We are not living in the nineties. Back then, hiring an advertising agency to shout about all the benefits of your business was the done thing.
Every month you’d throw some money at them before sitting back to watch those creative and media buying teams go to work.
Times have changed. We no longer live in an era of one-way communication and instead customers, prospects and peers challenge your thinking. All the time.
So how can you ensure that, when you hire a PR firm, they’re working as hard and as effectively as possible?
Here are some tips to keep your PR agency busy.
1. Establish strong lines of communication
Clear communication between you and your agency is the backbone of any successful partnership. You need to know the people who’ll be representing you and your company when engaging with the media and third parties – and they need to know you.
Meet your account team and clarify their roles and responsibilities. Understand who to contact and work with for each aspect of the campaign.
Next, take a step back and do the same for your company. You need to confirm who will be the first point of contact and you need to ensure that your agency knows who they are.
It’s hard for one person to know everything that’s happening in their company on a daily basis, especially a large one. Good news – nobody expects you to!
Establish an internal process which allows sales, business development and product teams to share the information with your company representative. It might be hard to convince the teams at the start but once the process is in place the benefits will be imminent.
2. Empower your company representative to make decisions
There is nothing worse than a company representative that can’t make any decisions. Well, maybe no communication line at all is worse, but at any rate this is a close second.
Whoever is chosen as the first point of contact in your company, they need to be able to make decisions and approve work. They will need to be aware of the company’s goals, ambitions and challenges. They will also need to be willing to accept the responsibility for driving the company brand.
3. Make time to review your press releases and marketing content
View your PR agency as an advisor. They know how to make your clients love you and how to get the right media coverage. They know the communication strategies that will work for you. They also know the people you need to be engaging with in the industry. What they don’t know however, is the daily ins and outs of your company – the mechanisms and internal politics within your business.
You need to work with your agency to clarify your business specifics and establish the core messages that you’ll be communicating to the market.
Next, you need to make time to review the content that your agency is producing. They can deliver exceptional written communications and a compelling story. However, these messages will lose their value if you let them go stale in your inbox.
It can be tempting to ignore these tasks when you have high sales targets to achieve and ongoing time pressures. It can also be easy to overlook the link between effective media engagement and new business development.
However, that link is strong – don’t dismiss it. Your PR agency is a very effective new business development tool and they can help you deliver against those sales targets.
4. Schedule regular catch-ups
It’s simple – you need to stay in touch with the PR agency you are working with. To do this, view them as a part of your existing team.
Of course, you’ll set up a campaign planner at the beginning of the year but it doesn’t stop there. Your business and your industry are constantly evolving. To be able to properly respond to any developments your PR agency needs to work as part of your team.
Regular catch-ups are a great way to strengthen these ties. Take some time before the meeting to think about your business and your targets. Have your priorities changed? Do you have an idea that you want to share?
Naturally, you don’t have wait for a catch up to talk about these things – your PR agency will always be ready to listen to this thinking and feedback.
5. Share everything – warts and all
PR firms specialise in helping you and your team to find and develop a commercial position that’s both compelling and unique. To do that, they don’t need the glossy picture you present to clients, prospects and peers.
Share your pain points and challenges. It’s only by doing so that they can help you overcome these issues and drive future new business growth. Treat them as if they are your business therapist – here to listen and guide you towards the right path.
You may recognise that for whatever reason your current business development approach isn’t quite delivering as you wish. Or you may recognise that pursuing the same approach that you’ve undertaken to date won’t get you to where you want to be. That stuff is common but hard to admit.
Equally, you’ve developed a new process or made a small change to your product? Tell them. Tell your agency what you’re doing. Tell them what you’re thinking. Keep talking.
Even when you think the developments in your company won’t be of interest to the wider industry, talk to your PR agency. You might be surprised with the results.
6. Trust the advice they provide
As a final point, remember, specialist PR and communications firms focus exclusively on this.
They don’t sell your products and services. They don’t run your accounts and they don’t handle your HR. Rather, they get paid based on the quality of the advice delivered. They are offering advice because they’ve proved consistently that it works and creates results.
Challenge the thinking by all means – and question it in order to understand – but ultimately ensure that you’re giving them the confidence to deliver.