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5 [Guaranteed] Ways to Waste Your Money on a PR Firm

John Forberger
4 min readJul 5, 2019


Truth be told, no one innately knows how to maximize a relationship with a public relations firm — every client learns on the job. It’s normal to anticipate results from your PR agency by way of media coverage or other positive exposure, but the truth is you can only do that when you’re engaged.

More often than not, organizations don’t understand that successful PR activities stem from dedication and time spent with their agency. If a public relations firm says you don’t need to lift a finger and they can “get you in” Fast Company, run.

After this brief ‘how-to’, you’ll never feel left out again when you hear, “PR is a waste of money, just run ads!” You too can efficiently toss money away on PR in no time with these scare-worthy habits. These are the patterns of behavior that lead to challenges in working with any PR firm.

Below are five ways to blow a budget on a public relations firm.

1. Keep all the news away from them.

Keeping your PR firm in the dark about what’s happening at your company is a must. Why inform your PR agency as to what’s occurring when you can instead dismiss calls and ignore emails, then point a finger at them later? Better yet, keep all communication — no matter how intricate — on email or Slack and forget calls altogether. Remember to tell them something newsworthy about once every two or three months and expect them to score tons of press coverage on it, even after they tell you there’s no story and they offer up alternatives. We all know you know best. They’re just a vendor after all. Pff.

2. Wait for them to read your mind.

Do keep your PR firm guessing at all times. The relationship will be very healthy for all, nobody will walk on eggshells, and your PR pros will spend extra time on your account. Every quality PR firm should get you above the fold in the Wall Street Journal when they’re guessing about your messaging. Skip sharing details on your ideal customer persona, client/customer base, or giving a demo of your product. Don’t forget to later say to your PR agency, “we didn’t see any results on all the stuff we gave you.”

3. Be unavailable to the press.

A seasoned executive will book a vacation to begin on the day their news is distributed to the media. When your PR firm shares questions or interview requests from the press, don’t reply in an orderly fashion. Do not set precedent around communication. Instead, randomly turn on your OOO message and ghost your PR agency for a day or two. When you do reply and want to do the interviews, it’s all about you and the press has nothing better to do than to wait for you to get back to them. Tell the PR firm you’re available to take calls in one hour with the journalists who asked to speak with you last week. They should jump and really make the reporter happy that you’re free!

4. Insist the PR team add as much jargon as possible, to everything.

Skip over the real benefit of your services or products and just use business jargon. Your number one goal is to have reporters delete your PR firm’s email and when they see them at a conference ask, “what was your client trying to say in that press release?” And, “why was the subhead a paragraph of acronyms I don’t know?” Establishing authority by confusion is wise and respected. Your product, partner and top executives will be thrilled you got across everything you want to the PR firm. Unable to secure downloads of a whitepaper or eBook? Get that language into a press release STAT and put it over the wire.

5. Skip strategy and repeat, “we want everyone to know who we are.”

Talking to the press is the fun part, so skip strategy. Why settle on messaging or explaining how you solve problems for your audience when being mentioned by any media outlet and mass impressions are what really moves the needle. Tell your PR firm to get you in the news and you’ll determine what was worthwhile or not. In a snappish fashion, explain to them how you’re better than the competition because you have more widgets, features, and smarter staff. This approach will surely be recognized by your PR partner and will nearly guarantee a feature story in major publications. PR folks prefer to not know why your business exists in the first place or why it’s growing. Inspire them with things like, “why is my competitor in Fast Company and I’m not?” and “who do I have to pay at Inc. magazine to write about what we’re doing?”

Do you know a better way to burn money with a PR agency? Please share it below so we can all learn from it.



John Forberger

I run a comms and brand strategy consultancy helping B2B companies speak clearly to everyone, everywhere. Visit