As senior level communicators or marketers look to enhance their capabilities with outside talent, one consideration should be retaining a public relations agency. Marketing execs are often the keepers of brand image and sometimes the corporate image as well. Who wouldn’t benefit from competent, connected and creative PR thinking?
And yet. Some companies plunge into PR without thinking through their goals or a partnership’s requirements. Before beginning the search for the best PR agency, take a step back and eliminate the following roadblocks.
We need to be in The New York Times…as soon as possible! Sometimes the C-suite issues an edict like this, but before your knee jerks, determine what the company should really seek to achieve through public relations. Think about the long-term goals. Do your goals include generating trade buy-in for a new product? Consumer awareness? Does the CEO want to build an industry profile? It’s fundamental to set communications objectives to help narrow the type of PR agency needed. Forcing the exercise may demonstrate completely different needs than first surmised.
There’s no budget. Thinking you might just carve out a little from the marketing budget? Think again. Public relations is a distinct discipline that requires its own set of goals, and, yes, its own budget. Once needs are established, research what different agencies charge for PR strategy development and implementation. See how that matches up with available budgets, and have it in mind when meeting with firms. A PR agency is far better able to create a plan for a company when an actual budget is quoted; otherwise, everyone’s time may be wasted.
We need to outsource because we have NO time for PR. Hold on. Yes, companies often bring on a PR partner because they lack the staff to develop and run a robust communications program. But know that managing an agency takes time. There will be questions, meetings, materials review, separate sessions for message and media preparation, – and that’s just the beginning. The more time you commit to your agency, the more you’re likely to get back in the form of ROI.
We don’t know what to expect. Have the key execs had experience with an external PR agency or similar relationships? Is the organization aligned on brand messages and communications needs? Is there a process in place for approval of strategies and content? If the answer to any of these is “no,” you have some advance work to do, priming senior management on “PR Agency 101”before selling in services. The best environment for maintaining a successful, results-oriented PR agency relationship is one of communications and collaboration.