Why your PR agency should give a  s**t about what you do 

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  • B2B
  • Communications
  • Marketing
  • PR
  • PR experience
Last month, the Nielsen McAllister team had the busiest day I can remember. On the same Thursday, we had representatives in London, Birmingham, Reading and a field somewhere in Somerset, covering three exhibitions and a press day, for four completely different sectors: packaging, print, pharmaceuticals and forestry. 

My first thought: it’s only when you don’t specialise in a particular sector that you realise that *everybody* wants to hold their event in September. 

But my second thought was one of pride, that my colleagues can look after disparate clients with such aplomb. 

It wasn’t simply that we were attending these events.  We were *involved*: 

  • We arranged visits to the stand from journalists and other stakeholders 
  • We sat in on press interviews and helped to guide the conversation 
  • For one client, we actively manned their stand, greeting visitors and being the brand’s first point of contact 


Your PR agency should be an extension of your team 

The common denominator is that we’re essentially an extension of the client team – and that means knowing their business(es) inside out. 

This is always how I’ve been taught to build the client/agency relationship – although, full disclosure, that’s because I started my career at Nielsen McAllister, and we’ve always done it this way. 

But, as it turns out, this partnership approach is quite rare. 

The client I was with on that now-iconic Thursday told me how impressed he was at the level of knowledge we’ve acquired in the two years we’ve been working with him. 

As far as I’m concerned, that’s the gig. Every day we’re writing content that is published in our clients’ name, often ghost-written for actual individuals.  Obviously, we can’t know as much as they do about their business!  But – within the confines of only working on an account for x-number of days per month – it’s our responsibility to learn enough to be a passable imitation. 

Let’s put it this way.  If the situation was reversed, and somebody was writing something that would be published in *my* name, I’d expect it to sound like the sort of thing I’d say. 

Yet it’s remarkable how resistant some agencies appear to be to having that intimate knowledge of their clients’ inner workings. 

In digital marketing, especially, I’ve found that some agencies wear this lack of intellectual curiosity almost as a badge of honour. They seem to prefer providing the same abstract, client-agnostic insight, which I guess makes short-term commercial sense (think about all that time saved, *not* learning about who they’re working with), but which makes for superficial content and a likely failing of trust once the client gets wise. 


Why you’ll invariably be disappointed when you take ‘the blog test’ 

Here’s a test.  Choose a company – it could be yours, or a competitor’s, or something completely separate from what you do.  Now take a look at their blogs, and start reading. 

Ask yourself: does this feel like it’s been written by somebody who knows what they’re talking about? Or does it feel like safe, generic content, designed to be recognised and recommended by search engines, but pretty useless to anybody reading it? 

So much content being posted online nowadays is part of the same fastfoodification of information, giving everything the same flavourless feel.  When it started, blogging was popularised by hobbyists and amateurs, but it quickly became professionalised – and worse, it has been professionalised by scientists.  

The rules of blog writing have been codified in a way that no other form of writing has been, as search engine developers and digital content agencies have battled for supremacy.  Google just wants to recommend the most appropriate content to its customers (i.e., us), but because the signals it associates with “good” are data-driven, they can be gamed. 

And what happens is the personal touch is lost.  Blogs that are outsourced to agencies who aren’t interested in knowing their clients well, become weak and anonymous. The only research behind it will be to choose the optimum keyword, skim a few similar pages recommended by Google, and repeat – or, worse, get Chat GPT to write it. 


Harry Potter and the Room of Flying Keywords 

Remarkably, this isn’t even the worst problem with this approach.  If you don’t know your client properly, and you’re relying on algorithmic sources for your keywords – for example, SEM Rush, or Moz, or Google itself – then it’s entirely possible you’re targeting the *wrong* keywords. 

That’s because keyword tools prioritise quantity, not quality. They add up the numbers and say: all these other sites are using these keywords, so this is what you should use, too.   

You see the problem, right?  

  • One: if you’re a B2B business, chances are you’re selling something quite niche, and no keyword tool is going to recommend something that only gets a few dozen hits every month (even if those same few dozen hits are coming from people who really want to talk to you)  
  • Two: if your keywords are misaligned with the actual substance of what you’re selling, you’ll bring in the wrong traffic, those people will get hacked off and eventually Google will penalise *your site* for wasting people’s time.   
  • Three: there’s nothing distinctive about those keywords, nothing that sells *your* business above all others, so how do you expect to impress anybody?   
  • Four: even if the keywords are relevant, then you’ll be fighting a losing battle against dozens of competitors all fighting for the same space. Good luck with that one. 

Fortunately, there’s a better approach. It will require much more effort, but it’ll be worth it. 

Put simply: choose an agency that cares and wants to understand what you do.   

Whose team has a genuine interest in finding out about new technologies, or unusual materials, or applications that are changing the way items are made, or delivered, or disposed of. 

Who ask questions and don’t take the first Google search on trust. 

Who take the time to get to know the client’s values, and tone of voice, and terminology. 

Who aren’t fazed if they’re asked to represent their client all day at a trade show, or brief a journalist, or advice a prospective customer or, God forbid, write a blog without using A.I. 

Got the message? I’m talking about us. Nielsen McAllister gives a s**t . And not even the mother of all Thursdays will stop us from being there for our clients. 

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