Public Relationship Advice: Are You Ready to Commit?

Gaye Carleton/November 22, 2019/PR

Recently, after several in-depth conversations with a potential client – an established accessories company in the process of selecting a PR partner for the very first time – they asked if we would work on a month-to-month contract. For a moment, the question swept me off my feet (and not in a good way) but once back on terra firma, it also fascinated me.

Why would any company want to enter into a month-to-month PR contract knowing that the true value of a PR campaign unfolds over time with consistent, persistent effort? And how did they think a contract that could be canceled at the end of each 30 days — by either party, I might add — would actually benefit them?

Could it be that this company, in business for more than a decade with a stack of impressive corporate and celebrity licensing agreements in hand was commitment-phobic?

Still, after years of relying only on social media activities and special events to extend their customer base, encourage sales and reinforce its brand, this company knew the time had come to up its game by adding traditional PR into the mix. But of all the things they could have been concentrating on with the addition of PR, they were oddly focused on ensuring a quick escape from it.

Public relations is, of course, about relationships similar, in process at least, to the varied personal relationships we all have. In the case of a company, its relationships are with consumers, media influencers, licensors, lenders, vendors, employees and the like. But if a relationship of any ilk is going to work, it takes mad skills, mantra-like repetition of a clear communication and time to build a foundation of trust and respect. Sadly, sometimes this is enough to send people and companies alike sprinting for the nearest exit.

I didn’t get the feeling, however, that this particular company – the one asking if we’d worked on a month-to-month basis – would “walk” if they weren’t in The New York Times a week after signing on or show us the door if their profit margin didn’t immediately increase. No. I think this company wanted to commit. But since they had completely relied on the immediacy (and fleeting) effects of social media for 10 years, they were simply unaware of the time and repeated application necessary to establish enduring visibility, move the reputation needle in a meaningful way and, generally maximize the results of an inventive, well-planned and skillfully executed PR campaign.

For the record, clients considering engaging in a PR campaign, now hear this: First and foremost, PR is most effective when incorporated into a company in an ongoing manner. Next, at a minimum be willing to commit to a 12-month contract. It provides the time needed to create and thoughtfully roll out a strategic campaign, reap then extend results and take full advantage of the tailwinds.