider. Also, it would be great if you can read the stories filed by her and the wire agency on the sector. An industry story has a way higher chance of being filed.
Let’s make an attempt to win her trust first with a story she wants, before pitching an individual story on a path-breaking innovation from our end.
Corp comm: (grudgingly agrees) Hmmm… okay, let’s try it your way.
Me: (all fingers crossed) Awesome!
Reality: We get a great spread of an industry story across multiple media outlets. But we lose the client in the next billing cycle for not following orders issued by the corp comm team.
Always have room for healthy debate, discussion and arguments.
Do this without any malice, post the meeting. You will be surprised at what both the PR agency and corp comm teams can accomplish.
Just because you did something the wrong way earlier is no reason not to unlearn and relearn the right way, when shown the correct path.
And, for the agency folks going to corp comm teams, set things right when you know the right way to do things. Also, your position does not entitle you to have a bigger attitude or knowledge that is bigger than all the knowledge that the PR agency brings to the table. Lose the attitude and be humble.
(The guest author is managing partner at Nucleus PR)