Q: How do you choose the best PR for your company?
A: The nature of this question emphasizes how much confusion there is when defining public relations. How do you choose the best PR strategy is one way this question could be interpreted, or, how do you choose the best PR agency is another.
We’ll attack the latter. In my previous post, we discussed how to determine if you are ready for PR in the first place. If you do not have other marketing strategies in place that can help nurture leads once they are exposed to your brand via PR, you are likely not ready to partner with an agency. If you do have a strong foundation and an integrated marketing plan in place, here are two key considerations to pay attention to when speaking to agencies in the running:
Are they genuinely curious?
In your first call or in-person meeting with the agency, are they doing all the talking? If so, this can be an indication of how they are going to be as a partner moving forward and potentially how they interact with the media as well. An agency team -- both its account reps and business development team -- should ask a lot of questions as they try to uncover if something is a good fit and if needs can be met.
Questions like “how will you measure success?” and “what are you looking for in an agency partner?” indicate that the agency is qualifying you as well and uncovering if this will be a mutually-beneficial relationship. They should want to dig beyond the surface to ensure that what they offer can meet your expectations and needs. If all you get in the initial conversation is the agency pitch and pricing options, without genuine interest in your business, move along.
Do they make guarantees?
When it comes to media relations (reaching out to the press to achieve an editorial article), there are no guarantees.
- There is no guarantee that the media you want will write about your product or service
- If they do write about it, there is no guarantee that what they have to say will be positive or include all of your key messaging
- If the article is positive and includes your key messaging, there is still no guarantee that it will translate into web traffic, leads or conversions
If the agency you are speaking to is making these types of guarantees, raise the red flag. And, if you need these types of guarantees before you’ll spend money take out a paid advertisement. Even then, bullet number three above can’t be guaranteed. What an agency should guarantee you is that creative, persistent outreach will be made to your target media, and that their team is made up of tenacious media relations professionals. Ask them to provide either a quarterly success summary or sample monthly report from a client in a similar space to get an idea of the types of results they can achieve and what they measure.
If press coverage is your number one goal, look for an agency that specializes in media relations and is willing to work on shorter-term contracts to show value quickly -- not six months from now.
So, why invest in PR if there are no guarantees? Because the cost of not doing PR is significant. PR puts your brand top of mind for your target customers so that, when they are ready to buy, your brand makes the initial short list for consideration. Hiring an agency gives you an entire team specialized in delivering media results who work with other professionals internally to gather ideas, share press contacts and create content -- something that is difficult to achieve with a single PR hire at your company.