So you've decided to engage a PR agency, a solid first step in any company's marketing efforts.
A truly successful strategy requires your active participation. Here are five tips to help you make sure you're getting the most out of your firm:
1. Keep them in the loop. Communication is essential in any successful, ongoing relationship. This might seem obvious, but many companies have a habit of bringing in a new agency for an extensive "data dump" at the beginning, but ongoing communication takes a nosedive as things get busy internally. Once you bring agency staffers into the loop, be sure to keep them there. Treat them as part of the team, not like external vendors.
Business changes every day, so holding regular meetings to discuss the latest product news and company goings-on will ensure your agency has the information it needs to attain great results. If your schedule gets busy, forward emails that can fill in the blanks or get agency staffers thinking. You might also consider inviting your PR team to listen in on internal sales and marketing calls--great ideas might be percolating that you didn't realize had PR value.
2. Provide adequate lead time. Remember to give your PR team a heads-up at least a day or two before you push something live, particularly significant product updates or major business developments. This gives the agency time to reach out to "faithful followers"--trusted media and bloggers that regularly cover you--to ensure they receive a timely heads-up, the proper message, and all the necessary details to write the best possible story.
3. Provide timely responses to reporters. Media and bloggers are often under intense pressure to file a breaking story (or three). If a journalist has a question, responding as quickly as possible not only helps the writer develop her/his story, it makes everyone look good, including your company.
This is also applicable to interview opportunities that you've sought; remember that media schedules are filled quickly, so taking advantage of these opportunities requires responding in an appropriate manner.
4. Consider their counsel. You hire an agency because they know the industry, have a plan to achieve your communication goals, and understand how to engage journalists and bloggers on the "beat." They should be the experts of their domain; trust their advice. Often in a crisis, people lose track of the bigger picture. When executives panic, the marketing team falls under pressure to fix the situation quickly. Rash moves can backfire. It's beneficial to look to your level-headed agency team and consider their guidance.
Bonus: If you trust and value your PR partners, their perspective can provide insight and clarity well beyond marketing or communications.
5. Give constructive feedback. It's crucial to give feedback. Let your agency know what's working with the program--and what's not. (See tip No. 1.) Good agencies want to understand what makes their client tick so they can be more effective. Additionally, if something about your PR program isn't working, give that feedback, too. If things aren't jibing, that can limit success.
PR should be all about boosting the bottom line. A tight relationship with your PR team will help ensure that the time and dollars you spend on agency engagement nets expected returns--and then some.
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