In my last blog post, I posed the question, “Would Sarah Palin be your dream public relations client?” Based on another blog post by freelance writer Carol Tice, I noted that Palin has a lot of the qualities you would want in a PR client: she loves the publicity, isn’t afraid to speak her mind, she stays on message, and she makes an impression. I posed the same question to some of my PR peers on LinkedIn and got a divergent set of responses. Putting politics aside, I think the vehemence of some of the responses and the wide range of observations and their tone is a testament to the power of the Palin brand. As a number of my fellow PR pros pointed out, “She’s famous for being famous,” but does that mean she would make a good PR client?
There were some interesting observations that I want to share here. The real issue for me is trying to ascertain what goes into a good client? I have a few of my own criteria:
– I always want to work with senior executives; the decision-makers. I find that working with marketing managers, communications directors, and middle managers who have to clear strategy and messaging with the C-level suite makes it really hard to do your job. After all, the news business moves quickly, and if you have to run an interview opportunity or quote through a committee to get approval you’ll never get in the story. It also makes PR counsel more valuable because you can work with C-staff to determine what their market objectives are and how you can help them realize those objectives.
– I also like working with senior executives who believe in what they are selling. My late father was a consummate salesman with very high integrity, and what he taught me was you can’t sell a product you don’t believe in. You can’t fake passion. And if an executive is passionate about his company and his product or services, that comes through in an interview every time.
– I like clients with an ego (or at least a personality). Long ago I adopted an approach that a previous agency employer called “executive as brand.” Let’s face it; companies are boring but people are interesting. So it’s usually up to the CEO to carry the corporate brand. After all, where would Virgin be without Richard Branson, or Apple without Steve Jobs, or Google without Sergey Brin and Larry Page?
– And I like working with clients who have a good story to tell that addresses a real need. After working in high-tech for many years, I have run across a number of “Field of Dreams” clients who believe, “If you build it, they will come.” If you can tell a story about something that solves a real-world problem that people identify with, then you have a winner.
So why would Sarah Palin be your worst nightmare as a PR client? The LinkedIn crew has spoken. Here are some of their observations:
“The job of the PR person would be bag-carrier/firefighter not consultant or advisor.”
“No, just cause I’d be constantly having to put out her PR fires.”
“Why would anyone want a client who just wants to famous? Do you really believe she has any political inclinations? She’s no Kennedy. No social conscious, whatsoever. Besides, how can you take anyone serious who decides to push family onto reality programs? Not worth the effort!”
“Sarah Palin does not appear to be a team player . . . and PR is definitely a team sport. At the end of the day, and despite hard work and strategy, I believe that for the PR professional there would be that lurking dark cloud. You know . . . the one that threatens to force "the team" right back where they started. The thought of it makes me shutter.”
“I think Palin gets media attention, at least 9 times out of 10, for the wrong reasons. It’s almost always a gaffe, followed by back-pedaling and retractions. Not an ideal client at all.”
It would be a fun ride, and a smart PR person would keep very good notes on the entire ordeal and have the book deal – "I Chased Sarah’s Mouth" as the exit strategy. Better than an IRA for retirement.”
What do you think? What characteristics do you want in your ideal client?