The other 90% of the PR effort iceberg

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This is the next entry in our “Best of” series, in which we venture deep into the vault to replay blog opinion and insight that has withstood the test of time. Today’s post hails from April 2008. We welcome your feedback.

By Linda Forrest

Today, I’m doing a lot of work that’s invisible to the client’s naked eye. Having previously posted on database maintenance, a “behind the scenes” task that is incredibly important to the integrity of the PR campaign, I thought I would post a few other tasks that your agency is regularly undertaking on your behalf, invisibly.

As we’re nearing the end of launch campaigns for some new clients, I’m starting to get a feel for the full range of opportunities that exist in the mid- and long-term for these clients. This means I’m researching the published opportunities available in editorial calendars for target publications for these clients, establishing a list of relevant tradeshows and conferences where company executives could be spokespeople or where there might be value in attending for business development purposes (let’s hope they bear no resemblance to the cautionary tales mentioned yesterday), and generally getting a feel for the PR opportunity outside of the Tier 1, or most influential, media with whom we had in-depth conversations on our clients’ behalf during the launch phase and within which we have a firm handle on the opportunities forthcoming.

This research will culminate in just a few short pages in the report to the client, but it takes a considerable amount of effort to aggregate the relevant data, weed through it for appropriateness and formulate it into a cohesive spreadsheet or report. Yet, all of this work is truly “behind the scenes” and typically, clients just see the finished product in the report and aren’t in the least aware of the hours we put in to get the raw data.

Once we’ve got a fulsome view of the opportunities and have discussed with our clients which ones they would like to learn more about, the process again becomes about the behind-the-scenes work of sussing out who is writing the piece on the editorial calendar, what their angles will be, what sort of shape the piece will take and then determining whether there is an intersection between where our client`s interests lie and the particular piece. It’s inevitable that sometimes, these pursuits go nowhere because the client is not a fit for whatever reason. Still, all the data gathering and other hard work up to that point had to be done and is billable work. Like in the entertainment industry, there’s no such thing as an overnight sensation. A lot of hard work goes into getting results. Sometimes it pays off, and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s as simple as that.

The process is similar for speaking opportunities – sometimes your spokesperson would be a good fit, sometimes they’re disqualified for any number of reasons. A considerable amount of hours were used, but unless there were results achieved, the work is invisible to the client. Because so many of our clients are such focused propositions, an immense amount of qualification goes into establishing target media and conferences for our clients. Knowing the space and having a firm understanding where the opportunities are most likely to lie reduces the amount of negative outcomes at the end of the exercise, but like the little duck calmly floating along in the pond, your agency’s legs are kicking like crazy underneath the surface in order to keep the program swimming along on a forward trajectory.

I would be interested in the input of the other PR practitioners reading this post and invite them to add in the comments to the list of tasks that, although integral to the PR campaign, cannot be seen or measured by the client. What percentage of your time is spent on these tasks, versus the ones that the client can see?

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