Practical advice from a PR expert who specializes in helping creative firms get the word out.
I’ve had the pleasure of working with and recommending Kristien Brada-Thompson at Priority PR many times over the years. Because Priority PR is one of but a few PR agencies in our industry that specializes in generating buzz for creative firms, studios and production companies, I love Kristien’s unique perspective.
What is the role of PR in your firm? Sure, every creative firm dreams of getting great press, exposure and buzz. But the reality is, I’ve never met a firm that generates consistent and effective PR in-house. With that in mind, how do you know if – or when – your firm is ready to hire a PR agency? And when you take the plunge, how will you make the most of what a PR agency has to offer?
I sat down with Kristien to ask these questions and more.
Joel: What types of clients do you serve in the entertainment industry?
Kristien: We have served this important segment of the industry since Jeff Pryor launched the agency as Pryor & Associates in 1990.
Jeff recognized that nobody was promoting the promoters – the marketers whose short-form “storytelling” was arguably as compelling as the content it promoted. We saw an opportunity to build valuable exposure for the creative innovators whose promotional campaigns help drive tune-in on cable and broadcast TV, and today, on all platforms.
Since then, the agency (now known as Priority PR) has represented leading promo houses, broadcast designers and production companies. We were also the agency of record for PromaxBDA for many years.
Joel: What are the most common misconceptions creative firms have about PR?
First, a good PR agency should be able to minimize misconceptions by communicating clearly with clients (creative firms or otherwise), developing solid strategy and establishing achievable objectives. We should also go into the process as educators, realizing that each client will have a different understanding of how it works, and it’s up to us to help illuminate those nuances that have the potential to create confusion.
“Effective PR cannot appear blatantly self-serving.”
With that understood, perhaps the biggest misconception we encounter with companies newer to the process is that PR and advertising are one in the same. While they certainly serve the same ultimate purpose of conveying our client’s value in the marketplace, PR and advertising achieve that goal in completely different ways. Effective PR, for instance, cannot appear blatantly self-serving. You want to say Company A is great? Take out an ad. If you want a killer feature story that brings readers to the same conclusion, but with guts and greater authenticity, let us pitch your story the right way to the right outlets.
Joel: I’ve seen many creative firms jump into PR prematurely. When is a creative firm really ready for PR?
Kristien: Before a company engages a PR agency, its executives should have a clear understanding of what they hope to gain from the effort. For instance, they should approach the prospect of a publicity campaign with all the W’s answered:
- WHO do you ultimately want to reach?
- WHAT do you want them to do?
- WHY do you want them to do it?
- WHEN do you want it to happen?
A good PR agency will then be able determine HOW to get there.
Without this understanding in place, a campaign may fall short or miss the mark entirely.
Joel: What level of involvement do you need from your clients for your efforts to be successful?
Kristien: Successful PR is a two-way street for client and publicist. To tell a company’s story and achieve meaningful publicity in doing so, we need to establish an open, collaborative dialogue with access to information. We would rather a client share too much than keep us in radio silence hoping for the best. After all, it’s our job to review everything, determine what is/is not newsworthy and ultimately develop those juicy story nuggets that translate into positive buzz. Keep in mind that we’re constantly analyzing the industry for trends and hot-button issues, so what may not seem like a story to you could actually be a great hook, in the right context.
“What may not seem like a story to you could actually be a great hook, in the right context.”
When we sign a new client, one of the first things we do is arrange regular meetings and develop a dynamic agenda to track ideas and progress. We’ll work around our clients’ busy schedules, but the idea is to keep a constant dialogue flow that strengthens the potential for success. The client truly ready for PR is willing to communicate collaboratively like this and clue us into all key facets of the business.
Joel: When PR really works, what happens?
Kristien: When PR really works, that needle is moved… in a good way! The phone rings, the door opens, and you realize you’ve built a consistent, positive reputation in your industry. Your peers begin to notice and congratulate you for good ink. They’re secretly jealous.
The majority of our business comes from referrals. 😉
Joel: Can you describe in more detail what ‘moving the needle’ looks like?
The most obvious way this happens is when one of our clients gets new business as a direct result of PR. The phone rings because a network’s decision makers have just read about that client or their recent work in the trades. They’ve seen the “Hot Spots,” project features and/or published thought leadership and actually mention it as the catalyst for making contact.
Less obvious, but equally important, is the consistent build of positive exposure for a client that simply keeps that company top of mind among peers and perspective business partners. It’s the perception of authenticity that can’t be realized with advertising alone… e.g., the power of a well-placed editorial feature to enhance a client’s value proposition, with continued coverage strengthening the brand over time.
Joel: How long does it take to see results from PR? How important is consistency?
Kristien: Consistency is everything. The best PR efforts keep the buzz going year-round and attack it from every angle – news dissemination, thought leadership, trend/feature stories, social media, events and relationship building. While the timing of results may vary from case to case, a full campaign with all cylinders firing should begin to generate results fairly quickly, provided that agency and client have established the collaborative communication I mentioned above.