Any good PR agency team wants to get a new engagement up and running as quickly and as well as possible. A strong start on a PR program makes for a more lasting and fruitful relationship. Yet getting the ball rolling is easier said than done. The first 90 days of an engagement can be the most hectic time of an entire client-agency experience. There’s an endless list of priorities, from onboarding and immersion to setting expectations and navigating the processes within a new company or organization. There’s also lots of pressure to make things happen while you get smart.
With that in mind, here are a few best practices that we find to be helpful when it comes to launching a new PR program and a budding relationship.
Build an asset request list
To build an effective PR plan, agencies need any relevant – or potentially relevant – assets so they can quickly onboard and understand the nuances and factors at play. This includes material like past PR coverage, product spec sheets, blog posts, preferred talk tracks, conference and award wins, executive bios, and marketing calendars, just to name a few. The agency’s first step should be to create a consolidated list of deliverables to serve as a central reference point for clients to populate. The list will not only be an educational resource for the agency team, but it can spark thoughts about “out of the norm” assets that have been overlooked in the past.
Set workflow and communications processes right away
Each client is different and prefers to work in certain ways. Understanding how they work is essential for an agency to jumpstart a PR relationship and build trust. We like to sync with clients even before an engagement “officially” begins to hammer out how they like to work, preferred communication channels, ideal weekly call times, team roles and other specifics so everyone can hit the ground running on day one. This not only shows that we are keen to meet clients where they are, but that we also take process seriously.
Use the RFP process as research
Though not every agency search involves a formal RFP (request for proposal), many do, and the document is generally an excellent guide to goals and priorities. Its style, tone, and length will reflect the organization’s culture, whether it’s highly detailed and jargon-y or light and breezy. And the search process itself, from initial conversations to building the presentation, offers opportunities for agencies to gain insight about a company, its sector, and idea of success. The early RFP discussions and research that goes into a winning proposal also yield good and valuable information that can inform an agency team’s strategies and communications style.
Do a deep dive
“Deep dive” onboarding sessions with product teams, comms teams and other internal client stakeholders provide the next-level specifics that help build detail and substance for the PR plan. We like to plan a full or half-day session that ideally brings together different client-side executives for briefings. These meetings are also the PR team’s initial opportunity to assess potential B2B spokesperson, define their “lanes,” and gauge how comfortable and effective they will be in a media interview or keynote situation.
You never know which bit of information will be helpful in driving PR results down the road. So, don’t be afraid to ask questions – especially open-ended ones. This is your chance to pose “stupid” questions because the relationship is new. The client-side team members are steeped in both the industry sector and their particular company’s operations and processes, so use the time to pull out their insights about the organization as well as their own SME (subject-matter expertise.) This will show a keen interest in understanding the finer points of a business but also a nose for each stakeholder’s areas of interest and proficiency. Moreover, it allows agency teams to expand their knowledge around particular categories that lead to creative pitch ideas.
Use your proposal as a guide
This one sounds obvious, of course, but it’s funny how often an initial proposal is put on a shelf after the agency team dives into the program. Unless the strategy or circumstances change, the proposal should be the basis for the PR plan. It’s also interesting to periodically review it as a kind of blueprint for expectations, deliverables, and story ideas. In certain fast-moving tech sectors original proposals can quickly become outdated, but we’ve occasionally flipped through a one or two-year-old deck and realized that there are some strong ideas buried inside it!