Monday, July 27, 2015

Free milk and Band-Aids

This is not a tale about grade school kids, despite the headline.

Camille* and I began a conversation at a professional dinner. We hadn't met previously, but I knew the not-for-profit agency she headed. She liked a few things I said about strengthening their external communications, took my business card, and promised to call.

Image by Kaz, from Pixabay,
via Wikimedia Commons
Reaching out to Camille over the next few weeks yielded no response. Then, one night, about eight weeks later, she phoned to ask for ideas to better market her agency's new counseling service. I shared a few thoughts in writing -- it took about an hour -- and she indicated we should meet soon and move toward a working relationship.

Nothing happened, even after multiple follow-ups from me.

A few months later, around 8 pm on a Friday, Camille called in a panic. An ex-client of the agency was frustrated with its policies, and his unhappy friend posted disparaging remarks on the agency's Facebook page. Camille didn't know how to respond, if she should respond, and was worried about negative fallout or unwanted media attention.

I counseled her, and offered to help develop a PR strategy to deal with similar social media issues. Camille promised to get back to me in a couple of weeks.

You know what happened next. Silence. Nothing.

Most executive directors of not-for-profits are busy. I get that. So, too, are PR people. Especially those of us trying to be responsive to clients and potential clients -- and run a business. At some point, a client needs to buy -- or at least rent -- the cow, instead of trying to get the milk for free.

Camille's problems aren't with her not-for-profit's branding or Facebook page. It's her inability to take a longer view, follow up, and do what she says she'll do.

PR is about relationships as much as media relations and persuasion, but Camille's more interested in snagging short-term remedies as "band-aids." And not paying for them.

Inevitably, the work Camille's agency does will earn headlines, some of which may trigger controversy. She'll need a PR counsel to help strategize and execute their key messages.

And when that happens, Camille will find she can't get the milk for free.

*A pseudonym.