How to Confidently Explain the Value of PR to Prospective Clients ft. Amanda ProsciaDec 12, 2023
“Whether you're after awareness or investments or employees or partners… PR can drive all of those goals through other people saying you're good.”
Today, we’re sitting down with Amanda Proscia, co-founder of Lightspeed Public Relations and Marketing!
Lightspeed Public Relations and Marketing is a New York City-based agency focused on promoting innovation in areas like healthcare, financial services, and consumer electronics. Before starting Lightspeed in 2013, Amanda worked in various other agencies and businesses, spanning from the very large to the very small.
An unexpected part of her experience has been fielding thousands of questions about public relations. Many of them come from business leaders who would benefit from a PR program of their own… if they just understood what PR is! She is also the author of PR Confidential: Unlocking the Secrets to Creating a Powerful Public Image.
Tell us a little more about yourself!
Sure, absolutely. I've been doing PR for over 30 years now — a lot of different types of PR. I did a lot of agency work — boutique, big agency… kind of everything in between in a lot of different industries.
And then, after all that time, my current business partner and I decided we'd seen enough of the in-house and agency side. We felt like we wanted to give it a try ourselves, so we founded Lightspeed about 10 years ago.
How did you and your partner at Lightspeed settle on tech as your focus area?
I did a fair amount of tech along the way, but my business partner did almost exclusively tech. He was head of the tech practice at Edelman, New York for about 10 years. Then, he went in-house at Samsung and developed a reputation as a tech communicator.
When we discussed how to develop our particular way of doing PR, it was just more and more exciting to think about what we could do for tech clients and all the emerging tech coming out and the different ways to talk about it. It just seemed to be the perfect marriage of our skills.
What have you seen as the most commonly asked questions from prospective clients, and how have you come up with the best answers for them?
I think probably the first one, and everybody will relate to this, is how quickly can you get me results? That's always the biggest one. And we tell them, hey, we're called Lightspeed for a reason! We don't drag our feet! But I'm sure every PR person would say that. It's not like an advertising plan where you have to go through discovery and all the different ramp-up pieces, but that's what they all want to know.
Of course, after that, once we get a little bit more dug into what PR does and can do for them, I think the number one question is how do I know if I have news? We can't just call the media and give them the boilerplate from your website. That's not going to make news. Reporters are savvy. They have to put something in that their readers will care about. To answer this question, my agency came up with something we call “The Three” — which is innovation, insight, or impact.
- You have news if your story is an innovation story, like if you have some new tech or a new way of doing something.
- You might have a story if there’s fresh insight — like thought leadership — or if your leaders can lend some commentary or expertise on a subject.
- Impact means your company had a significant year or is doing something important or newsworthy. Have you changed the paradigm of how your work is done?
All those kinds of things give reporters newsworthy pieces to put in front of their readers.
How do you convert quickly and then build on those longer stories? What does it realistically look like for you and your business?
Obviously, things have to build. All PR people know media loves media, so if you start with the trades or different verticals where you know that you're going to get interest at the beginning, you can build on that to get higher and higher-tier publications or general interest.
Or, if you're placing an executive, and you get them talking within their spheres first and then climb that staircase, as we call it, that builds and builds and builds to more and more top-tier media.
That does, of course, take time. It’s usually a staircase, but we like to joke with our clients that sometimes people have a key card to the elevator. If you have a spectacular story — like, if I had represented ChatGPT or something like that, they would've definitely had a key card to the elevator. They would've gone straight up to the top floors, but that is very rare.
Have you ever had to tell a client that maybe they don't even have access to the staircase because they're a little stale or there's not a lot that's newsworthy?
Yes, actually. We have that conversation a lot. It's not easy to tell people, but they're generally grateful when we're more honest upfront and tell them we see potential.
There's a lot you could develop. There are things that maybe you have a data story you're not considering, or maybe you have an executive who could rise above others in your industry.
We've done plenty of clients where they were entirely that insight, where we got them commentary or trend jacking opportunities or inserted into other news breaking news. We've had quite a bit of luck with those, but they do generally have to be built on something different. Something that will give a reporter something meaningful to dig into.
When a client comes to us, and they don't have something we feel will get any kind of legitimate play, we tell them that. We say, I'm sorry, you might have better luck with advertising or a marketing program, or if you develop this particular angle of your business or decide to go in this direction with the particular product, then absolutely call us back. Until then, you're just not ready yet.
How do you explain the value of PR to your prospective clients?
I have a quote in the book from Jean Louise, who was a prominent executive at Apple for a long time. He said: “Advertising is saying you're good. PR is getting someone else to say you're good.”
And that's really where I think PR has a lot of value. It’s getting that third-party validation, that earned media, that external person who weighs in on what you're doing and gives it their seal of approval saying, yes, we think this is valuable. We think other people should know about this.
Whether you're after awareness or investments or employees or partners or whatever it is you need, PR can drive all of those goals through other people saying you're good.
How long did it take you to write PR Confidential from idea to release?
It was something that I was mulling around for quite some time. Now and then, we'll go to an event or a trade show, or we'll talk to large groups of people, and so often they would come to us and say exactly what I said earlier. It surprised me how pervasive it was and how little people understood about what we do. So I'd been noodling around on it for probably a year or so when I finally decided to put pen to paper.
Amazingly, the whole thing only took me about three months to write because it's my everyday life, answering these questions. My clients are the best source material because when I would get on the phone with them they would ask these questions — and they're good questions they're legitimate questions that I absolutely want people to ask and understand better — and it gave me more and more content to build on.
How do you feel writing a book can help PR professionals get more clients, get higher caliber clients, or expand their reputation?
Actually, over the years, I've talked to so many business owners who wrote a book, and every one of them told me the same thing: my book is the best business card I've ever had. It opens so many doors. It gets me into conversations with people I ordinarily wouldn't have talked with. It gets me in front of new audiences.
And, it is very much in my voice. So, I think that also helps because it feels authentic. When somebody who has read the book meets me, they say, okay, these are truly your opinions and your thoughts and your experience coming through the book. So, if I hire you, I know who I'm getting.
I've already met you in the pages of your book.
We’re so grateful that Amanda shared her industry knowledge with us! We can all learn a lot from her mastery of starting conversations with clients about the value of PR.
Check out Amanda’s book PR Confidential, Unlocking the Secrets to Creating a Powerful Public Image.