/ practice / Stereotypes of clients - how to neutralize their influence
6 August 2010
Stereotypes of clients - how to neutralize their influence

Sometimes PR-agencies face negative attitude toward PR-services per se, because there are some erroneous stereotypes. When choosing PR-partner, adoption of promotion program, approval of the first releases and running initial activities, both an agency and its client neutralize the impact of such stereotypes and build new beliefs jointly.
On successful experience in combating stereotypes of clients about PR-services tells Valery Kureyko, CEO of strategic communications company Publicity Creating

What stereotypes about working with PR-agency decision-makers might have?

The source of stereotypes is often lack of work experience with a professional PR-agency. For instance, the work with spin-doctors and advertisers is very different both in objectives and in process itself. Usually, advertising agency at the beginning of cooperation prepares creative products, media plan, and then puts these products in the media. At the level of approval of commercials, advertising layouts, media plans, charts, diagrams, reports, etc. the contact between a client and an agency is very close. After that comes the second period of the realization, when there is an advertising campaign. The duration of advertising campaigns is from one month to one year, and at this time there is no need in such a close contact.
What happens in a PR-agency? The initial stage reminds work with an advertising campaign – there is approval of key strategic products: information model, communication plan, etc. What happens next? Underway, but we do not work with the same product continuously. You cannot write a press release, and then place it in the media during next six months. Likewise, we are practicing "placement" of articles or other materials only once, without any repeats. And here emerges the question as to permanent contact of client’s experts and agency: 2-3-5 - releases, 2-3 articles, press event, corporate event – it is normal "set" of activities during a PR campaign and a project. All of that is not only necessary to develop and approve, but also to coordinate actions in the course of underway.
When we start working with a client in the long-term project, a preparatory stage is particularly important, and therefore in this period we often communicate, consult, co-ordinate schemes and algorithms of future actions. Functions and responsibilities are clearly defined and documented. Therefore, clients note that Publicity Creating is “technological" company, and the vast majority step in our proposed schemes, understanding their benefits to business.
A client is involved into the process, PR-activity becomes conscious - and stereotypes, as mentioned, disappear at the first stage of cooperation.
Publicity Creating is constantly working and well-organized "machine" and we try to sensitize, to prepare a client to the intensive work. If clients have worked with PR-agency earlier, they are already "advanced" in this respect, they have something to compare, and therefore it is much easier to work for both parties. I can admit that all clients, without exception, are pleased with expert process, comfortable working conditions with the agency, and results of cooperation.

How to convince potential clients that the work of PR-agency is clear and specific?

To be short and the point, it's this: measurable objectives, reports on client’s request, getting marketing or reputation result in a specified period.
But in general – performance standards help herein. We start out work with agreement on a common vision of future communication campaign and registration of legal documents, and then work through all the activities for the coming period. There are clients who can plan something for a month or quarter. We usually make a plan for a client for six months or a year, indicating types of activities and quantitative and qualitative indicators. Once a client observes it, the stereotype associated with amorphous PR-activity disappears. A client knows a clear plan of activities, and it is easy to control the work process. Understanding of that a PR-campaign runs according to a plan helps a client to feel confident.
On the other hand, there is a stereotype that the agency cannot always perform a large amount of work. However Publicity Creating constantly proves in practice that it is possible to perform a large amount of work, to work in intensive, and thus planned, mode. That is, after a month of work a client does not ask such questions, as really sees a clear scheme of work.

How does Publicity Creating fighting the stereotype that PR is too expensive?

In terms of investments PR is generally cheaper than advertising. Many projects of PR-activity require money in 2-3 times less than direct advertising. And yet, for most purposes PR is more effective than other marketing communications. Moreover, not only in solving reputational problems, but also marketing ones.
But hereby PR is much more versatile form of communication. In PR every product is individual, and falls exactly on target.
Therefore, when making a decision on the budget, you should consider not only the funds that are needed to "spend" (more correctly - "invest"), but also what you get as a result.
In recent years, PR in many markets is an undeniable competitive advantage if it is carried out adequately and targeted.

Ukrainian and network agencies – what’s better in the eye of clients?

Clients, who work around the world, can work in Ukraine with a network agency, because in fact they know very little about Ukrainian agencies and cannot assess the level of local operators.
Nevertheless, we, for instance, work with representatives of companies from Poland, Germany, USA, Japan and other countries, with Russian business ... Why? Because these companies have studied the situation, met with the most experienced players on the market, and have concluded that they would receive a high quality of the national operator, and thus – more loyal service fee.
Prices of Ukrainian operator (judging by the latest tenders) may be more competitive from 50% to 200% for the same amount of work.
To date, Ukrainian agencies, which are in the top five, can provide quality and service, absolutely. After all, in the not foreigners work in network agencies, but the same Ukrainian experts. Nevertheless, the approaches of professional Ukrainian agencies may be more efficient, since better knowledge of the mentality, market situation, and local conditions. Both managers and experts of the agency are located in Ukraine; there are fewer approvals, high efficiency in making decisions and actions. All this affects the benefit of getting a positive result. Major domestic players are have been working for 8-10-12 years already, have gained practices, there is market specialization, significant number of competent consultants.

How to overcome the stereotype that experienced agencies are stronger in traditional PR-methods, and young ones – in working with new media?

Is there such a stereotype already? Well, apparently, "new media" and "young people" are consonant words, concepts. On the other hand, experienced agencies in Ukraine during the previous two years have closely observed the formation of new-media sphere, assessing the prospects of this direction. And when it became clear under what tasks and how it is possible to use social networks and other new-media among PR-communications (we defined it in a series of test projects), Publicity Creating has included this direction into the list of instruments. Our experts did not initially considered PR2.0 as a panacea that can replace all other forms, and this opinion was confirmed. At the same time, we cannot underestimate the impact of the Internet and social media on the world of communication – appear new forms, new possibilities, and we certainly offer them to our clients.
By the way, we have tested on ourselves - the company has a strong presence in key social networks, has a corporate blog, makes use of interactive forms for events. I can sound one observation - to work effectively in new media and in the Internet as a whole, above all, you require not technical skills or experience in blogging, but sufficient number of verified information in various forms, plus development of key messages and a balanced plan of activities.

Some clients believe that PR is "black dirty methods", and also often confuse PR and propaganda. What do you answer in such cases?

I believe that “black PR” does not exist. In sense that if someone was cheated or belied – then call it "deception" and "slander." How does PR come into the picture? There is no a term "black journalism" ... And similar "stamps" unfairly cast a shadow on those who work in PR honestly, ethically and professionally. Although, the time will put everything and everyone into perspective. Whatever positions occupy the individuals who practice unethical PR practices today – they will get deserts.
We surely prove by our work that professional PR is a competitive advantage for our clients. We work with clients who know that PR is a modern, very important type of communication, which really helps to solve marketing and reputational problems. Moreover, it helps to reach mutual understanding between different groups of people, to harmonize the interests of business and society.

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