ginny paton, House pr, public relations london

PR consultants – the modern problem solvers – by Ginny Paton

Remember when the job of the PR agency was simply to come along near the end of a campaign to make some calls to the national newspapers?

Thank God those days are now largely over – agencies like House PR (Ginny Paton is MD) are far more likely to be giving insights as part of their ongoing day to day activities for their clients. This is a hugely varied role, so it leads us to the question of what the true purpose of a PR consultancy is, these days.

Well if you ask me, the PR consultant is uniquely placed to be an all-round solver of client problems. PR professionals of today can and should be the first point of contact for the CEO or the MD, providing insights on handling crises, sorting a launch across diverse media, helping with a new corporate strategy, or informing business priorities.

That’s why PR consultancies are frequently going after the same account work as management consultants – but we have one advantage. We bring our creative skills to the party.

While we come at our work from a background of understanding comms and the press, we bring our analytical skills to bear on many more strategic activities than gaining media coverage.

But a key point to bear in mind is that we can only earn that role by being channel-neutral about the advice we hand out. We could advise them to spend their money on advertising rather than PR, for instance. Or digital marketing. Or a combination of all three.

Why do I think that the PR consultant is best placed to take on this job, rather than those other advisors surrounding a brand? Because our range of awareness is very broad. PR people have to be analytical and they have to have a strong understanding of business drivers and the pitfalls that could occur to a company. But they also need to know their current affairs, and their way around a marketing strategy.

And what’s most important, they can give consideration to all of these issues in a holistic manner.

Recently, House PR has been asked by clients to suggest ad firms, to take part in internal recruitment meetings, and we have given advice to CEOs on all sorts of business plans. That’s because our clients trust us, and we know their businesses implicitly.

We at House PR take a problem-solving approach. We give the best possible answer to a question, even if the answer isn’t what you’d consider to be traditional PR.

That might seem odd, but only if your view of PR is severely outdated. If you open your mind to the capabilities of the modern PR consultancy, you’ll be impressed by how it can enhance businesses of all kinds.

ginny paton

Ginny Paton – House PR Managing Director

When it come to pitching – be honest about the teamGinny Paton

I head a story recently about the comms team of a well-known brand which was set to meet with its PR firm – one which it was paying a significant fee.

At the meeting, the consultants sat around the table were all young – in their early twenties. The outraged comms director sent them all packing, with the order that the agency CEO should be on the phone ASAP to explain himself.

The agency leader was soon on the phone, who apologised profusely and explained the junior attendance on a sudden bout of sickness among the senior team.

While I sympathise with the young staffers who were treated so roughly, I can see the comms director’s point. It’s a problem that frequently causes issues between agencies and in-house teams. The top people turn up to pitch, but within just a short period of time the client only seems to be seeing the account executives.

At House PR we work hard to avoid this situation. The team that pitches is the team that that the client gets. This is so important – get it wrong and you’ve ruined your relationship with the client on Day One, and your chances of making it work in the long term are severely limited.

But that’s not to say there’s a problem with young people. You people are a hugely important element of our agency. We depend on them for so much – creativity, passion and there’s the fact that they truly get digital.

But they work best as part of a team – a team that mixes in a range of senior consultants, who can bring strategic thinking and a background of impressive campaigns to draw on. They bring with them a broad understanding of channels and techniques and how to use them to great effect.

There’s a few things that clients are looking for when they go into a pitch. On the senior side, they want knowledge – specialised knowledge which shows a sophisticated brain at work. Alongside that, they want account managers with experience of comparable accounts to their own. And they want to meet a day-to-day contact who they can trust, and who they feel can work with on a personal level.

What has become very important is the value that clients put on the specifics. They want to know how much staffing full time equivalences will be put on the account. Nail down this information and keep your promises, and you stand a good chance of the relationship working in the long run.

No one likes to be misled – and imagine how you’d feel if you hired an agency which didn’t keep its promises.

And you wouldn’t want anyone to think of your work like that, would you?

By Ginny Paton – 19/07/2015