When it comes to choosing a public relations agency, experience, credentials and creativity are key factors.
But it’s the people who make up the team that really count. The human factor is often the most important one. A good agency will assemble the ideal team to match a client’s needs, ensuring not just the right titles and experience levels, but the right personalities as well.
No matter how big the account is or how long the engagement, it’s important to have a blend of account strategists and implementers to do the job. For accounts with many “moving parts” — like events and media tours — a team might mean five or six staffers while other engagements focused on thought leadership and content placement can thrive with two or three. Here are the roles to look for when onboarding an agency.
The designated day-to-day
This is the chief client contact and all-around utility player. Ideally, this is the person the brand has been dealing with, at least in part, since it issued an RFP or began an agency search. This person was deeply involved in crafting the strategy behind the winning proposal and has the confidence of both the client and the agency team. Must-haves include a thorough understanding of the client’s business as well as its client culture. The day-to-day contact is also someone who can see the business big-picture, looking ahead to a client’s next big story and factoring in industry trends. On a more nuanced note, this player should be expert at “temperature-taking” and sussing out concerns before they become problems. Finally, the role calls for an even temperament who can get along with distinct personalities, managing both up and down the chain on the client, agency and media side.
The senior coach
This role is where “the buck stops” as far as key client communication and quality-control are concerned. In smaller companies this person may even be the head of the agency, while in larger organizations it’s likely a group director or EVP. The senior manager should be involved in regular internal account reviews to ensure that work product conforms to program strategy and that materials and service levels are of high quality. The role includes high-level troubleshooting and engagement at the client C-level. It may also comprise development and oversight of brand messaging, though at some agencies that is handled by a strategic services specialist.
The star pitcher
Creative, fearless, assertive and on top of the news and pop culture. That is just part of the job description for a media relations specialist. This person is also well-versed on the inner workings of broadcast, print and online media and on how to sell a brand’s story to an outlet. We have covered this important topic before; successful media placements seldom come from a mass blast and email follow-up. Those who work to generate high-impact coverage get to know contacts personally and use creative follow-up to gain a reporter’s interest. It may sound shocking, but these are the people who can actually get a network producer or major business reporter on the phone. Yes, it happens.
A backup content creator
Everyone in our office creates content; we’re hardwired that way. But, like many agencies, we create so much written content – bylines, blog posts, op-ed pieces, etc., that we have a dedicated content manager who handles overflow and specialized content. These individuals may be behind-the-scenes, the better for them to tackle topics from multimedia advertising sales tools to cutting-edge email marketing. But whatever the case, they must be a quick study and a nimble author, able to produce 800 solid words, often in under an hour. While the deadlines aren’t always so tight, the position typically requires strong research skills, focus, and a sharp, analytical mind.
A digital/social media star
Many PR teams manage social media accounts and digital output for clients. The role starts with setting social media strategy and determining which sites and tactics align with the desired audience. This group will often be involved with influencer relations as well. And, for many clients, the work touches messaging as well as design, writing and distribution of content. Like most social media teams, ours provides analytics to gauge performance and make recommendations to grow followers, shares, friends and other KPIs.
A graphic design talent
Much of PR work today relies on the visual to attract interest. It’s no wonder that Instagram now boasts over 800 million users. We are a nation of visual learners and we like images, videos and other graphic ways of absorbing information. In PR, this translates into everything from the well-designed event invitation to catchy infographics and visually appealing reports and studies. We employ a graphic designer to help bring all of this account work to life, as well as client social media platforms, and to make our new business presentations as attractive as possible.
An account coordinator
This one’s part junior utility player, part team assistant, not always seen, but indispensable. The account coordinator is on top of scheduling calls, creating agendas, recording meeting actions, and organizing reports. ACs often have a role in media list prep, client media monitoring and, event support. For this role, we often look for someone with fresh ideas – to inspire co-workers, promote our clients and our company. As they rise in the role, ACs also take on research assignments, like trade conference submissions or awards opportunities. In our experience, the best and brightest don’t stay account coordinators very long. Those with drive and ambition are soon on their way to climbing up the PR dream team roster.