How to set your company up for PR success
For many organisations over the years, PR has been an afterthought. After the marketing plans have been developed and the advertising agencies allocated the bulk of the budget, the PR agency was asked to ‘come in and present some ideas’. Fortunately, today, in a content driven world, this is changing.
We’re passionate about what PR can do, but also realistic. We know the results we can achieve but only if we have the commitment of our clients. How can you develop an opinion article for example for someone you haven’t spoken to? It’s one thing to choose a PR agency and find one that’s right for you but ask yourself, are you ready to commit to PR?
When I think about the work we do, we get the best results for clients who really value PR and put the hard work in. Those who drop everything to get on a plane to Sydney for a last minute TV opportunity or chase one of their colleagues for a few sentences on email that we can send to a journalist to include in their article.
So, below is a check list of the things that we recommend you have in place before you start working with a PR agency, which will save you and them valuable time.
1. Make the time
This is an obvious one, but you have to make time for PR. You may read about your competitors in the media and feel frustrated you and your organisation hasn’t been included, but the difference is, they made the time to speak to the journalist, probably at short notice. PR isn’t all about media relations, but for most of our clients, it makes up a large part of what we do.
As an experienced team, we’re used to developing quality content with minimal input from our clients. We know them and their key messages, the industry in which they operate and their key areas of focus. This might be a couple of paragraphs to send to a journalist for a feature article they’re writing or an opinion article about a specific topic. However, this content still needs to be read by the person to which it’s being attributed and approved.
Sometimes, you may have a few days to do this, depending on the journalist’s deadline, sometimes a few hours. The point is, you need to be prepared to drop whatever you’re doing if a media opportunity presents itself and respond to your agency as soon as you can.
2. Set yourself up internally
Do you have a day-to-day contact for the PR agency to work with? Preferably an experienced marketing or communications manager. We work with some talented marketing directors and communications managers who not only value PR and what it can achieve but help us, every day, whether it be providing feedback on a media release we might have drafted or discussing their thoughts on a speaker opportunity we might have identified for them.
More importantly, they must have the authority to approve content or quotes quickly. If your organisation doesn’t have an experienced marketing or communications person, get one. They are worth their weight in gold and your PR program will only achieve limited results without them. The only exception is if you have someone in a senior position, like a managing director, who is committed to PR, can review content quickly and make themselves available at short notice for media interviews. We’ve been lucky enough to work with a couple of these and for that reason they’re a joy to work with and we’ve achieved some fantastic results for them.
3. Share your plans and ideas
Having a sales kick off to tell your organisation what the focus will be in 2014? Developing your marketing plans for the year and focusing on a couple of new areas or vertical markets? Invite someone from your PR agency along or at least share your plans with your agency team. The most effective PR programs align with an organisation’s business objectives.
Again, a good marketing or communications professional will tell their PR agency what announcements or events they have planned, so they can identify any media opportunities around them. Similarly, if you’ve got any ideas on topics you’d like to be discuss in the media or views on an area of expertise, let your agency know.
4. Be realistic
You’ve decided to hire a PR agency and they’ll ensure you’re in the media on a regular basis, the phone will start ringing from prospective customers and your sales will go through the roof, right? Wrong. While PR should absolutely support your sales efforts, it can’t operate in a vacuum. It works best as part of an overall marketing and communications plan. If you’ve decided not to do any marketing, at all, then your PR results are going to be limited. It also takes time. Journalists face increasing pressure to write more in less time and for that reason like talking to people they know, who they’ve spoken to in the past, who give them interesting and timely comments and don’t let them down. Habits can be hard to break, so be patient. It is difficult to get them to ‘switch sources’ and talk to someone new or ‘untested’.
5. Determine who your spokespeople are and train them
There is no point in a PR agency finding opportunities to comment in the media if you haven’t got a spokesperson or someone who makes themselves available for media interviews. It’s surprising how many times we’ve seen organisations choose to work with a PR agency but they haven’t actually got a spokesperson or that spokesperson is the CEO who is in meetings and unavailable most days. Or they’re based overseas.
Journalists in Australia want to speak to people in Australia. Journalists in the UK want to speak to people in the UK. If you’re not in the country the journalist is, you’re at a disadvantage. Very few will spend the time calling someone overseas or waiting until they’re ‘out of bed’ to take a call. Once you’ve determined who your spokespeople are, media train them. They need to understand what journalists want and that they’ll rarely get a second chance if they don’t deliver first time around.
So, before you embark on a PR program this year, think about the points above and ask yourself honestly if you and your organisation are ready for PR, because if you’re not, you could save yourself some valuable time and money.