Tarunjeet Rattan
Guest Article

What happens when a secretive brand wants to do PR?

Our guest author says that PR is often misunderstood and results in frustrating conversations with brands.

All of us in the public relations (PR) fraternity wish that we had a client who would be the most obedient student in the class and listen to our advice. However, in real life, things could not be any different.

Each client is an individual who comes in with their own notions of what PR is, based on their experience. However, there is no reason to colour everyone in the PR field with the same brush and absolutely no reason you can't learn better. Imagine if we did that for all marketing and founder teams.

One of the most widely held PR misconceptions by marketing teams is that PR agencies only do press releases. Brands expect PR professionals to deliver media hits, irrespective of the quality of the information. Doesn’t this sound like a sure shot way of getting trolled by journalists on Twitter?

Tarunjeet Rattan
Tarunjeet Rattan

Brands and clients must listen, observe and learn, as PR teams guide them to a sane way of creating a reputation that will earn them respect along the way.

Here’s an example of how conversations with some clients really go. This conversation is inspired from real life. I wish it ended the way I wanted it to. The advice, though, is very real, as is the reality of the conversation.

The secretive brand:

CMO: We have an exciting announcement! We just closed a one-of-a-kind deal in our industry with a big name.

Me: That’s super exciting! Can we do an exclusive with a few big names from media?

CMO: The CEO wants to use this opportunity to shift the focus from him to the brand. He also wants all the financials and trade media to carry it.

Me: No problem, we can do with a quote. Let’s put together a press release and send it out.

CMO: Okay.

Me: So, who is the big name, give me the value of the deal and how is it one-of-a-kind?

CMO: Those are details we can't divulge right now.

Me: Then, let’s schedule this when we can divulge the details.

CMO: No, but the competition will get a whiff of it and do something similar. Let’s send out the release.

Me: To make it newsworthy enough, I need to know these details for financial media to even consider this.

CMO: Can you not send it out without these details? I have seen other news stories without any figures.

Me: Are you sure it was not an advertisement or an advertorial?

CMO: <Stunned> No, no! It was an article. And, I am sure given your experience and contacts, you can pull this off for us.

Me: No. I think you are mistaking a financial paper for a gossip column. And, speculation stories are never a good idea because they can go either way. Are you fine with that?

CMO: No, please send out a press release with what I have shared, and ensure it is present in all investor and financial media. I am sure your media relations are strong enough for this task.

Me: Yes, they are. And no, we will not take this approach.

CMO: <Frustrated> How can you say this?

Me: Because it is my job to advise you on the correct choice to make, as we leverage every opportunity to add to and build your brand reputation. This is a great talking point, but if you send it out with what we have (or don’t have) right now, there is a high chance that this will backfire and, at the same time, not just damage your reputation but ours as well, in the process. A cloud of nothing will get you just that. Nothing.

CMO: <Resentful petulance> So, what do you suggest?

Me: Wait till we have at least 50% of this data in hand and create a press note. Since this will still not be a 100%, we will leverage our spokesperson to announce this information and add a few more points on the next big forthcoming announcement from the brand. Then, we will introduce this point in every other media communication so that it becomes a brand story background that media refers to, hence, achieving your first goal as well.

CMO: Okay, but what if the competition announces it first?

Me: Then we better hurry.

PS: You will be surprised how often these happen. Pick a number and double or triple it. And, that is the weekly number for a PR agency for these conversations.

PR nugget

Work smart, but with your credibility intact. If you have news that is a game changer, work with your PR counsel to understand how to create the maximum impact for your brand via the same. Don’t waste hard-earned respect on fluff news.

PR agencies are your partners. Your success is their success. Trust your partners and work with them, and this involves discussion, debate and conversation. Not demands, commands and tantrums. You have hired them for their expertise. Listen to them.

(Tarunjeet Rattan is managing partner at Nucleus PR)

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