Building a ‘best practice’ relationship with PR Agencies

by on August 31, 2011

Embarking on a PR campaign to boost your company’s profile can be an exciting experience that makes a solid contribution to morale and the corporate bottom-line. Increasing brand recognition and building a media presence are serious business processes and it helps if you give them the focus they deserve.

Step 1: Set objectives up front

It is best to enter an agency relationship with a clear set of communication objectives. Combined with realistic expectations and ongoing dialogue, these help build a fruitful working relationship to ensure PR success for your business.

Step 2: Coverage – a goal not a guarantee

For many campaigns, media coverage is the prime objective. While PR professionals are skilled at engaging the media, coverage can never be guaranteed. For a variety of reasons there will always be media releases that don’t achieve a desired outcome or targeted pitches and even interviews that don’t get published. Unfortunately, this is part and parcel of dealing with the media.

Step 3: Make it newsworthy

As media professionals, we know stories need to be newsworthy and so will not compromise our integrity by taking a story to a journalist that is not. To do so runs the risk of damaging carefully cultivated media relationships and undermining your company’s reputation. We will work with you to emphasise angles that interest and engage the media.

Step 4: Be available – the media is interested in you not your agency

There is no point sending meticulously crafted press releases without a spokesperson available to answer journalist questions. Journalist’s are investigative by nature and in most cases will want to speak to a company representative.

Step 5: Choose your spokesperson

One of your company’s most important marketing assets is having a well-trained ‘voice’ to confidently articulate your message. Your agency should work with you firstly, to ensure your spokesperson has the skills to handle business and industry journalists and secondly, to equip your spokesperson prior to an interview with compelling messages that encapsulate the company’s position.

Step 6: Don’t sell, educate

Media outlets are looking for thought leadership and intelligent opinion, not a regurgitated sales presentation. The ability to speak concisely on industry issues and trends will allow you to achieve traction much faster with your target publications.

Step 7: Handling media disappointments

Despite any agency’s best efforts, disappointments with the media are inevitable. Comments you made in a feature article interview may not be cited, incorrect details about a new product might go to print, and competitor statements might eclipse your own in a news story. The best course of action we can take is to discuss how both parties can improve the quality of inputs to increase the likelihood of favourable outcomes in the future.

Step 8: Be realistic

When you begin a relationship with a new agency, it is imperative to be up front about your expectations. You will be probed about your objectives and asked to divulge information about the inner workings of your business. This information is vital to effectively advise on how to turn these objectives into realistic, achievable goals.
It is important to exercise a little patience, especially when commencing a new agency relationship. Gaining media traction requires a strategic, consistent and concerted effort. In many cases, it may take three months of communicating your company’s message to the media, to break through and achieve coverage.

Step 9: The curse of the ‘three month trial’

Working on a three month trial basis has limitations greater than its time frame. The fact is, the media – particularly monthly publications – work to long lead times so a story pitched today may not result in coverage until months down the track. Success in the media requires a constant, cumulative approach. Working any other way undermines media relationships and ultimately detracts from the wins you’ve had.

Step 10 – Benefits of a consistent effort

A reputable PR agency will focus on building long-term, mutually rewarding customer relationships – operating as a strategic partner who provides high level advice based on a sound understanding of your business objectives, not just a supplier who sends out media releases on demand. With this in mind, it is well worth the effort to build a relationship with us by working closely and bringing us in to your company’s information loop.

Do’s and Don’ts of engaging a PR agency

Do

1. Clearly define your objectives and communicate these in detail to your agency
2. Provide as much information as possible about your company and its objectives – your agency can never know too much about you
3. Trust your agency – they’re professionals and they’ve done this thousands of times before
4. Introduce your agency to as many key stakeholders in your business as possible
5. Your agency comprises PR and marketing professionals – open your mind, listen and learn!

Don’t

1. View your agency as purely a service provider – treat them as a partner
2. Be afraid to ask questions. If you’re ever unclear about anything, speak up

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