Great expectations

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By Danny Sullivan

Nobody in PR really likes to talk about managing expectations (we’d all like to believe that we can get any story on the front page of the Wall Street Journal) but it is a vital component of a successful program, whether you’re client-side or with an agency.

The fact is that every story has a natural news value and, while it’s important for PR people to understand what this value is, it’s even more important that the client understands it too. Without mutual agreement about what level of media traction can be expected, you’re flying blind and all too likely to crash.

Determining the level of expectation to set can be tricky. An experienced PR practitioner should have a good idea of what constitutes a successful story, but it can sometimes be challenging to cut through the marketing rhetoric that is assembled and wholeheartedly believed by technology companies. Terms like “world’s first,” “fastest” and ”smallest” are great to put alongside a new product, but are they accurate? It’s always beneficial to do some digging and ask the difficult questions early on, rather than finding out the hard way later.

Of course, even after careful analysis, it’s still possible that a story will not make the kind of impact you had hoped for. This happens, but if you’ve done the research and asked the questions, and been transparent with the client at all times, then you have given yourself the best possible chance of avoiding a painful post-mortem.

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