5 Ways to Convince Your Clients Clients to Do PR

Oct 9, 2019

One of the most enduring challenges many of my clients face is getting their clients on board with a public relations program.

It happens to healthcare vendors all the time.

The sales team inks a major deal with a large health system or a long-time hospital customer reports transformative results with your solution.

These exciting developments course through your company and the promotional machinery is set into motion. Press releases and media alerts are drafted. A steady cadence of pitches for bylines, case studies, and interviews are knitted together into a cohesive, multi-pronged strategy that aligns with concurrent plans developed by marketing, social media, web development, sales and internal communications.

Suddenly, a single e-mail or phone call brings the entire endeavor to a screeching halt. Your customer doesn’t do PR with vendors.

I’ve been burned by that stove a couple of times. What follows isn’t a sure-fire recipe for folding an end-user into your client’s PR program. No such recipe exists. However, with a bit of foresight and planning, you can reduce the chances of a hard no.’

1. Do Your Homework. A big part of PR is relationship building. A quick huddle with your client’s PR department and agency is great for setting boundaries about what they will or won’t participate in. It also helps to have a granular understanding of how that client approaches public relations. For example, many organizations have firm policies against promoting the vendors they use in day-to-day operations. This might imperil the chances of a press release, but could open opportunities for other kinds of content, such as speaking engagements, vendor-neutral interviews and carefully curated thought leadership.

2. Set the Table. Successful end user public relations actually start with the sales team and account managers who onboard new clients. Do your contracts include language about PR participation? Most clients would understandably balk at being required to participate in a full-fledged PR campaign, but many contracts have a line or two mandating that a press release be distributed within 60 to 90 days of signing the contract. Sales teams are also great for understanding the best way to approach a client with a public relations strategy.

3. Sell Their Story. Positive media coverage can be used by the health system to promote this new capability among existing patients and the broader community. As an industry, healthcare is unique in the level of fellowship and collaboration it inspires. Healthcare providers have a passion for sharing new ways to meet complex challenges. Creating a client-centered strategy that focuses on the organization’s journey and perspectives could open more doors than a strategy that blatantly promotes the vendor.

4. Be Strategic, Not Tactical. Any client who is participating in your PR efforts should have a voice in the actual strategy and tactics. This thinking goes beyond press release approval. It includes how and when they will be positioned and prepared for media interviews, speaking engagements, or other opportunities. Establishing a regular cadence and open line of communication with your client’s marketing and PR team ensures that you both make the most of your public relations efforts.

5. Start Small. It’s tempting to be aggressive with new client public relations because the opportunities seem endless. But broad programs are easy to reject. Too much time, too many resources. There’s nothing wrong with creating an ambitious program but reveal as much as you need to at the time. Start with small but measurable wins to build up a relationship.

Your company’s clients are a critical and bountiful resource for your PR and marketing program. They offer third-party validation for the efficacy of your solution within the industry. They act as vendor-neutral sources for editors and reporters in the trade and business press. They provide real-world solidity to the larger trends and narratives impacting healthcare in the United States.

Though your clients may understand the value they could bring to your PR strategy, that doesn’t mean they will go along with it. Communication with your clients about PR initiatives not only clears up misunderstandings but also helps establish with your client boundaries and a level of comfort about deliverables being created with their name and reputation affixed to it