San Madan: What are some of the challenges you have faced in your line of work? What core-competencies have benefited you the most?
Dan Chmielewski: The biggest challenge is managing the agency’s growth with the type of clients we attract. One of the biggest reasons we might lose a client is because they have been acquired. But we work hard at being good writers who can deliver a solid news hook that communicates the benefits of the client’s technology while providing a true newsworthy pitch of value to a publication or news service. The nicest professional compliment I have ever received was from an editor introducing me to a colleague and said, “Dan is old school; he actually reads your work before he pitches you a story.”
San Madan: When does external PR versus internal PR work better?
Dan Chmielewski: We come across opportunities all the time that benefit more than one client; and it’s not uncommon for us to place a story where two or even three clients are quoted. If you have established a reputation with an editor as someone who can come through with multiple clients who can deliver relevant information to a story quickly, that’s where having an external PR resource can work better over a single internal PR team. PR works better when there is cooperation between the external and internal PR teams. We work hard to partner with our clients because we can’t be successful unless our client PR partner is successful.
San Madan: What are some of the benefits small and medium businesses can get from external PR?
Dan Chmielewski: PR and social media are still among some of the most cost effective marketing dollars a small to mid-size client can spend. It’s about building and capturing mindshare, coming across as a credible resource and a good interview. Stories that run can put a client on the map. We’re fortunate to work with clients who are fearless when it comes to giving interviews. The more interesting the answers, the more likely reporters and editors include them in the story. I have one client in particular who has been given a nickname by certain reporters who call when they want a strong opinion on an issue. Small and midsize clients benefit most from agencies that specialize in those clients. The larger agencies put their best talent on the larger accounts. Wouldn’t you rather have the best talent an agency can offer?
San Madan: How does a company handle a mistake that will be seen publicly? And are crisis communications best handled by external PR?
Dan Chmielewski: Crisis communications requires a team approach. There’s no magical formula as every crisis is unique to itself. You need to put a reporter’s hat on and find answers to a lot of questions. What happened? How did it happen? Can it happen again? Can we stop it from happening? Is it our fault? Whose fault is it? What is our role in this situation? Who was affected? How did we/can we fix it? How do we make it right? What don’t we know yet? When will we know? The important thing is to tell the truth.
San Madan: Does the rapid social media growth further strengthen the role of external PR in providing effective results?
Dan Chmielewski: Social media, like effective public relations, must be a strategic and not a tactical initiative. At times, clients tell us “we have a Facebook page” and we discover it needs significant work to be an effective communications tool. There’s also the element of patience required to build a following on social media, but there’s no question social media is a critical communications tool for any company to employ. Traditional PR often serves as the fuel for a client’s social media fire.
San Madan: What contributions do you feel your work offers to society as a whole?
Dan Chmielewski: We’re advocates for effective data security solutions, clean/green technology offerings, and technology tools that make business processes faster and more efficient. Our work helps clients sell more products which benefit their customers while helping clients to grow, expand, or get acquired. We approach every day with a “what can we do for you today?” attitude. No matter how solid the relationship between a client and the agency, business can change in a heartbeat and no agency can rest on its laurels.