How PR people have become the problem solvers for clients – Ginny Paton, House PR

There was a time when PR agencies were called on somewhere towards the end of a product launch or a campaign, with the simple role of calling the newspapers.

These days, thankfully, that kind of 11th hour work is largely over. Consultancies like the one that I lead advise our clients on a broad range of issues on a daily basis. Such is the range of advice that we handle, it does beggar the question of what PR firms are truly FOR, any more.

My view: “PR agency people are moving firmly into the position of all round problem solvers for their clients. That’s someone who is the first port of call when a CEO is considering how to handle anything from a crisis to a business launch. They can give important viewpoints on business strategy or new corporate priorities, as well.” – says Ginny Paton

It’s work that is increasingly similar to that which is handled by management consultants, but with the added creative skills that give so much colour to our response.

Yes, of course the root of much of our work is in the fact that we can communicate effectively with the media. But, we can bring those same skills of analysis to aide our clients in many other ways.

To be trustworthy in this role of problem solver, PR people need to be channel-neutral in the advice that they are giving to their clients. No more can we advise that the best response is traditional media relations. We need to be able to suggest advertising or direct marketing, or anything else, if that’s how best the issue should be handled.

The reason that PR is well positioned to take on this role over all the other people advising businesses, is that our understanding of all the angles is second to none. We have the abilities of analysis, the general awareness of the drivers that affect our clients’ businesses – and the potential pitfalls too.

We have our fingers on the pulse of the news agenda, and we can get our heads around a 360 degree marketing strategy.

And, most importantly, we can oversee all of those things holistically.

That’s why, in recently years, my agency has advised on the shortlisting of advertising firms and the recruitment of clients’ senior staff. But we’ve also been invited to help on numerous business plans. Our clients trust us, and that’s because we get under the surface of their businesses.

House PR provides sound problem solving services for all of our clients. They might not always like the advice that we give them – but it’s the right advice, regardless of whether it involves media relations or any of those other typical PR activities.

That might seem surprising, but only if your outlook on PR is a little dated. The PR agency can be a guiding hand for business, and it directly impacts on the bottom line.

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How PR can take the lead – Ginny Paton, House PR, London

Ginny Paton House PR
Ginny Paton

‘The term “play nicely” is often used to describe the happy collaboration between all of the marketing disciplines when they are brought together by a mutual client.’ – says Ginny Paton on House PR in London

What does this suggest? That we’re all little children who can’t treat each other with respect, let alone work together professionally? The implication is that we’re jealous of the share of budget they’re getting which might otherwise be boosting our own figures.

To be honest, that impression is just plain wrong. There have been numerous times when I’ve sat around the boardroom table with creatives and digital experts from the leading firms, to discuss our mutual clients. There have been times when such meetings have not only been insightful – they’ve been truly inspiring encounters.

We’ve had the chance to share ideas that cross the boundaries of marketing disciplines, while also learning and teaching a little too. Priceless.

Such encounters are a part of the job, and increasingly so. The best campaigns will always work across all the strands of marketing. I really think that PR agencies should be taking a close interest in their clients’ broader approach to marketing, and they should be fighting to get involved. The days of the PR silo are over.

So, make it your mission to work with other partners to deliver truly boundless campaigns. People bandy around the word ‘integrated’ all the time – but many PR agencies still aren’t getting it right.

Oh, I’ve had some interesting experiences in those meetings too – every discipline brings along its own jargon and attitudes, and that can lead to some amusing ‘lost in translation’ moments.

But the important thing is that we’ve been a part of some creative ideas that were truly successful, and which worked right across all platforms.

So, going back to the start of this blog – PR consultants shouldn’t be thinking about playing nicely. They should be thinking about how they take lead of the discussion. This is a challenge, when we’re sat alongside the impressively-budgeted ad firms.

But that’s where our creativity comes in – that’s our bargaining power, and our way of gaining trust around the table. So, think big by harnessing your unique skills to take control of the multi-agency meeting.