Skip to content

In defence of failure!

Reading this Econsultancy post about failure in business got me thinking about how we respond to failure in PR.

Like most of us, I hate to fail at anything. If a campaign or project doesn’t deliver, it hurts in my gut.  And trying to explain why to a client who was expecting big results that didn’t quite come through is pretty hard. 

But failure can often be part of the territory in marketing – even more so in PR where there are so many things you can’t control.   The earliest PR failure I was involved was a Valentine’s Day music survey for a hi-fi company that I had  ‘pre-sold’ to The Sun newspaper.  This was in the mid 90s and the story got squeezed out, because pretty much the whole paper was devoted to ‘Take That’ announcing their break up that day.Everything_Changes1

There wasn’t much we could have done about this scenario.  But more often than not I find that PR is about having the flexibility to respond and adapt to failure.  An idea for an interview or an article doesn’t quite come off, you tweak it or build on it and try again.  When a journalist says ‘no thanks’ to a story, you use the interaction to learn what else is on their agenda and what else might work.

So I urge clients to judge their PR agencies on their ability to react to failure.  When an idea they’ve been discussing with you doesn’t come off, do they hide? Or are they open about why it didn’t work and how they’re developing it in other ways?