Regular “touch-base” calls are a PR agency staple. They’re typically how we sync up with a client, report on progress, and highlight opportunities within a PR engagement or program.
Weekly or biweekly meetings are not just markers of progress, though. They’re also how we get face time with team members and clients, develop a mutual rapport, and generally show our value. So how can PR teams run top-notch calls with the brands and teams they support – whether external or within the same organization?
Before showing your strategic genius, nail the basics. The agenda should be brief, but it must cover all pending action items, the status of each, and relevant deadlines. Make sure it’s up-to-date; it’s easy to miss updates if you’re covering some of the same agenda items from week to week. Share the agenda with all parties at least an hour before the call. (Some teams will want it a day in advance, but we work on tight deadlines and like to make sure we capture any late-breaking items.) A last scan through the week’s emails and DMs is a good way to ensure everything is included.
Since many meetings happen on a video platform, it’s a good idea to log on a minute or two before the meeting begins to make sure everything is working. Frequent lateness is unprofessional and creates the impression that you’re just squeezing things in rather than committing quality time.
It’s our philosophy that each PR team member should have a speaking role in the meeting. That means all team members listen and stay engaged in the conversation. If a team member is very junior or new to the project, they can still participate with a little preparation. Once the call is over, always share a list of action items of deliverables from both sides to make sure next steps are clear and everyone is accountable.
A PR agency is typically brought on to do more than secure media coverage. Often brands are looking for strategic guidance on how the PR or comms plan fits into their marketing calendar. Or, they may want to discuss how to make the biggest splash possible with any upcoming announcements. If a brand is new to PR or unfamiliar with the ins-and-outs of media relations, it’s time to walk through key items like announcement strategies, timelines and anticipated results.
Long meetings are deadly, so we like a tight agenda. It’s helpful to include links to original planning documents to refresh everyone’s memory on goals and strategies that don’t need to be covered weekly. Yet for some calls we’ve created an agenda section that includes a couple of relevant articles from the week. It typically sparks a few minutes of discussion where we speak about trends, competitive moves, or good topics for rapid response pitches. An item that breaks the discussion from the day-to-day routine for a few minutes can be very useful for ideas, commentary, or just team alignment. Another useful agenda item – but only when used sparingly – is a 15-minute brainstorm for new ideas.
Most meetings are opportunities to share timelines, potential targets and expected results – as well as the thinking behind those items. For example, PR teams have options for handling news. For an announcement, we may choose an “exclusive” approach, an “embargo” or a broad media outreach. To announce funding, we’ll typically take an exclusive approach followed by an embargo leading up to the launch date. This helps guarantee top-tier media coverage.
A half-hour sync meeting doesn’t need to delve into the process behind every decision, but we like to share our thinking to show value. A client might not know that we had a full team discussion about media strategy or messaging, but if they weren’t part of it, they should.
The agency-client partnership means being honest when it comes to ideas or tactics that aren’t working. PR teams should be candid if an approach isn’t successful, and be ready to offer alternatives. For example, we had a client that conducted a survey and when they shared the data we realized it wasn’t likely to attract media interest. After a discussion we were able to offer new ideas for data that were incorporated into the survey to strengthen its media appeal.
For PR agencies, it’s second nature to want to show value, but it’s equally important for internal teams. Opportunities often arise beyond the typical quarterly plan, because the news cycle is always shifting. PR teams should look out for relevant angles and come prepared to each weekly call with potential new story ideas, or topics to brainstorm. This can be pivotal in driving sustained results and highlighting value.
Flagging emerging news angles for rapid response can generate quick PR wins. The status call is an opportunity to ask questions about developments in certain areas of a business (e.g. hirings, product news, or case studies) that can be used to create news.
Brainstorming can also involve discussions with brand executives to get their POV for potential bylines or pitch ideas. The end of the year is a great time to pick an executive’s brain for 2023 predictions in their industry as many reporters typically run these types of stories in Q4.
Status calls can offer a way to showcase new ways of enhancing media relations activities. Conference and award submissions, social media support, media training, analyst relations, long-form content development, research and events may apply here. It’s not a time to oversell or be pushy, but a way to flag the value of integrated offerings.
Overall, status calls are much more than updates from the previous week. When used well, a PR team can truly show their end-to-end value and 360-degree offerings as a company.