Haris Ahmed from Chicago Talks about PR Consulting

The CEO and founder of Pragmatium Consulting Group, Inc. is Haris Ahmed. In Chicago, his management consulting company specializes in organizational leadership and executive training. Throughout his career, Haris has taught more than 100 executives the finer points of change management, skills development, and public relations. Today, he discusses the advantages of getting PR consultancy services over doing it in-house.

The beauty of the Internet is that companies and individuals now have access to a truckload of information. Executives and middle managers alike can search for articles that could help their companies’ operations and decision-making process. Social media, with its wide reach, also helps organizations reach out to existing and potential clients and to get the pulse of the market.

However, the Internet is a double-edged sword. While it has a wealth of available information, it also contains a veritable landfill of useless data and advice. The same can be said for social media. If an organization is not up to speed on social media trends, it runs the risk of becoming irrelevant; at worst, it could also threaten its fiscal standing, stakeholder relationships, and the welfare of its employees.

Sadly, many organizations are either slow to adopt best practices in PR or refuse to do so at all. Larger companies, in particular, risk losing ground to upstarts.

One of the companies who consulted with Pragmatium a couple of years back wanted to set up an in-house PR department. The company, a lifestyle brand, had already hired a full-time VP for public relations. They had been employing the same PR firm for five years by then, but they wanted to have more control over press releases. Also, they were trying to save money by keeping things in-house.

Unfortunately, the VP for PR had a very poor grasp of social media concepts, such as engagement. I ran the numbers by them, projecting how much they’ll lose in terms of page engagement and exposure if they stopped using the PR firm’s services, but ultimately, they still decided to do their PR efforts in-house. I noticed a drop in both the quality of their Facebook posts and engagement. Instead of being known for their customer-centric replies, their comments started becoming more and more abrasive.

It came to a point where they succeeded in alienating a large proportion of its fan base, which was millennials of color. What started out as an innocuous tweet became a large PR crisis, and the VP for public relations was not helping at all with his outrageous replies, suggesting that he was also out of touch with his company’s customer base.

Unfortunately, by this time, things had become magnified, especially when non-traditional news sources started tracking the company’s social media posts. They were saying one thing on the press releases and another on Facebook and Twitter; no one would still believe what the press releases were saying.

In the end, the company terminated the VP and entered into a new contract with their old PR consulting firm. By that time, though, its stock was worth just a fraction of its old value.

I hear that the company is slowly getting back into shape, although its old customer base has moved on to other brands. I guess this is what happens when there is no coherent messaging or no agility and finesse in PR – you end up with a mess that no one wants to clean up.