Should You Guarantee PR Results to Your Clients?

Oct 18, 2021

What is up with those supposed PR firms “guaranteeing” features for clients? Have you ever worked with a client who totally expected certain PR results to be delivered? Even worse, have you felt pressured to guarantee results in order to land those high-end dream clients? 

Every PR pro, especially in the beginning, struggles with the question of whether or not to guarantee results. 

Spoiler alert: I have STRONG opinions on this… and after running my agency for over 16 years, I may just know a thing or two. 

How To Educate Your Clients About PR Results The Right Way

Feeling good about the PR results you deliver really starts with educating your clients. 

Remember: most people (even clients) aren’t super familiar with PR or how it works, so it’s our job as service providers to make sure everything’s crystal clear. 

Start Explaining How Results Work In The Discovery Call Process

You should always state in your contracts that results aren’t guaranteed. But you should bring this topic up even before you’re at the contract stage!

Mention this in your discovery calls and conversations with potential clients. By now, hopefully, you know that vetting your clients is incredibly important for LOTS of reasons. One big reason is gauging whether a client will be easy to work with! 

When you meet prospective clients, you can instinctively tell whether there are any strong pitch angles. That’s not always the case. But a lot of times, right off the bat, you’ll know whether a client has anything truly newsworthy and whether they’ll be easy to pitch effectively. 

The real skill in PR is being able to sustain media coverage once you’ve covered the basics. That's where a good, creative PR agency comes into its own. Feeling confident in your ability to create PR results starts with feeling confident that your client will be, well...pitchable!

Make Sure Clients Know That PR Results Aren’t Guaranteed (and That It’s An Industry Standard Practice)

Not guaranteeing results is an industry standard—make sure your clients know this! You need to explain that there is no way to guarantee the quantity or location of placements. 

It's also important to articulate how a media placement is different than other forms of media, like ads. 

With an ad, you pay a specified amount of money, and you get complete control over its creativity and messaging, and you'll also know where and when your ad will place. 

With PR, you are at the mercy of the journalist, but the rewards can be very high. That’s why there’s really no possible way to make a guarantee. 

But a good PR firm will also do other things besides just generate features, like: 

  • Helping to shape company messaging
  • Leveraging brand-appropriate outreach programs to reach target audiences
  • Counseling or directing company staff on social media and other marketing efforts

A media hit is not the only indicator of a successful PR campaign — make sure your clients understand the full scope of the services you provide!

Related: How Branding and PR (and Other Elements of Marketing) All Work Together

Help Your Clients Establish Realistic, Attainable Expectations

It’s your job to help your clients establish realistic, attainable expectations. When you’re working with a client and determining who to pitch a story to, it helps to set realistic goals!

A startup that wants to be in Forbes, for example, may have to start with the lower-hanging fruit. Once that story is secured, you can pursue industry vertical coverage. And so on.

If you promise Good Morning America right out of the gate, you’re setting yourself up for problems down the road!

Related: How to Get Your Client Quoted as an Expert Source

Report Your PR Results Consistently (and Know How To Present Them)

Reporting your results is SO important. After all, your clients aren’t necessarily monitoring what you’re working on. The frequency of updates (and how you present those results) is up to you. 

How do you report results if you haven’t secured any features yet? Think about all of the work you’re doing and how you can communicate that to the client in a future-oriented way. What results are these steps going to help facilitate?

By the way: inside The Agency Accelerator, we dive deep into all things reporting! Check it out if you’re ready for a little extra support in this area. 

Educate Your Clients About Pitching and The News Cycle

Consistently remind your clients that true earned media requires a level of sophisticated pitching. It’s important that clients know that even if a media outlet shows interest, nothing is guaranteed until it’s printed or published! 

On that note, definitely avoid spilling the beans about potential PR results before they’re 100% happening. 

Even the best PR pros have experienced the devastation of a press feature that feels like it’s absolutely going to happen completely falling apart. It even happened to me! I had a client who was 100% going to be featured in Oprah’s Favorite Things...until they pulled the plug for reasons totally out of our control. It really hurt, but it was a valuable lesson: don’t let clients behind the curtain until things are really happening. 

You should also educate your clients about how the news cycle works. 

There’s no longer such a thing as a slow news day. The news cycle is moving faster than ever. There are more outlets that work around the clock and more breaking news stories than we’ve ever seen. Things are always subject to change!

That doesn’t mean a story won’t ever appear, but a publication schedule shifts according to whatever news may be breaking. Make sure that your clients understand that this is totally out of your (or any PR pro’s) control.

Related: What Do You Do When a Media Opportunity Falls Through

Hone Your Pitching Skills

If you’re not feeling confident about generating PR results, especially if you’re new, the BEST thing you can do is hone your pitching skills. Try to learn everything you can about the best ways to craft great pitches!

You need to be able to create highly relevant, tailored, strategic pitches for every client, journalist, and media outlet you pitch. It takes a lot of skill, and honing those skills really helps you feel confident in the PR results you’ll be able to generate. 

The Pitch Lab is the perfect place to do just this! You’ll learn everything you need to know about pitching...and you’ll access monthly execution plans to help you plan ahead. It’s literally a game-changer. 

Remember: your skills and expertise are what you bring to the table. 

Of course, generating PR results is the goal...but a LOT is out of our control. Do as much as you can to strengthen your skills, build your confidence, and educate your clients, and you’ll set yourself up for total success when it comes to PR!