How to get the most out of your PR agency
So you’ve written the brief, gone through the pitch process and chosen your PR agency. Now the real work begins. And that’s not just on the agency side. As a client, you have to put the time and effort in, to get the maximum results from any PR campaign. After working in-house, in PR agencies and running my own, those clients that have invested the most in their relationship with their PR agency, reap the rewards.
Working with a PR agency isn’t the same as working with other ‘suppliers’, you get out what you put in. Too often I hear companies moan about PR agencies, ‘they don’t understand what we do’ or ‘they didn’t deliver the results we expected’.
Here I’ve listed my top 10 tips to get the most from your PR agency, maximise your investment and gain some fantastic results.
1. Share information
A PR company is only as good as the information they are given to promote. Keep your agency in the loop when it comes to news and business developments. Confidentiality is not a problem as agencies will happily sign an NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement), so invite representatives from the PR team to company events and make them feel part of the team.
2. Use all available services
The services PR agencies offer don't stop at writing media releases and scheduling interviews. Most offer a wide array of services, including analyst relations, crisis management and developing and implementing internal communications campaigns. So next time you’re faced with a communications challenge, don’t overlook your PR agency, chances are they can help.
3. Be realistic
This is the number one key component in establishing a successful, long-term relationship and must happen from the beginning. The most realistic expectation is that the process takes time. Steer clear of any agency that promises to get you on Oprah next month.
Although PR often makes up the smallest part of the marketing budget, it can be the most cost effective, but don’t expect your agency to work miracles. PR works best when it is supported by other marketing disciplines.
4. Regular contact
It’s important you have regular contact with your agency. This is not only for them to keep you updated with the activities they’re carrying out on your behalf but should also be an opportunity for you to share information about what is going on in the business and whether priorities need to change. It doesn’t matter which format you choose, email, regular calls or face to face meetings. A PR agency can’t represent you properly or identify opportunities on your behalf if they’re not aware of what is going on in the business.
5. Make sure your spokesperson is available
This is one of the main complaints from journalists when PR agencies send out a media release, the spokesperson isn’t available for interview. It’s up to you, as the client, to ensure a spokesperson is available for interviews on the day the story is distributed. Ideally, that person should be available within 30 minutes of the story going out. This can be difficult when people have other commitments and meetings, but if you want to get the most out of your PR agency, you need to be able to provide a spokesperson available for interview.
6. Show you value your PR agency
When you view your PR agency as a supplier, they’ll feel like one. It’s hard for a team to feel motivated if they don’t feel believed in. So if they aren’t feeling it, you’ll feel it too. Instead, treat PR as a two-way communication between interested parties, both striving towards achieving results for your business.
7. Set clear measurable objectives
Set both short term (quarterly) and long term (annually) objectives, otherwise you can feel a bit lost six months in. Objectives need to be reviewed regularly to ensure everyone is working towards the same goals.
8. Establish clear roles and responsibilities
This is important, both client side and at the agency. Ideally one person from the client side needs to be responsible for managing the agency. Too many people working with the agency or having to gain approval or input into written materials will slow the process down and limit the results your agency can achieve. Equally, clear roles need to be established on the agency side, so that the client isn’t being chased by different team members about the same thing.
9. Don’t make the comparison to advertising
Stating the obvious, but PR isn’t advertising. A company doesn’t pay the publications or TV channels for the media exposure it secures. Third-party endorsement gives PR its power and credibility. You’ll get more out of your PR agency if you understand the difference.
10. Be honest
Tell your agency when you don’t like something they’ve done. If you or your team is getting frustrated with an agency tackle it and move on. A good PR agency will proactively want to address this and find a solution that everyone is happy with.