Not to scale: Working with PR clients of any size

22 Apr 2016

“I moved to Hong Kong for a 6 month stint, but it’s been 7 years and I’m still here. So I decided to start something up recently…” Who among us hasn’t had a conversation that went along these lines?

As a land of opportunity, Hong Kong has a healthy mix of start-ups and large multinational corporations. So what does that mean for PR and communications in the city? From the outside, there’s no difference: regardless of the size of your company, if you want people to know who you are and what you offer, a communications strategy is key. As a PR professional, it’s important to understand who your client is and how to give them what they need, even if they don’t know it themselves yet.

So how do you tailor a communications strategy for different sized companies? Here are a few things I’ve learned over my career that are important to having a successful campaign for both large and small companies. Making your client happy is as simple as 1, 2, 3…

Understand your client
When working with a smaller company, you have to remember that this business is the client’s baby, and you are probably dealing directly with the owner. (Warning: emotions can often run high.) The brand is something they have put a lot of effort into, and not without risk, and they are depending on you for your expert advice. You need to speak to your client with confidence, nurturing them through the strategy. Don’t be shy to say you don’t agree with something. If you have a valid reason, they hadn’t seen it your way before. With everything else on their mind, it’s easier to have someone on side that can run things smoothly with a simple yes or no.

With corporates, PR teams usually work hand in hand with the marketing manager, so making decisions can sometimes take longer as final approval needs to come from the top. What is most important is clear communications between the two teams, and an approach to information sharing that works for both sides. If you can guarantee clarity, you’re already one step closer to a happy client. In addition, be humble enough to know when you’re out of your depth and need work together to make things happen.

Identify the outcomes
With a small business, desired outcomes are often quite straightforward: it’s usually to build awareness and to familiarise an audience with the product or service, through both buzz and footfall. Word of mouth, social media strategies and traditional PR often are key strategic pillars to ensure a positive ROI.

With larger corporations, getting to the bottom of what the desired outcome is can be a more time-consuming process. It’s not always just about one product or service, but can be about the reputation of all the brands in the portfolio. Working closely with the marketing team with open communications channels is key to ensuring you have all the information needed to make a full analysis of the situation so you can deliver the results they want.

Accurate monitoring and reporting
It’s best to have a monitoring and reporting system in place that is applicable to all clients. Clients are looking for outcomes from the investment they put into PR, regardless of the size of the company.

Here are a few pointers to a good report:

  • Listen to all conversations about the brand in the market – not just the ones generated by the company – to ensure the client has a full picture of their position in the market. This includes print, online and social
  • Read reviews and articles, making sure you’re on top of any mistakes, and where you can have them fixed. It’s better that you tell the client there’s a mistake rather than them asking you about it
  • Explain how the coverage was generated – because it’s usually due to your hard work!
  • Figure out what the numbers are trying to teach you. Analyse the results to see what achieved the best results in the market, and what could be done better next time
  • Highlight how predetermined objectives are being met, or what can be done to improve the results
  • Always say what the next steps should be based on your report. Sometimes you might need to change things around to ensure the best results

Regardless of the size of your company, if you want people to know who you are and what you offer, a communications strategy is key

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