Are Entrepreneurs Trading When They Should Be Investing In PR?

Maybe it's the soft economy, something in the water or just the American predilection for quick solutions now in double time.

A growing crop of clients today seem to be pulling the plug much too prematurely. They're folding, throwing in the towel, canceling out way before there can be any media harvest from publicity seeds planted on their behalf.

The frenetic scenario goes something like this:

Client A has a product or service for which he or she wants national publicity ASAP. After interviewing the firm and reviewing its proposal, Client A decides to retain you, or maybe "place a bet on you" is more accurate.

Okay, so you present your standard agreement (remember to call it an "agreement" until it's signed, when it becomes a "contract."). The simple, two-page agreement includes a chilling clause requiring a 60-day written notice by either party before said agreement can be cancelled.

The prospective client immediately jumps on that clause, and changes it to 30 days or in some cases to even 10 days, explaining that he or she has been burned in the past by PR firms.

Okay, you're confident in yourself, so you execute the contract, shake hands and commence firing off pitches, releases, emails, phone calls, etc. to the press in what can be called the seed planting phase.

Thirty days pass and you're just getting wound up and starting to get some nibbles when

--guess what? -- you receive a cancellation notice. That's right. The dreaded cancellation.

Client A explains it's been 30 whole days and there's been no national exposure so he or she wants out.

One client actually told us "it's been 22 days" and he hasn't yet been on Donny Deutsch or even Howard Stern, let alone Oprah. We must not be any good, the client concludes. And he drops us like shares of Bear Stearns.

This scenario describes a rising phenomenon today I liken to PR Trading as opposed to PR Investing. It involves a gambling or trading mentality, which breeds impetuousness, little staying power and zero patience with a process called PR, which usually takes six months minimum to produce results.

Many clients today are just pulling the plug much too soon, like dumping a stock that hasn't moved in a month. They completely ignore what it says right on our agreements, that it sometimes can take 60 to 90 days before any meaningful results can be achieved.

"You guys can't get me any publicity," one client told us after only 45 days into his program, even though we had just gotten other clients some nice stories in The New York Times, on FOX-TV nationwide and on ABC Evening News. Had those clients quit after only 45 days, they would not have had those favorable results.

Now here's the clincher, folks.

We were contacted not too long ago by a day trading school. They wanted publicity that would emphasize that wild swings in the market or what's known as market volatility actually can be good for day trading.

When I thought about day traders typically selling out their positions at the end of each trading day, we turned down the account.

I could just imagine getting a call after the first day and hearing the client say:

"Hey, you've had our account for an entire day and nothing, absolutely nothing has happened. No results. You're fired!"


Tom Madden is the founder and CEO of TransMedia Group, one of the world's leading independent PR firms serving clients worldwide since 1981.  He has held top executive positions at ABC and NBC,where he was Vice President, Assistant to the President, then Fred Silverman. For his exploits in broadcasting and PR, he has been profiled in Time Magazine, Forbes and The Wall Street Journal. Speeches he wrote have been reprinted in The New York Times and Vital Speeches of the Day. Among awards he h...

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