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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Sad Tale: Firing Our PR Firm

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Not too long ago a company entered Beta and realized they needed help in “spreading the word”. The goal was to help generate publicity and placements during the Beta period.  The company, LogMyCalls, hired a PR firm to help with both strategy and execution of an aggressive public relations campaign.

The most pressing need was to ramp up coverage during the Beta period in preparation for their hard launch in May 2012. The company researched a variety of PR firms and eventually settled on one that said they track PR with advertising-style metrics. This is appealing for any business managing their budget and seeking a positive return on investment.  

The PR agency came highly recommended and seemed like a sure thing. They assured the company that their strategy was centered around hard metrics, data and results. According to McKay Allen from ContactPoint, the parent company, “We were excited about working with them and so we signed the contract.”

5 months later we fired them.

The public relations firm wasn’t doing anything!  In 5 months they generated zero placements and a few analyst reviews. They were terrible. To save their reputation I won't reveal their name but will reinforce the message.  Just because you hire a vendor, don’t assume they will exceed or even meet your expectations.

Why Did We Fire Them?

We were getting progressively more fed up as weeks without results turned into months without results. Nothing was happening.

Then one day a member of our marketing team decided to take matters into his own hands and support our PR effort. He just started calling editors of major marketing publications and blogs. He asked them if we could produce guest content about marketing topics for them, if he could write articles about LogMyCalls and if they would be interesting in reviewing LogMyCalls.

He called 4 that first day. They all said yes.

Our PR firm either hadn't contacted these people or their pitch sucked.

This was the straw that broke the camel's back (killed the camel actually). We realized that it was silly to continue to pay a PR firm when we could--evidently--do the job significantly better. So we fired them.
Honestly, that was the best thing we ever did.

Since we fired them we've had an average of 4 hard placements a week. That's almost one a day. We write guest blogs. We send out press releases. We do everything and anything we can to generate publicity and buzz.  Now we are generating 4 placements a week that mention LogMyCalls. (We're not counting press release republications and article sharing sites, of course). And so far, it is working. We've had investors contact us, clients reach out, leads generate and deals close, all because of our new and internal PR strategy.

Why Didn’t We Fire Them Sooner?

We were dumb.

They kept saying that we were 'right on the edge' of getting a bunch of placements. 'Next week is the week.’ This continued for months. Next week never was the week. Instead of getting placements we just wasted money and time.

Our PR firm was terrible. No, they were worse than terrible, awful.  If you feel that your PR firm is not producing the results they’re supposed to then fire them – don’t wait.

When we talk about our experience with this PR firm that shall remain nameless, we refer to it as our 'PR firm debacle.' Debacle is a kind word. There are other words that describe our experience more accurately but should not appear on a reputable website like this one.

PR firms aren't bad. They, generally, do a great job. However, you have to seriously consider whether or not you have someone internally who can do a better job. We did. So, eventually we fired our PR firm.

Logmycalls is owned by ContactPoint, focused on revolutionizing the way companies listen and respond to their customers. They deliver the equivalent of bio-feedback for customer interactions, which allows companies to adapt to customer needs with unparalleled speed and agility.


Rachel Wild said...

Your story is all too common, and it's damaging the PR industry as a whole. Chris Brogan wrote a great piece recently articulating the same inherent problems that you have had first hand experience with,. It also unequivocally states that there's an ever pressing need for PR's to "do the math". He essentially said that he consistently meets PR profs that can talk convincingly in conceptual terms about integrating PR strategies with metrics etc, but the reality remains that they can't configure analytics tools and don't know how to work with the data. Very usefully, he's provided a learning check list for PR's to acquire the skill sets they need to be effective. Let's hope that the ones who need to take heed of his sage advice manage to stumble across his article!

I hope you enjoy this:

LBM Direct Marketing said...

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Mitch Bishop said...

Unfortunately this is an all too common tale of woe. There are many facets to the issue but the biggest one is the complete mis-alignment of incentives. The coal that stokes the boilers of most PR firms is billable hours. But clients simply want COVERAGE. We don't mind paying for it, but there is a complete disconnect on goals.

The only way to really solve this is to create an incentive-based alignment and partnership where the PR firm is paid based on results, including (for the right situation) taking stock options as partial payment for services.

Another issue is what I call the 'bait and switch." That's when the very impressive principals of a PR firm sell you on their capabilities, only to disappear completely when the business is landed. You end up training 20-somethings on basic PR process and they will NEVER understand your business as well as you do. The only solution to this is to make sure you understand a deep level who will be on your PR team. Can they write? Can they pitch? Do they have built in relationships with key editors and reporters? Do they get results?

There are some fantastic PR firms out there that have helped put major companies on the map (e.g. Every marketing team needs to align goals, incentives, process, metrics and experience levels for this to happen.

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