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The Horror: 7 Scary Things Clients Say to Agencies

scary things clients say

Want to give a PR pro nightmares?

In honor of Halloween, here are seven of the scariest things we hear from clients and prospects.

“The intern runs our social media.”

Although young people are often familiar with social media platforms from personal use, they usually aren’t brand experts. One inappropriate post can haunt a company’s reputation forever. Make sure there is a training process and someone experienced approving content if interns have access to social media accounts.

(And remember: A true pro will know all the tricks to delivering a high return on investment.)

“We don’t have Google Analytics.”

Google offers a free tool to track website traffic. It’s an effective way to peek behind the mask and measure the impact of advertisements, messaging and other tactics to raise brand awareness or sell a product. Analytics tools, combined with experienced interpretation, help brands determine what’s working, what’s not and how to adjust.

“We told the reporter ‘no comment.'”

Candor’s philosophy is to be honest and transparent with the media. Having nothing to say implies an organization has a skeleton in the closet. “No comment” robs an organization of the opportunity to provide context, especially on potentially damaging stories. It is better to be forthcoming and tell reporters when more information or answers will be available.

“I don’t know… could you just jazz it up a little?”

It’s part of a PR firm’s job to use its expertise to make things “pop.” But professional communicators need to fully understand the client’s goals and audience to create exceptional materials. They need partners who provide input and offer descriptive feedback; they aren’t gypsy mind readers.

“We’ll just print that in-house.”

Everyone wants to save money. But do-it-yourself printing can mean wasting staff time or sacrificing quality. Office printers don’t deliver true color, proper margins or full-bleed printing that really make a piece look professional. If you must print in-house, make sure the graphic designer is aware so she can design it accordingly.

“We want this story on the front page of the Sunday paper.”

Scaring up exceptional placement is always the goal when pitching stories. However, not every story meets the criteria for banner treatment, and reporters rarely determine where their work runs. When clients help us dig up a story that appeals to a news outlet’s audience, it increases the chances of getting on the cover.

“What have you done for me lately?”

If you hand out king-size Snickers bars one year for trick or treat and raisins the next, you’re going to end up with something unpleasant on your doorstep. That’s why PR pros always look for ways to deliver more to clients. We focus on providing sweet metrics – such as website traffic, media hits, video views, sales conversions, etc. – to demonstrate the value of our work. We survey consumers to understand how they feel about brands. And, especially at Candor, we try to look around the corner and suggest new ways our clients can reach their business and marketing goals.

What Raising Dogs Taught Me About PR

I’m a dog person. (Wo)man’s best friend has stolen my heart forever. I’m active in my local humane society and rescue organization as a volunteer and donor, and my family adopted two dogs into our home. I’ve learned a lot while trying to keep my furry kids happy, safe and alive. Some of those lessons apply to our clients at Candor.

1. It’s a 24/7 Job

One of the first lessons I learned as a dog parent is I have to be willing to get up in the middle of the night for emergency bathroom breaks. Every dog parent knows the sounds that wake them from a dead sleep faster than any alarm and send them racing to the door so the dog doesn’t mess up the rug again. In PR, a client crisis can happen any time, so I’m always prepared to jump into action. I monitor the 10 p.m. news and wake up thinking of new ideas for story pitches. The passion for the job carries well past 8 to 5.

 

2. Equal Attention

My husband and I recently adopted a second dog. I quickly learned the importance of giving each one equal attention. It is impossible to pet one dog without the other nudging impatiently. This lesson matters at Candor. We make sure each client gets our full devotion, so nobody feels left out.

 

3. Multiple Personalities

My Lab, Odin, is a couch potato who wants nothing more than to cuddle and watch TV with me. My German shepherd, Ruby, is constantly perched, watching the back door and waiting for me to throw the ball a million times. They have completely different personalities and needs. The same holds true with our clients. Some prefer text messaging, while others need formal email communication. Working in a PR agency requires intuition about what makes people tick. My job is a lot easier once I get to know clients’ needs and personalities.

 

4. Rewards Matter

Everything is easier when treats are involved. My dogs always listen to basic commands. But if they are learning something new or being made to do something they’d rather not, they need an incentive. When Candor is working with new clients, sometimes there is skepticism about a certain tactic or strategy. Once the client starts seeing results, the PR lightbulb goes on, like a pup who realizes what it takes to get a reward. Some of the best days are when I know a client has seen the results of what we can do and they get excited for next steps. This process allows us to build trust.

 

5. It’s Messy

I gather toys. I pick up pieces of toys. Sweep up hair. Clean the nose prints off windows. As a dog parent there are a myriad of messes. As a PR pro, cleaning up takes the form of adjusting messaging that went awry or developing a brand new strategic plan to get company goals back on track. This is when the fun really starts. I get excited when a company engages our firm for a brand or website audit. It’s a lot easier to notice the gaps or areas for improvement when you are on the outside looking in.

I’m fortunate to have found two passions in life: helping clients communicate their stories, and coming home to slobbery dog kisses every day.

3 Ways to Ditch the Press Conference

Candor recently helped a client open a new location. They wanted to generate buzz and excitement.

In the past, we would have suggested blowing up some balloons, ordering a backdrop and a podium. Then, we would hope the press showed up for our news conference (maybe we’d even let them know there would be cookies).

Now, we have much better ways to share big developments.

1) Own the Content – We didn’t wait for reporters to spread the news. Instead, we turned carefully crafted talking points and Q&A materials into blogs, news releases, etc. and posted them to the company’s website.

Along with those tactics, brands can share content on social media channels. Send a digital newsletter.

Basically, we took control of spreading the message, rather than waiting to see if TV stations and newspapers would do the job.

Brand bonus: Allocate a budget for social media advertising to amplify the message to your target audience.

2) Go Live – We also grabbed a mobile phone and broadcast the grand opening live. Hundreds of people watched in real-time, and the video ultimately reached thousands of people. We also interviewed the client on-site and posted the mobile video later in the day.

Facebook and Instagram have launched incredibly successful live video functions. These broadcasts are unedited, authentic and in the moment – which is exactly how most people prefer their content. This tactic also accommodates understaffed newsrooms. Reporters under tight deadlines may be more likely to watch the announcement on their computer rather than traveling to the event.

Brand bonus: Have a staff member play reporter. He or she can pose questions to leadership, give a tour of a new facility or demonstrate the newest product.

3) Tweet About It – In addition to the client’s other channels, we posted to Twitter throughout the day regarding the announcement and grand opening activities. Many reporters use Twitter as a resource to gather information and story ideas, and we generated additional coverage with a few posts and photos.

We issued a press statement in 140-character chunks. Today’s news consumer has a shorter attention span, and many get their news while scrolling through feeds in their spare moments. This change is scary, but it represents the future of our society and presents new opportunities for engaged brands to take control of the narrative.

Brand bonus: Include short videos or creative infographics online to increase interest and social media engagement.

Ultimately, we were successful with our client’s celebration because we didn’t focus on doing things the way they used to be done.

There are many innovative tactics companies can use to share information and announcements with the public instead of relying on traditional media. With new ways to create content, brands must take advantage of digital media channels and rethink their old communication plans to reach audiences and goals.

10 Questions to Ask BEFORE Starting a Design Project

Your supervisor just came to you with a great idea for a new collateral piece. Now what? Where do you start? Do yourself – and your designer – a favor by asking these 10 questions before embarking on any design project. It will save your company valuable time and money.

1. Budget

The very first thing to decide when considering any design is budget. Budget will determine everything from the size, shape and weight of your project. That annual report your boss wants mailed to customers? Consider splurging on great photography to create an online annual report rather than purchasing expensive postage for mailers.

2. Deadline

As a general rule, items such as brochures, mailers and posters need three to five days for design and another week for printing. However, large projects and custom pieces often need up to three weeks for design and two weeks for printing.

3. Audience

Take a moment to envision your target audience. Is this project for a younger or older audience? Male or female? Adjust details on the desired outcome. A brochure for a senior living community might require a large font, while a fact sheet for the zoo would include bright colors and graphics.

4. Brand

Design should ideally adhere to an organization’s established brand standards. Your designer will need this road map to ensure they use the right logo, fonts and colors.

5. Purpose

What is the desired result of your design? Clearly defining a call to action provides the designer creative freedom to artistically illustrate an emotion or idea. We often see this rule play out in political ads which use colorful graphics in red to encourage a “no” vote.

6. Medium

Will this design be created for print, web, email or a mobile app? Each medium has rules. Knowing the intended channel immediately gives the designer an understanding of the size of their canvas and how to format color (see #9) and fonts (see #10).

7. Style

Choosing the style of a design is relatively easy once audience and purpose are determined. Should the piece be formal and elegant or artsy and whimsical? Should the finished design be sleek and glossy or plain? It’s important the look and feel of the design match the overall message.

8. Graphics

Knowing your budget will help determine whether to hire a photographer or buy stock images. Limited budget? It’s time to get creative with use of color, shapes or readily available photos.

9. Colors

Color affects mood and tone, so it’s important to understand the research of color psychology. To really confuse matters, there are also Pantone colors and web-safe or HEX colors.
Side note on color for print vs. web: Designers work with color modes referred to as CMYK and RGB. Anything designed for the web (or anything with a screen) is in RGB (red, green, blue) mode. Anything dealing with printed material is in CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) mode.

10. Fonts

Finding the right font is challenging, but it’s often the final touch that brings the piece together. When selecting a typeface for young children or the visually impaired, sans serifs are preferable. Its simplified letterforms are easier to recognize.

Additionally, not all fonts work well for web or email. Each computer has a different operating system with certain fonts installed. There are a handful of web safe or “universal” fonts that should be on every computer – so the way it’s seen on the screen is the way your audience will view it as well.

Asking these 10 questions before every design project will ensure an efficient and cost-effective product. By thinking through the logistics (printing, paper, distribution) and desired results you can avoid costly revisions or a failed campaign. The last thing anyone wants is to spend weeks fine-tuning a beautifully designed piece and then find out you can’t afford to print it.

Ralf Speth, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover, sums it up like this, “If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design.”