A few weeks ago, Dorothy Crenshaw, the founder of Crenshaw Communications and a senior communications professional, write an article called “Lies PR agencies tell.”
As the author of “Spin Sucks,” I was interested to read about the lies PR firms tell, and saddened to learn her list was pretty accurate.
It included things such as: “We love your product, and the media will love it, too!”
I snickered at that one because, when we start relationships with new clients, we always love them, their organizations and what they sell. It isn’t until about 30 days into a relationship that you truly understand the features, benefits and challenges of what you have to help them build awareness for and sell.
The lies PR firms tell
Taking a combination of Crenshaw’s list and my own, here are the lies PR firms tell to either win business or keep a client happy:
1. “We love your product.” Have you ever worked with a client whose product you actually use? It’s a lot easier to define the pros and cons—and predict what customers might feel negatively about—if you use the product.
But many of us work with clients who sell something we’ve never used. I used to do “from the farm to the fork” communications, which meant I worked with clients who sold chemicals to growers. While I can go out into any cornfield and tell you which weeds are there and what will control them, I’ve never actually used the product.
2. “We can tell your story in an interesting and new way.” When you’re in a new business meeting and the prospect tells you about what they do, it’s hard not to fall in love (or not). One way or another, you think—and may actually say out loud—”This has such a great story!” Of course, your rose-colored glasses don’t see the real story until you begin to work with the client.
3. “The media will love your story.” This may be true—if the client will let you tell the story in an interesting and different way. But too often we take on a new client, start the work and discover the client hired us to simply distribute news releases about everything the company does. You can’t tell that interesting story because the client isn’t comfortable doing so.
4. “You need five pieces of content every week.” What you want your client to do is be consistent, not pump out content for the sake of hitting a number every week. We like to start with twice a week, then add a third (if it’s working) after about 60 days, then a fourth and fifth. Most of our clients never get beyond three pieces. That seems to be the magical B2B number.
5. “Yep, we can do that.” Particularly if you’re an agency in growth mode, the “we can do it” attitude prevails—even if you can’t. “Do you need a professionally produced video? No problem! We can do that!” (And you scurry to find someone you can hire for the project.)
6. “We work well with other agencies.” I would love for this one to be true, and many people go into a relationship thinking it can work. But when you’re fighting for the same dollars and a limited amount of work, it’s nearly impossible to do what’s best for the client and not what’s best for your own profitability.
7. “The proposal just needs one more edit.” This translates to, “We haven’t actually started your proposal, but now that you’re asking for it we’ll rush to finish it overnight.” We always tell prospects it takes a full week to write a proposal, and that’s pushing it. (My team would love for me to say it takes longer.)
8. “You should update social media multiple times a day.” You may not even realize this is a fib because it’s what you and some of your other clients do. But the number of social media updates truly depends on the organization. For some, it might be five to 10 times a day. Others may only need to update once. You won’t know the answer until you get in there and test.
9. “We have experience in your industry.” What you’re really thinking is, “How hard can it be? Communications is communications.” Unless you can produce a case study that proves your experience in the industry, this is not the truth.
Now it’s your turn. What lies do PR firms tell that aren’t listed here?