Hiring a PR agency? How to set it up for success
Vicky Stoakes, communications director at design focused PR agency Red Setter, offers insights and learnings to agency leaders on how best they can go about hiring a PR agency.
Hiring a PR agency is a big step, and one that if done well can reap huge rewards. There’s no argument to the fact that a good PR agency with a strategic campaign should have a positive impact on your business.
But as with every type of relationship, the more you put into it, the more you will get from it. Your role as the client is a critical link in the chain of success. So how do you make it work to your advantage and ensure long-term success with your PR agency: a relationship which delivers continuous impact?
Decide on your PR goals
Before you engage in any communications with a PR agency, decide what you want to achieve from PR. New business attraction? Reputation building? Help with talent attraction? A mix of things? Your agency is going to want to know this from the get-go.
They will help define who your audience is, and refine what you want to say to them, to ensure you deliver clear consistent messaging to exactly who you need to reach.
Finding your PR partner
Clarity of goals will help you find the right partner. And thinking of the agency as a partner is a great place to start, along with an agency with a good reputation in your industry. If you’ve never worked with a PR agency before, a safe pair of tried and tested PR hands is essential.
Have a look at their socials and their website to get a feel for their culture, team and work (examples of media coverage or projects for other clients will give you a good idea of what they can achieve). Do they share their policies? Do their values match yours? Likewise, be prepared that your values might not match theirs. More and more agencies are saying no to potential clients if the fit isn’t right or the work you do, or where you work, goes against their policies.
If you really don’t know where to start looking for an agency, speak to businesses in your sector with a media profile you admire and want to emulate. Who does their PR? Can they make any recommendations? And what about the media? Do they have any preferred agencies they enjoy working with and would recommend?
Once you’ve found a possible agency partner, contact them for an initial chat to get an idea of what a campaign for you could look like.
Understand what you are investing in
A PR agency will present to you either a bespoke proposal or an idea of what your campaign could look like, based on working with similar clients, along with fee levels. Ask questions. The PR agency will welcome an open, honest discussion, which will set the tone for your relationship.
Think about how much access there is to the senior team. Who will your day-to-day contact be? How often will you get status updates and reviews? What measurement is in place to ensure the campaign is on track? Could they support or run your social media? And remember, have a clear idea of what success looks like for you and discuss this with the agency (they aren’t mind readers). They can advise if it’s realistic or not and will keep you focused on a campaign that will work towards your goals.
Getting the most out of your PR team
You’ve hired an agency! Congratulations. The first thing to remember is that they are an extended part of your team, no matter where your agency is based (in a remote working era, finding the right agency is no longer limited to geography).
Share with them the bigger business goals and challenges; PR is integral to this. And treat them with the respect and trust you would a key member of your internal team. No PR wants to be treated like a service and you’ll always get the best out of your team by fully welcoming them as part of your wider team.
Think long-term not quick fix
PR needs to be consistent and sustained to make true impact. It’s a cascade effect where one placement leads to another driven by your PR’s media relationships. Reputation and awareness building takes time and this is what you are investing in.
Become a partner, have honest conversations. They are your team and will want to do the best for you. PRs live for the win and hate disappointing clients and themselves more than anything. So celebrate their hard fought for wins with them as they will be proud of what they achieve for you.
PR can be extremely rewarding for everyone involved, as beyond the myriad business benefits great PR can bring, there’s nothing more satisfying than a relationship with client and PR working together as a team to achieve success.