Recognising the value of public relations (PR) is essential to any successful campaign or partnership. A strong relationship between the client and the PR team requires the client to understand how PR works, what to expect and their responsibilities. After selecting the right agency, the work doesn’t finish there; a truly successful strategy requires the client’s ongoing active participation.
PR agencies are a great resource to help companies achieve their short- and long-term goals against defined key performance indicators (KPIs). Not only are agency teams experts in the field (it’s what they live and breathe), they can also leverage extensive databases, understand the operations behind relevant publications, and capitalise on pre-existing relationships with journalists; something that in-house teams can’t always do.
PR agencies take the pressure off internal communication teams, and when used well, can work as an extension of the business and marketing strategy. Just like any other business partner, you get out what you put in. So, how can you get the most out of your PR agency?
1. Brief your agency thoroughly
For a PR agency to work as an extension of your company, they need to understand not only what you do, but the ins and outs of your company. The more the agency team understands your business, the better they can develop stories to build your profile with the right people.
Your PR agency is only as good as the information it’s given. Ensure your agency is aware of any new or emerging business news or developments. This includes internal, confidential information, as well as customer-facing news. If your agency knows what’s on the horizon, the team can prepare appropriately and give you the best possible advice. Agencies will happily sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) and would never divulge commercially-sensitive information.
Once the agency understands where the business has been, you need to explain where you want to go. For a PR agency to deliver successful campaigns, you must illustrate what success means to your organisation. Work with your agency to set realistic, measurable objectives to be reviewed regularly to ensure everyone is working towards a clear and mutually-agreed goal.
2. Be timely
Like any successful project, PR campaigns require strategy and planning. Providing adequate lead time for non-urgent announcements will mean that your agency can carefully craft a great pitch, tailor it to each media outlet, and strategically time it to generate the most traction. Likewise, you need your company contact and spokesperson to be readily available for urgent approvals or requests and interviews respectively. Journalists work on tight deadlines and accommodating their last-minute requests can often mean your spokespeople become trusted sources.
3. Give constructive feedback, and listen to theirs
The key to any good partnership is honesty and communication. If there is an issue, or you’re not satisfied with your results, tell your agency (in a constructive manner). A good PR agency will accept the feedback, and work with you to address the issue and find a solution that everyone is happy with. Likewise, if you are happy with a particular activity, share it with your agency so they can continue to generate similar results.
It is equally important to listen to and trust your agency. You hired it for the team’s expert advice, so use it. The team may look at a situation differently and offer advice you might not have expected, especially in a crisis. Hear them out, even if you ultimately decide not to follow that advice.
4. Use all available services, including media training
PR agencies have moved well beyond traditional media relations, often offering an array of additional services to offer an integrated approach to your communication strategy. Centralising communications through your PR agency by accessing services including copywriting, content marketing, crisis management, advertising, employee engagement and media training, will not only ensure that you are delivering one coherent message, but will also relieve some of the pressure on your internal teams.
5. Be realistic
One of the most important ways to get the most out of your PR agency is to set realistic expectations. It’s not necessarily unreasonable to want a front-page story in the Sydney Morning Herald or the Australian Financial Review; however, the possibility of this depends on a variety of factors including but not limited to: the type of company you work for; its offering; your spokesperson; the story; and other news that day. Working with your agency at the beginning of the partnership to set realistic, measurable objectives will help you understand what is possible.