I saw two great movies last week. The first – The Sapphires – was an independent film with unknown actors. The other was Iron Man 3, starring Robert Downey Jr. You couldn’t find two more different movies in terms of star power, production values, and overall polish.
Except for one thing: Both started with great stories.
Flash forward to a new client pitch I am involved in. I asked why the previous agency is being let go. It turns out they are excellent at pitching, they know all the right journalists, and are generally very well-connected. So what’s the problem? They don’t understand their client’s story. Worse, I get the feeling the agency wasn’t even interested.
That’s a mistake, one that is costing them a client. What separates great PR from mediocre PR is not how well you pitch. Execution – things like call-downs, writing, relationship-building and so on are certainly important, but they are table stakes and any agency worth its salt can do those things well.
What separate the good agencies from the great agencies are the stories they craft. And crafting a great story involves – at a minimum – understanding the client. Their prospect personas, the need the client fills, what’s driving that need, who they compete against and how they are different.
Of course, it isn’t true just for PR. It is true for video, social media, web sites – basically all forms of marketing. Get the story right first, and the execution follows naturally.
The lesson? Find a marketing partner who understands your story. Oh, and next time you are looking for a great movie, find one based on the scriptwriter of the last movie you loved instead of the actor. It works better that way.