10 tips for clients to empower their PR agency to get the best results possible

Posted on: June 15th, 2012

Have you ever wondered how you, as a client, can empower your PR agency to get the best results possible? There’s a common adage – why invest money in purchasing a new car and then neglect to pay for petrol or take it for a regular service? These ten tips are designed to help clients to get the most out of their PR agency:

  1. Communication is king! Keeping your PR agency in the loop about what is going on within your organisation is vitally important to ensure that all news opportunities are communicated in time. You’d be surprised how many ‘PRable’ opportunities may arise. This includes upcoming product announcements, new hires, strategic partnerships and any upcoming events that you’re attending or sponsoring. Similarly, insights into your business objectives and how the results generated by your PR agency are impacting these, such as product sales, web traffic and social media conversion rates, are also invaluable. Your agency can then modify the focus of the PR plan accordingly to help you reach your own targets. In an ideal world, clients should also provide their marketing plan, and indeed their strategic business plan, to contextualise where the PR plan sits within the ‘big picture’ and the broader framework of the organisation.
  2. Speak up. Having an appropriate, accessible and media-trained spokesperson is imperative. Be prepared to put this spokesperson forward when journalists seek commentary from an industry expert at short notice. Public relations professionals are the mercy of journalists’ deadlines, which can sometimes be within the hour. Therefore, it’s essential to have a media trained spokesperson readily available. This in turn establishes a relationship with said journalist, which increases the likelihood that they will listen when the time comes when you want to approach them proactively with  news.
  3. Access to senior management. When sensitive issues arise that have the potential to escalate, it is important for clients to respond to their PR agency with a sense of urgency and purpose. Providing an insight into the types of pressures imposed on your business in terms of priorities, timing, budgets and other constraints gives your PR agency the opportunity to tailor their communication approach to you accordingly.
  4. Understanding what constitutes ‘news’. This will assist in terms of prioritising what information your PR agency disseminates to media. For example, if you’re releasing a new product, unless it’s an announcement from Apple at the  World Wide Developers Conference, it’s unlikely to make the front page. Your product may not always be featured in isolation and may be packaged up as part of a broader story. In most circumstances, it’s better to be featured alongside your competitor than not at all.
  5. A basic understanding of the news cycle. At the very least you need to understand the ‘lead’ times of different types of publications. For ‘short lead’ media titles, such as online and print newspapers, this can be a matter of days, even hours. Most monthly magazines, such as Vogue, GQ, Gourmet Traveller etc. can take up to three-six months to pull together before going to print. This means that in order to generate ‘long lead’ coverage, it is important to engage your PR agency at the earliest available opportunity, rather than later in the piece or as an afterthought once other elements of the marketing/communication strategy have already been determined.
  6. Keep your house in order. This means ensuring that account management and administration doesn’t fall by the wayside, including paying bills on time, providing timely feedback; and a­pproving press materials in a timely fashion so that we, in turn, can meet our deadlines. This also extends to providing a selection of high quality, high resolution images, which in most cases are an essential accompaniment to a news item.
  7. Provide a  clear PR brief.  Articulate your expectations at the outset in terms of deliverables, timeframes, parameters and any exclusions. Obviously things change, and PR agencies should be flexible and adaptable but clients should try to avoid changing goalposts dramatically throughout the campaign. Establishing mutually agreed policies and procedures early on in the relationship creates a sense of predictably and stability, for example holding regular Work In Progress (WIP) meetings or teleconferences and regular budget checks.
  8. Confirm who is doing what. Define the roles and responsibilities of each of the agencies working on the overall campaign (digital, media buyers, PR etc.) to allow your PR agency to work with them if appropriate and prevent work duplication and encroachment on other agencies’ remits.
  9. Respect relationships. Being respectful of your PR agencies’ relationships with media and industry contacts, which are typically nurtured over time. For example, pulling out of a pre-arranged interview at the last minute can seriously damage these relationships. A ‘dream’ client will arrive for an interview on-time and fully briefed.
  10. Understand the differences. Having a basic understanding the nature of PR and how it differs from marketing and advertising. PR agencies cannot completely control the content or timing of editorial coverage. They can inform, influence and encourage positive coverage, but not guarantee as this is up to editorial discretion. Sometimes articles will appear that have a negative spin – unfortunately this is part and parcel of the media industry. However, this is what makes PR much more powerful than advertising – it’s authentic!

 

Do you have any other tips for maximising the client/agency relationship? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Posted By Georgia McKay

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