If you want your brand’s public relations campaign to succeed, you need to build up a trusting relationship with your PR agency.
In our experience as an integrated communications agency, our public relations advisors get the best results for clients who place trust in us, communicate with us, and are open and honest with us.
PR is not like it used to be. There is a lot more to the world of public relations than creating press releases. It’s all about strategic targeting – whether that’s smart media relations, social marketing, video content, experiential activity or events. It’s more about integrated content and PR people are the original, the best, and the most innovative content creators around.
Here is our advice for getting the best out of your PR agency, as they strive to help your brand succeed …
Let them in
Your PR agency will need some time to become familiar with you and your product or services. They should be prepared to invest the time in getting to know you so help them become familiar with what you do – invite them for immersion visits, give them access to key individuals, supply them with company collateral and assets. Consider them an extension of your in-house team.
Be clear about your objectives, not just your communications aspirations but your commercial and business objectives. Who are your target customers? What are your biggest challenges? Consider carefully where you want to be seen, and by whom. That will help fire your public relations advisors’ imaginations. The more they know about your brand and its aims, the more ideas they will develop, and the more opportunities for coverage they will generate.
And be honest about successes and failures – they will help you celebrate or recover, depending on the circumstances.
Listen to their advice
The health and reputation of your business are the priorities for your PR agency. No public relations pro wants to see a client ridiculed as it reflects badly on them, as well as the client. The reputations are tied.
So if you’re ever given advice about how and why a particular aspect of something your business is about to do will play badly – or well, for that matter – listen to them.
Your agency team has very likely been over similar ground before. Its members work so closely with the media, they know how and why any given story will be covered by any given publication.
Many media relations professionals are former journalists who spent years unspinning PR. If there’s an angle in what you’ve said … and not a positive one … they should point it out, and the damage it could do.
A good PR agency will also tell you when something you might think will make news just won’t. Remember how much work goes into getting together a news release – there’s the research, writing, photography and the approval process. If the experts are saying, “You’ll be lucky to get coverage,” is it worth all that effort?
By the same token, when a public relations advisor tells you something you’ve casually dropped into a conversation is worth publicising, they know what they’re talking about. You’d be surprised how often something mentioned as we’re winding up a client meeting ends up making headlines.
Your PR agency will come to you with some fresh thinking. They will have ideas aplenty for raising your profile in all sorts of ways and all sorts of places.
Some of these will be new and exciting. And some may have you scratching your head. (We got a bit of this when we suggested a client create sausage-flavoured ice cream but it ended up on the BBC and in the Huffington Post, among others.)
They may come up with campaigns that work across every platform, connecting you with celebrities, brand partners, social influencers and media. All of which can create rich, shareable content that can give your PR strategy a real point of difference from the competition.
They might take you down routes you’d never considered choosing before. And if an idea just doesn’t fit with your brand, there will be plenty more to choose from.
Make sure one of your PR agency’s first tasks is to get involved in your crisis management planning. Your crisis communications response is critical, so your public relations advisors have to be on top of the process from the word “go”.
When the worst happens, you’ll be ready to react.
Which leads us on to …
Have a robust approval process
No PR agency worthy of the name would ever make a comment, issue a release or roll out a social media marketing campaign without first securing client approval. But no public relations campaign can succeed without clients giving their approval.
You need to put a process in place so you can sign-off releases, statements, etc, quickly to ensure a steady flow of coverage for the duration of your public relations campaign.
So, decide internally who has this power, and who will deputise in their absence. Does all the PR agency’s work need to be approved at the top level, or are there specific instances and issues that need that level of approval? Remember that deadlines can sometimes be tight …
Think about deadlines
You’re probably used to deadlines weeks or months in advance. While a lot of the work of an integrated communications agency can be laid out well ahead, much of it is reactive.
If a reporter calls in with an unexpected query, the chances are they will be working towards a deadline that day. Sometimes, with a late-breaking story, that deadline can be just an hour away.
We all know how damning the sentence, “The company declined to comment,” can look in a knocking piece. Getting back with something worthwhile to say – and not a holding statement that perhaps lays you open to further questioning – is only possible if you can react quickly and take the guidance of your PR agency’s experts.
So many of our best stories have been generated by newsjacking opportunities. Reacting to a live news agenda can mean a deadline as tight as an hour or two. Your PR agency should be ready to react, respond and get you results but this can only happen when client and agency relationships are completely in synch.
Put in the time
You only get out of PR what you put in. Whether it’s an enhanced reputation or greater brand awareness you are after, it will not happen overnight.
There is no magic wand that your public relations advisors can wave. Building a relationship and building your brand takes effort – and both you and the PR agency have to commit to make progress.
Your agency should always be on alert for opportunities so be available and be ready to react.