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10 things the PR consultants won’t tell you about PR consultants


If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I’m a big devotee of reading the hard copy print edition of my local newspaper, the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

And, like many, I particularly enjoy the Sunday edition. Mostly because it just includes so much more editorial than the daily paper.

One of my favorite sections of the Sunday paper is the Business section–much more robust than the daily paper. And, it also includes some syndicated content from the Wall Street Journal, which I really enjoy.


Of note, I often find myself reading the “10 things XX won’t tell you about XXX” columns. You see everything from retirement planning to college savings to end-of-life planning covered here.

I like that “10 things” idea so much, I’m stealing it today. OK, to be clear (and to avoid legal action from the WSJ), I am not stealing content–just the format.

So, today, I’d like to talk about 10 things PR consultants won’t tell you about PR consultants.

We say “yes” now–and figure the details out later.

One thing I learned pretty quickly when I worked on the agency side is that when the client asks if you can do something, you say “yes” and figure it out later. We didn’t always know what we were getting ourselves into, but we sure did our best to figure it out along the way. For example, I remember agreeing to a sizable web project, when at the time, I had little in the way of web development experience. But, after our team huddled, we figured out the right resources to pull in and made it work.

We over-deliver. A LOT.

If I had to make a generalization, I’d say PR people are typically “people pleasers.” That means we want to make our clients happy–no matter the cost. That means a LOT of over-delivering–sometimes to the chagrin of our agency owner partners (and ourselves, as solo consultants!). But, it happens. We try to push back. We try to manage expectations. But at the end of the day we write off a fair amount of work.

We always project confidence–even when we don’t know the answer.

Picked up this tip from my agency partners years ago when I was working at McGladrey. I could “see” them practicing this on calls I had with partners. We’d ask them a question that they most likely didn’t know the full answer to, and they always came back with a strong answer. Even if they didn’t know the answer, they acted like they knew the answer. Sometimes, that’s all the client needs to see/hear.

We really do have more fun than you corporate folks.

Now, I’m not a career agency guy. I’ve only spent time at two agencies. But, I have a lot of friends at agencies. I’ve worked with a lot of agencies as partners over the years. So, even though I haven’t spent a TON of time on the agency side, I feel like I can say that consultants do, in fact, have more fun than their corporate peers. I’m not saying corporate folks don’t have ANY fun–just that agency folks have relatively more fun along the way.

We’re masters of Powerpoint.

Now, I’m on the light side of this one, but I know many consultant folks who know Powerpoint inside and out. Why? Because that is the de facto tool of choice when it comes to presenting to clients and potential clients. I wouldn’t consider myself a PPT expert, but I know PLENTY of people on the agency side who are. Heck, I’ve learned some of my best PPT tips and tricks from my agency friends over the last few years (thanks Danny Olson, Greg Swan and Tony Saucier).

We really do work in our slippers.

As consultants, our schedules tend to be more flexible. In fact, I know one local MSP agency that nurtures a complete “work wherever you need to, but just get your sh*t done” culture. So yeah, we work from home and on our couches a fair amount. But here’s the thing: That freedom typically benefits clients as consultants also tend to have a “do whatever it takes to get sh*t done” attitude, too.

Work travel sucks. I mean, really sucks.

Consultants tend to travel a lot for work. To agency sites. To media tours. To trade shows. You name it. We’re on the road a fair amount. And, after you’ve done that for about a year or so, it wears thing pretty darn quickly. All those hours in airports, crappy restaurants and hotel bars starts to add up after a while. And, you tend to work an average of 18-hour days when you’re on the road. I mean, what’s not to like, right? 🙂

We get paid to look good, too.

During one of my agency stints, a couple weeks in, I started noticing a trend: The women really amped up their fashion game on client meeting days. Now, to be clear, I’m not saying the women looked less-than-stellar on non-client meeting days–just that they really took things up a notch on those days when we saw clients. And, when I say “amped up” I don’t mean they got more formal–I actually mean the opposite. They got more fashionable. As I learned, sometimes the client wants their consultants to LOOK good, too. Not just polished–but on trend.

We’re more connected than you.

I don’t say this in a mean, biting kinda way. More just matter-of-fact. As consultants, part of our JOB is to be connected. To the media. To colleagues. To vendors. You name it. Plus, typically, we’re not quite as locked up in meetings as our corporate friends. So, it’s easier for us to attend those networking events, coffees and vendor introductions. And, when you hire a consultant, a big part of what you’re paying for is that person’s/agency’s aggregate network. You’re paying for all those loose connections, because in many ways, they will benefit you down the road.

We’re always managing client expectations.

At least the good ones are. This is always in the back of our minds because happy client=more business. So, we’re always careful to set realistic goals. We’re constantly looking at how we’re doing and adjusting along the way. And, we’re always looking for opportunities to under-promise and over-deliver (see point above).




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