Why do PR agencies take on clients they shouldn’t?

Money? Self belief? Misguided self-belief? Unwillingness to pass the business to another agency that may do better? Any more?

So why do I care? Well I have spoken to two companies over the last few weeks and both have been disappointed by their first foray into PR. This unfortunately makes it harder for other PR agencies to convince them that PR can benefit a company.

Company one launched a new consumer focused software last year and his PR agency wrote two articles for him relating to the issues that the product was solving – ie protecting kids online. The PR agency went on to send these articles to parenting magazines.

Mmmmmhhh, sounds like the right place to go doesn’t it? Wrong. If you flick through a parenting magazine, you’ll find they are full of case studies, product reviews (prams, cots etc) and lots of baby stuff. The children of the readers are probably not old enough to go on the internet. So I guess there was no actual reading of the publications, no talking to the journalists. Actually, there wasn’t much understanding of the client. The agency placed a couple of local articles but nothing in the consumer tech press where the readers (dads) were more likely to read and buy.

The other company (a Web 2.0 enteprise) employed an agency that knew all about web 2.0 supposedly. The agency got the company into The Liverpool Post only – nothing online……anywhere…….not even a post on their own agency blog, not even a tiny weeny Tweet. So that first journey has soured the company’s perception of agencies.

Can’t blame it all on the agencies of course, the client companies should have spent more time on finding out what the agencies could do and understand how the publications they were targeting would make a difference to their businesses.

I guess a company needs to write a clear brief before meeting with any agency to avoid disappointment and an agency needs to really think about whether they can deliver what the client wants…..maybe the clients expectations are false…..so then isn’t it better to bring them down to earth gently and say that not every start up can be on the cover of the FT (don’t ever remember seeing one there actually!), or that one article in their trade press will need to be backed up by another and again until their brand name is well known…and that PR is about reputation building and that doesn’t usually happen overnight.

Back to the original question….there are lots of reasons why a PR agency will take on a client that they shouldn’t and just as many why a client takes on a PR agency that they shouldn’t.

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