Working with a firm
Founder & CEO, PR Expert
Authenticity makes you an ideal client to work with. When people like you, they will work harder.
Be upfront about your budget so your PR team knows how to plan and maximize it.
Know your strategy before you jump to the tactic. A story in the New York Times is not a strategy.
Lesson: Early Stage PR with Julie Crabill
Step #8 Ideal Client: Working with a firm
The ideal client, certainly it’s great if they have things ready when they walk through the door. It’s great if they’re super, hyper responsive, but I think a lot of it comes down to them just being real. We can understand and relate to you that you’re busy, that you have other things to worry about with your business and it’s not just PR and marketing. That you are dealing with product and finance and operations and IT and hiring, and all of these myriad things that are on your plate every day as an entrepreneur or the CEO of the company. But I think that relatability and that open line of communication is key.
The ideal client is somebody who tells you, “I’m really super slammed this week, so if you don’t need to talk to me about something don’t talk to me about it. If it’s really, really urgent, here is how I want you to reach me. If you text me I’ll respond quickly,” and then actually does it, if they say that’s what they’re going to do. Explains to you and gives you a little more of an inside view of their entire business. I think that’s one thing that most people take for granted.
This is another thing that I wish I could never hear again. “This isn’t really important to PR. Oh, we’re working on this thing, but it’s not really PR-able. It’s not PR-worthy.” Well, you actually don’t know if it’s PR-able or PR-worthy. That’s what you hire me to do is give you counsel on that. So go ahead and tell me what it is. And if it’s not, I’m not going to be offended. I’m not going to think that you wasted my time. More insight into your business is always more valuable, and that really is what makes a good client.
And somebody who can know the audience of who they’re speaking to. So if you’re working with an outside firm, it’s my job to motivate the team and to rally the troops. You shouldn’t, as the client, feel that you have to do that, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt for you to have the people that work on the team like you and want to help you. So praise the work that they do and, if you see issues, come to me as the head of the company to say, “Hey, this person, I really need them to do more of this,” or, “I’m kind of feeling like the result aren’t there.” And then let me explain to you, “Hey, you’re missing the point, the results are here.” Or, “Yeah, you’re right. We’re kind of missing the boat right now. Let’s figure out how to fix it.”
But I think if you vent that to the entire team, I often have to kind of reengage and excite them on something. And granted, they’re here to do a job, and I pay them to do that job and they will do it. But you’ll get so much more out of your team if they’re motivated and excited about you and what you’re doing and they feel like they have skin in the game. And at the end of the day, they’re willing to work their asses off if they feel that way, even beyond what I’m telling them they have to do. When I leave at night and the team is still here working on stuff, I can promise you that they’re spending time on those accounts that they feel get it, appreciate them, get what they’re doing and really value what they bring to the table more than the accounts where I tell them, “You have X hours to do X jobs. Just get it done.”
The thing that is the most annoying in terms of having to ask again and again is what someone’s budget is. I think it’s a constant struggle. A friend of mine calls it the money dance because I feel that the entrepreneur on the other end of the line is telling me that they don’t know what their budget is because they think that I’m a shark, and the second they tell me a number I’m going to dig my teeth into it and try to push a little bit up. They think that we’re already in negotiation mode. And in reality, when I’m asking them what their budget is, it’s so that I can give them the best possible advice for where they are, even if they’re giving me a range.
But if somebody is telling me the conversation where they won’t tell me the budget and then I ask them like, “Okay. I’m thinking you should spend this,” and they’re like, “Oh, we definitely can’t spend more than 5,000,” I’m like, “Okay. So, you had a budget literally three minutes ago when I asked you that, but you didn’t want to tell me.” I find that it just wastes everybody’s time. I understand why people do it. There are a lot of PR people out there who are kind of looking at you as a number and not really looking at your story and what you should be doing, but without that sort of barometer it’s very difficult for me to tell you what you should do with your money.
A lot of times, if somebody does come to me and say, “I have $5,000 a month I could spend over the next year,” I’ll tell them you shouldn’t spend any of it for the first six months of the year. You should save it. And then you should spend $10,000 a month for the next 6 months so you can actually make a dent. It’s like going to Starbucks every day with $0.05 and saying, “Can I buy a coffee?” And they’re looking at you like, “No, you can’t buy a coffee.” Well, save your $0.05 for a couple of weeks then you can come and you can buy a latte if you want.
Too often, we hear people saying, “I want to be in TechCrunch. I want to be in the New York Times,” and not knowing why they want to be in those places. So I think that they are lacking the strategy; they’re just going straight to the tactic. “Because my friends were. Because I’m told that’s where I should go.” Well, who are you trying to reach? We have people who are like, “I want moms in the Midwest download this app, and I want to be in the New, York Times.” Well, moms in the Midwest aren’t really reading the New York Times. Do you want to be in the New York Times because you just think that’s the place to be? Because every time you walk into your VC’s office you see framed New York Times articles on the wall? If you’re looking for either a vanity hit, or you’re looking for a hit to attract something different than your core audience, that’s fine. But I think that, to me, is one of them, “I want to be here.” Well, why?
I think that there’s a good percentage of this business that’s likability, but I think it’s probably more the ability to get people on the same page to create that sort of agreement among party. Likeability is definitely important. But I don’t think I wouldn’t hire somebody or I wouldn’t want to work with somebody if they weren’t sort of immediately likeable. I don’t think I’m that likeable of a person in many ways. I think that I grew up being a people pleaser, but I think that the older I get the more I just want to get to the point and be really, really direct. I find myself sending emails and stopping and saying, “Am I being nice enough? Let me start with the ‘How are you doing. I hope all is well’ and end with ‘All my best. Safe travels.’” When, really, I just want to get the point and say what I came to say and get out of there. So I think that in that sense, likeability, professionalism, and the ability to kind of get everybody cohesively on the same page is more important than likeability.
I think that for the longest time, even for probably six months after her show went off the air, everybody asked, “I want to be on Oprah.” That’s when you need to give the reality check. That’s another, “I think I’m like Apple.” “I want the stipple drawing on the cover of the Wall Street Journal. I want my face there.” Even if I can get you into the Wall Street Journal, or even the Wall Street Journal online, I think that you should take a step back if you think that you’re going to be on the cover with a stipple drawing of your face as a start-up. Those kinds of requests. So Wall Street Journal, New York Times, TechCrunch. I think we do hear still Good Morning America, the Today Show. And none of these are unreasonable requests. It just depends on who’s saying them, and at what stage in the company they’re at, and what they think that they have to offer that.
To your question about funding, there are people who will say, “We closed a $2 million- round and we should be on the New York Times.” The New York Times reporter is probably not that excited about that. What they want to cover is when Color closed a ridiculously huge round. The reason why they want to cover it is because they know that can’t be a good sign, and that things are going to totally implode and that’s ultimately bad news. But, as they say, “If it bleeds it leads,” so you better look for some way that you can really get that attention if that’s what you want.