Just like any complex industry, public relations produces its share of bad actors who should be avoided at all costs. If you’re looking to hire a great PR firm, run far away from these jokers:
1.”You, my client, are ALWAYS right, and I ALWAYS agree with everything you say.” This is the worst thing a PR pro can ever tell a client. The most derelict publicists are the ones who refuse to speak their minds and apply their actual experience to client needs. More often than not, the PR relationship is about managing expectations, and just like any other professional service, those expectations can at times be unrealistic. As the client, if your PR agency never questions your objectives or subjects them to rigorous examination, then you’re getting suckered out of your PR budget.
2. “Of course I can get your op-ed in The New York Times.” We can’t all get ice cream for every meal. As exciting as your opinion might be to you, it’s a tall order to get your op-ed in the Times. Sometimes not even this guy makes the cut. So beware the publicist who guarantees he’ll score that fancy media placement. No decent PR pro would make such a foolish promise.
3. “Our logistical paradigm is to incentivize positive optics for your verticals.” At some ugly point in the history of PR, a bunch of fools started spitting ridiculous, nonsensical mumbo jumbo to inflate their egos and intimidate clients. If you ever hear a PR business pitch that includes words you wouldn’t speak in casual conversation, tell the agency thanks, but no thanks. Steer clear from these jerks; they literally don’t speak your language.
4. “We no te powr oaf grate PEE r.” Amazing that in the era of spell check and search engine auto-complete, some PR firms still blast press releases with typos and narrative nightmares. Even worse are PR firms whose counsel and creative materials are littered with errors. If the agency can’t take care to ensure quality presentation on their own behalf, how do you think they treat clients?
5. “Good news—I told that reporter to go #^&* himself.” PR pros are supposed to respond artfully to media inquiries, and never lose their temper—doing so bites the hand that may offer the client positive publicity. Just as bad is arguing about a reporter’s legitimate characterizations of a news story. If the PR firm insists on becoming the story, stop paying them.
Babak Zafarnia is president of Praecere Public Relations. A version of this story first appeared on The Blog Aesthetic, a property of Praecere Public Relations. This article first appeared on Ragan.com in April 2011.