What to consider before working with a PR agency

Public Relations should be part of the overall communications strategy for your business. Undertaking regular PR and being consistent in your approach helps to raise awareness of your brand and services and enables you to get your key messages in front of your target audience at the right time. Doing this well takes time and effort and with so many other priorities for your business, I know that PR can sometimes be left or forgotten about. If this is the case then you may be considering working with a PR agency or freelancer. Outsourcing will free up your time to concentrate on the other areas of your business that need your attention.  

Before you start working with a PR agency or freelancer it’s worth thinking about the following:-

Make sure you have clear a PR brief.

Whenever I meet with a prospective client the first thing I do is get them to describe what it is that their business does. I ask them to do this without using industry jargon or acronyms, and to treat me as though I have zero knowledge or understanding of their area of expertise.  When it comes to describing what your business does it’s likely that there may two or more ways of doing this. If you’re a retailer for example you might say that you produce experiences that your target customers interact with whilst also being the place where your customers can buy your products.

It’s also really important that you explain who your competitors are, remember that this may not be as obvious as you think it is. Your competitors don’t have to be in the same field as you, they could, for example, offer products or services at the same price points as yours that also deliver the same level of gratification.

Doing this will give your PR a really good picture of what you do and where you sit within the marketplace. They’ll also be able to do their own research and read up on your industry sector, allowing them to appear knowledgeable when speak to the media on your behalf.

Who are you looking to target with your PR campaign.

If you’re a business whose core customers are other businesses then your PR is likely to be focused around the key industry sectors that you’re targeting. It’s also important to remember the job title of the key people who make purchasing decisions within the sectors you’re targeting. For example, if you’re looking to get your business in front of Marketing or HR managers then Marketing Week or HR Today could be suitable media targets for you. Your PR will be able to advise you as to the best way of getting your story into these types of publications, it’s about educating and informing rather than selling.  

If your target customers are joe public like you and me, it’s really useful if you can describe who they are. This will help your PR to identify the potential consumer publications that are appropriate for you, each media outlet has a specific audience. Remember this could be Online magazines and bloggers, national and local newspapers, lifestyle and special interest magazines, TV and Radio.  

PR articles do a lot of the heavy lifting for your business when it comes to raising your profile, positioning you as an authority or simply getting your key messages out to your ideal client. All of this helps to create the word of mouth buzz about your brand.

Create a wish list of the media you’d like to appear in.

This is something that I ask every new client as part of the briefing session. Remember to include industry titles, as well as online titles, bloggers, newspapers and consumer magazines. Your PR is best placed to advise you how to get into these and together you can explore the options that might be available.

What do you want people to do in response to your PR campaign?

Remember that PR whilst won’t necessarily drive sales it will most certainly generate exposure for your business and generate brand awareness for you. Many of the businesses I work with use PR as part of their general marketing strategy and we look for the PR to generate traffic to their website, increase newsletter sign ups or download freemium content.  The more specific you can be in answer to this question, the easier you’ll make your PR’s life.

Why are you embarking on a PR campaign now?

It’s important that your PR knows and understands what’s going on within your business? Have you just won an award, have you undergone a period of expansion, do you have new products and services you want to shout about?  If you already have a communications strategy for your business how do you see PR fitting into this?

For PR to really benefit your business it needs to be an ongoing process, so it’s also worth thinking about what other PR opportunities there maybe after you’ve run your initial campaign. If you’re a B2B business then it’s worth looking for ways in which you can raise your profile in the appropriate trade press, could you offer a spokesperson for the monthly Q&A for example? If you’re more B2C focused do you have more products and services in the pipeline that you can talk about?

How are you going to measure success?

Measuring the results of your PR activity is very difficult. Unlike an advertising campaign, it can be tricky to see hard and fast results from your PR.  I used to have a client who tried to evaluate my PR activity by the number of lipsticks he sold. I can guarantee that the PR activity didn’t generate a single sale, however over the course of the years we worked together we achieved consistent media and online coverage for his business in appropriate titles that helped to raise brand awareness, which resulted in increased traffic to his website and phone enquiries, all of which meant that his business had a steady flow of new clients beating a path to his door.

When you sit down with your PR it’s worthwhile discussing how you’re going to measure success. It might be that you want to get 5 pieces of trade press coverage on the launch of your new service, it may be that you want to increase your website SEO, if this is the case your target might be to secure follow links back to your website.  The other way to measure success is to look at key messaging and aim to ensure that these are covered in any media articles.

Who is your PR agency or Freelancer going to report to?

Having taken the decision to employ an external PR it’s vital that you spend some time working together and developing a good working relationship. You might even decide to do mini inductions for them, after all, the more your PR knows and understands your business the better your PR is going to be.  It’s also important that you have systems and processes in place so that your PR is able to do their job, it’s likely that they’re going to need access to your marketing collateral, you also need to make yourself or a company spokesperson available should the need arise. Having regular update meetings will enable you to track results, and plan your next steps.

In my career I’ve been fortunate that in the main, I’ve been viewed as an integral part of the marketing/communications team for my clients. There has, on whole, been a free flow of information and as a result we’ve achieved great results.

Eleanor Lester
Latest posts by Eleanor Lester (see all)
close
The Business Bulletin

Don't miss out...

Enter your email address to ensure you receive the next edition of The Business Bulletin as it is published.

Eleanor Lester

Eleanor Lester is a PR and Marketing Professional with over 20 years’ experience, including B2B, lifestyle, food and drink, fashion and online retail. She is a passionate believer in the value that good PR and strategic marketing can bring to small and medium sized businesses.