Okay, you’ve gone through the difficult process of selecting a PR agency and you are confident that you can work well together.
However, to make sure this really is the case, there are some key pointers that you must follow:
Respect the media
Your PR agency has developed relationships with key journalists and media publications to help gain opportunities for your business. The agency knows the media and the media respects the agency and knows it will always deliver material that is of a high standard. If this isn’t the case, don’t use the agency.
Mutual respect is vital when dealing with the media. When conducting a media interview, for example, it is important to respect the journalist and the process and to help maintain the PR agency’s relationship with the media. If all parties feel the relationship works to their mutual benefit, it will be so much easier for you and your business to build a relationship with the journalist and this means they are more likely to consider interviewing you or dealing with or featuring your company again in the future.
One of the key aspects of working effectively with a PR agency is that you must be available. If your PR agency can’t contact you then you could miss out on excellent media opportunities. It’s also important to make time for anything to do with the media in relation to your PR programme. This could include interviews, providing written content like articles or quotes or just supplying additional information. There will often be a deadline for a key publication that your agency will need to meet. If you can’t provide the PR agency with what they need before the deadline then you will miss out on the media opportunity and undermine the whole point of the agreed PR programme. So if you know you are always going to be extremely busy, delegate the task of dealing with the agency to someone who you know can do the job for you.
Communication is key
If you are going to be away on holiday or out of the office and unavailable for a while it’s important to tell your PR agency so they know why work is not being signed off promptly.
Also, keep the PR agency up-to-date with newsworthy information or events in your business. For example, if you win an award, if the CEO is resigning, if you are launching a new product or if you gained a new client, you need to tell your PR account manager. By keeping your PR agency informed they can look for more media opportunities for you – for example, a key publication may be focusing on a particular subject area and your news might be an ideal addition to the piece they are producing.
To make sure everyone is one the ball in this regard and opportunities are not missed, it’s a good idea to meet with the PR agency once a month to discuss progress, any recent news and any ideas you might have for the future.
Engage your colleagues
A PR programme is not something that should be detached from the rest of the business. When your agency comes to your offices for a meeting, all of your colleagues should know who they are and what they do. They should be aware that PR is a vital tool in the success of your company and – just like any other function within your organisation – PR helps ensure your company continues not just to stand still but to grow. Growth should not just be the aim of you and your agency but it should be recognised that in the long term it means more jobs and much greater security for existing employees.
You should also focus particularly strongly on your sales force. They need to understand that the PR agency you have taken on is a superb tool for them to promote their successes, to give media coverage to their clients (and to the sales team) and to help generate new business. Not only does the media love a good case study but potential customers for your business like them too because they can see how they might benefit from using your company’s services. Many significant sales leads have been generated by good PR.
Know your role
Remember, a PR agency is there to benefit your company and they are essentially a tool for you to use to achieve your goals. But never feel that you are giving up your company’s direction to your PR agency. They are the communication experts and are there to deliver on your plans and programmes, but you will always be the one who is in charge of the overall strategy for your business and its products and services. You – or anyone in your organisation – should never feel threatened by the involvement of a PR agency.
Keep your PR agency in the loop
The success of your PR agency in meeting your goals depends on how well they understand your business, your products/services, and your target market. Give them all the information they’ll need to have an intimate understanding of your business. Never assume your agency will gather information on your organisation from somewhere else – you are their main source of information and they will look to you for direction.
Before your PR agency begins any work, you need to agree on key metrics that you will both be looking at to measure results and impact. You need to decide how you will measure the success of your PR programme – will it be column inches, click-throughs, enquiries or simply increased market presence for your business or brand?
To make sure you keep your eye firmly on the progress of your PR spend, you need to have regular update meetings – over the phone or face-to-face – to go over deadlines and any issues. There are some agencies and clients who barely see each other during the course of a year and there are others who hold many sit-down meetings, it really is down to your personal choice and how you prefer to work.
Always remember – whatever works best for you and your business is what you should go for. Never settle for anything less.