I didn’t think of myself as a risk-taker in my youth. However, as an adult, I find myself much more open to taking calculated risks.
From a professional perspective, my years of experience in PR have brought about a special appreciation for risk-takers—those who take calculated PR risks. Far from being reckless, these professional risks – such as releasing news under embargo or comparing a new product to a competitor’s, for example – are strategic, creative and tactical bets that can have a big payoff in terms of awareness and coverage. This is why I always advise marketing pros to look elsewhere if they find themselves dealing with a risk-averse PR agency or partner.
Greater Risk, Greater Opportunity
The primary reason for avoiding risk-averse PR partners is that they come to the table with a narrow focus, which automatically means that they’re presenting fewer opportunities. Think about it. If your agency is only willing to follow the dogma of “we’ve always done it this way,” chances are that the same results will be achieved, campaign after campaign and program after program, if you’re lucky. More likely is that you will see diminishing returns as the information grows stale.
No risk means no reward, and hesitancy to take risks – for example, sponsoring a big media event or supporting an edgy influencer – means that the bigger, breakthrough opportunities will always exceed your grasp. Risk-taking is among the common behaviors of effective leaders, and a common trait among the most effective leaders is that they see risky behaviors as opportunities to learn and grow.
When it comes to PR, if your agency or partner is afraid to try new things and approaches, they’re limiting the available opportunities to achieve success for your organization. For example, our agency made a big creative bet by wading into the cultural discussion around calling San Francisco by the monikers “San Fran” or “Frisco” (which is something we never do, by the way). Ultimately, this somewhat risky campaign has helped us achieve outstanding coverage over a multi-year span and differentiate us with the media in a positive way.
It’s Okay to Get a Little Risky With Your Pitch
There is also some debate as to whether or not PR pitches are still important, especially given that journalists receive so many similar story ideas in a given day. However, research from Muck Rack indicates that 80% of journalists say that at least a quarter of their stories originate from pitches – so, it makes sense to try and stand out among the usual flood of low-risk, me-too ideas.
Tactics like provocative subject lines, offering useful industry data, or teasing with some industry gossip may seem insignificant, but being differentiated with your pitch can help to “build the brand” for one’s company and client. And when you’re trying to gain the attention of influential audiences, standing out is always better than being one of the pack.
As the saying goes, “Doing the same thing over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.” Repeating the same old tactics usually generates minimal rewards, and this is true in PR and most other fields of endeavor. This is why those searching for PR support should ascertain their agency or partner’s appetite for thoughtfully considered risk – because if they’re willing to take a few smart chances in order to stand out, the payoff could easily be worth it.