Friday, July 13, 2012

All in a day's work

Water battles in California usually end up (or begin) in the public relations arena. 

Today's LA Times story points out that PR firms were hired for competing interests in a long-running battle in CA's desert to pump, store and move water to serve urban SoCal.  (Disclosure: I was on "both sides" of this issue - first representing Cadiz, then working for the Metropolitan Water District).

While this particular reporter has long made it a habit to point out when PR firms are used in water battles, as if to say "Hey, this is wrong, right?", the mention simply highlights "why" public outreach and strategic communications are a needed, must-have professional service.

This is especially true with a highly emotional and high-stakes item as water in California.

(I know - this sounds self-serving, given my firm has water clients.)

Yet, the plain truth is evident:  Public support is needed for most major water issues in the West.  And, the only way to get public support is....through "public" relations.

Let's face it:  the world is full of information all competing for our attention. A public relations firm provides valuable services to:

  • Call attention to an issue.
  • Help package all the facts in a way that makes sense
  • Provide answers to common questions
  • Respond to allegations, charges and attacks
There is a lot of work that goes into this:  research, developing strategies to effectively reach your audiences and make sure they are receiving the information in the "way" they want to receive it, monitor what is being said about the issue, anticipating where the campaign will go, contacting news organizations, building websites, designing brochures, holding community meetings...and the list goes on.

The common misconception is that PR firms "spin" their audiences or the issues.Wrong.  The best PR firms simply make sure the facts for their client's side are presented and given proper consideration.  The better term is that we "argue" on behalf of our clients - much like a lawyer would in court.  The really good PR firms will even acknowledge to news reporters the "failings" or vulnerabilities of their client's side of the story because we know no one is perfect. 

All in a day's work for a PR firm. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Pay up front?

In light of another California city going bankrupt, it probably makes sense for PR agencies to negotiate deposits and up-front payments from their public agency contracts? 

Previously, such a demand would have been rejected by cities, counties, etc.  However, if a municipality really wants your services, they will find a way to "retain" you.  When I managed a technology team, we demanded from start-ups at least one-half of the monthly amount at the beginning of the month. This same formula could be tolerable for public agencies.

So, I implore all agencies to stick together on this one.  When finances improve, we can relax these demands.  What we don't need now is for public agencies to find the agency willing to accept shaky terms.