What Should Your Company Expect When You Hire a PR Firm?

We love our clients and the challenges each one brings. They all come to us with interesting, useful and fabulous businesses, and we wouldn’t take them on as clients if we didn’t believe there was a place to share their message. In this Uptake, CEO Paul Wilke and senior PR strategist Janie Gianotsos share behind-the-scenes-challenges of managing client expectations from the PR point of view to help clients better manage their expectations when it comes to announcing news. 

No PR firm can guarantee organic media coverage. 

Every PR team, including Upright, is in a weird position because they provide a service where they can’t always guarantee results – especially requests like getting on the front page of the Wall Street Journal or a guest spot on TODAY. We’re upfront about this before committing to working with a client. Some clients get it; some say they do but really don’t once we start doing the work and finding places to share their stories. And it’s frustrating for everyone when clients’ expectations are unrealistic. 

Your news is most interesting to you.

Clients’ announcements encompass their world 100%. It’s the business they live and breathe. And it’s everything to them. We get it, but we also understand the needs of the journalist, who (and this is painful for some clients to hear) doesn’t find your news all that interesting right now. 

A Tweet from Patrick Coffee, an editor at the Wall Street Journal, sums it up beautifully, “Exclusive: I regret to report that myself and my colleagues are still not interested in your B2B SaaS company’s product rollout announcement, but we’ll be sure to let you know if that changes.” It won’t. 

When clients expect tier-one media to cover their industry-specific news, unless they’ve reached the level of recognition of Musk or Bezos or launched something genuinely novel and revolutionary, coverage won’t happen. Yes, there are exceptions, but they’re rare. 

Let’s get realistic. 

Remember that when you see successful businesses on the cover of the Wall Street Journal or other tier 1 outlets, their success happened before the PR coverage, not the other way around. These companies didn’t suddenly get covered in some big magazine or TV production, and millions of customers rushed to purchase their widget. Unless it’s a widget that is so unique and so fascinating – applicable to nearly everybody in the media outlet’s audience – the success happens first. Then the outlets want to talk to you. 

One of the things we do with any campaign, any announcement, or anything we’re trying to do for a client is share what we think is realistic. While the Wall Street Journals and New York Times might not care, other outlets will. We advise clients, especially those with very industry-specific offerings, that it’s better to be published in a media outlet with 800 potential customers reading your news rather than getting a story in the Wall Street Journal. Even though millions might see it, very few would actually be interested in buying your product or service. We’ll ask you, “Where are your customers? What attainable exposure could move the needle for your company?” And that’s where we’ll start.

So what can clients expect? 

Being realistic about where to start is a great first step. Understanding the PR process helps, too. When companies have never done PR before, assume PR works like a sales funnel. The PR process differs significantly from the sales funnel process. 

The sales funnel acts a little like a shotgun shell filled with little pieces of buckshot. Send out as many marketing messages as possible to anyone who might be interested. Pull the trigger, and some buckshot will probably hit the target. PR is more like archery. The arrow must be placed perfectly in the bow, aimed carefully, and then shot precisely. 

In the first two or three weeks, PR teams are deep in prep work – getting your messaging right, the story right, and the content ready. Results, even pitching, usually don’t happen immediately. Even if we’ve worked with other companies similar to yours, we still need to learn what makes your company and product unique and which media are going to find your story interesting. This takes research and planning, and results from our efforts take time. 

Chances are, we’ll be encouraging you to start small. We’ll reach out to podcasts, industry magazines, and industry-focused web pages to pitch your story where it’s most likely to get covered. We’ll look at who’s covered similar stories and share where we think we can set the bar. Coverage here helps move your profile to the right customers and bigger media outlets if done with the right strategy.

Trust your PR team. 

Sometimes, clients ask us if an opportunity we’re recommending is legitimate. If it came through us, it’s worth doing. We never ask our clients to spend time or effort on something bogus or fraudulent. When opportunities come directly to our clients from outside sources, usually with a hefty fee, we’re here to give advice. Some paid opportunities are worthwhile; most aren’t. 

Big companies like Visa have enough requests they can turn down media opportunities. Most startups and smaller companies don’t have that luxury regarding legitimate opportunities. We’ve been through this with hundreds of clients over the years; we know where the opportunities are. If we bring one to you, there’s usually a good reason to accept it.

When we present an opportunity, let us know if you feel uncomfortable about your skill or knowledge. The media is saying “yes” to you as an interviewee because they believe you are the expert and have something to offer. And sometimes, that might not be the case. You may feel uncomfortable. We can do some media training and work with you on talking points. But please don’t turn down good opportunities, even if you think it’s not a big enough publication or less than you’d hoped for. There are ways to use this exposure and build on it to gain better traction. It’s essential to trust your PR team and say yes to things. If you really don’t feel comfortable about the opportunity, talk to us. We’re your counselor, your guide and your gatekeeper. That’s why you bring us on your team, and that’s what we’re here for.

Upright has been serving clients and journalists for over a decade, and our team has at least a combined century’s worth of experience and connections. Our reputation is on the line. We serve our clients and journalists equally and do our best to present something to a journalist we think is worth their time. The same goes for our clients. 

Would you like to explore PR strategy for your organization? 

We specialize in startups, series A, B and C companies disrupting tech, healthcare, and travel, as well as other specialized businesses and nonprofits changing the world. Reach out to us, uptake@uprightcomms.com, and let’s explore ideas and opportunities to tell your story.