What should you consider before signing the dotted deal? Do you know what makes a great relationship between a start-up and its PR agency?
The chemistry. Does the agency really get what you’re doing? Just because it has proven success in the past doesn’t always mean that it’s the right match for you.
However, not every relationship is a bed of roses. The failed ones showed us our mistakes and missteps, helping us grow stronger. Yet, it is nice to have some idea of what to look for in order to avoid the common footfalls.
Consider the following 10 things before hiring a PR agency. If you’re already working with one, this article will give you some good reminders.
1. Before Hiring A PR Agency, Know What You’re Trying To Achieve
Are you revamping your company? Or launching a new product? Have you pivoted your business and need to adjust your brand voice accordingly?
Before reaching out to PR agencies, think about the problem you’re solving.
The best way to begin with is by asking “what am I trying to achieve?” Can you answer this question clearly? If yes, then it becomes simpler for you to find the right PR agency who would help you accomplish these goals.
Also, if it know your goals, (which I guess they should) it should come up with the exact solutions.
“Getting the word out about your company” may seem like an easy option, but you should really have a clear idea of what you specifically want.
Do you want fashion bloggers to write about your company’s new cosmetic to tap into their powerful network of audience and eventually drive sales during monsoon? Then now is the right time to decide what you clearly want out of the PR efforts, even before hopping on a call with the agency.
2 Are You Ready For PR? (horse before the cart)
As the founder of a PR agency, many people come to me for PR — to let people ‘know’ about their business.
I have to often remind them, “are you really ready for PR?”
Before hiring a PR agency or attempting to create a PR strategy, can you:
- Easily prove to the agency how your business is different from your competitors?
- Clearly define your target audience?
- Allot an in-house resource to coordinate with the outsourced PR?
- Hire a spokesperson to co-ordinate with the media?
- Afford a PR budget for a couple of months?
If you’re able to answer only three of the five bullet points, it makes more sense to wait until you’re in a position to afford to work with a PR agency. To see the results you must create a comprehensive strategy lasting beyond at least six months.
3 How Would The Agency Measure Success?
The most important question to ask your PR agency is – how do they measure success? Metrics act as a barometer for measurement. Have a chat with the agency from the beginning about what success looks like to you (and them).
Ideally they should be able to talk about what would help you generate greater revenues. This does not merely mean impressions and Facebook likes. Do they ask you about your business goals? Can they co-relate their work with your business objectives? They should know how to move the needle.
Ideally the PR agency should suggest goals based on parameters such as uniqueness of a product, funding, competition and an in-depth understanding of the media landscape.
Don’t forget to ask them for proof of concept. Suppose you want your firm to get featured on TechCrunch or The Next Web. Have they secured prior placements in those outlets?
4. Different Agencies Offer Different Services
The size of agency affects:
- The type of services you’d receive
- How much you spend
- The personal attention you’ll receive from the higher stakeholders
The offerings of small boutique agencies, solopreneurs, large size and international agencies vary in their benefits and specialization.
If you’re a start-up, steer away from agencies working with larger brands or Fortune 500 companies. You’ll end up paying higher fees and you wouldn’t get the personalized attention to create real ripples in the press.
Here’s what you should expect from agencies of different sizes:
- A small-sized boutique agency will be flexible. They will be updated about the changing trends and are likely to wear many hats. You’ll work with everyone, from the CEO to the intern.
- A mid-sized agency starts to specialize. The team working with you would be specialists and you’ll see the CEO less often as the firm expands.
- A large or worldwide agency normally works with sister companies to do pretty much anything you may need. These activities may be handled by juniors while lobbying, crisis management and regulatory work would be overseen by the higher authority.
While larger companies have a global reach and specialized teams for every need, initially you might not require all the services they offer. It is advantageous to evolve the relationship with the PR agency as your business evolves.
5. What Is Your PR Budget?
Commit to a long-term relationship than spending a huge amount at one go. While there is no magic formula to decide the budget, you spend what you can. A retainer model is advisable to grow stronger month after month.
Companies decide their PR budget based on their marketing spend. Most spend about ten percent of their marketing budget. This ten percent includes trade shows, advertising and PR. The PR should be between three to five percent.
For an early stage start-up, you should pay between INR 30,000 – 70,000 per month tops.
6 Location Shouldn’t Be An Issue
Do you prefer one-on-one interactions or remote collaboration? While considering an agency to work with, in today’s hyper-connected digital ecosystem, location shouldn’t be a hurdle, except when your business is location-specific.
Instead, think about – would you like to work with these people, everyday?
Virtual meetings work well, but if you feel the need to meet monthly or quarterly, mention it in the contact.
7 Dedicate One Person To Coordinate With PR Agency
Consider the PR team as an extension of your in-house team. As with your in-house employees, have someone to co-ordinate with them and to provide proper integrations when needed. This person should have the experience of working in the PR domain.
8 Onboarding The Agency
Similar to onboarding a new team member, the agency you hire should be integrated with your business from the beginning. This means sharing more than your past press releases and coverages.
I feel, the most effective relation is built between an agency and a company when the agency is treated as an extension of your team. Give them access to your future developments and allow them direct communication with stakeholders in your company. The more the agency knows about your way of doing business and your business itself, the more powerful the combined team will be.
Normally, it takes an agency two to three weeks to get onboard. Assets such as the company logo, founder’s bio, past coverage and news releases are shared. Ideally, the company should dive deep into the brand messaging, research the competitors and industry landscape and create their strategy.
They’ll need access to your business plan, social media accounts and the reporters whom you have relations with.
9 The Key To A Happy Client-agent Relationship Is Trust
Like in any other relationship, be honest and transparent with the agency since you both are working on a common goal.
As a client, you’ve hired them because they specialize in a field you don’t know about. So respect and trust them when they suggest something.
While you would get many agencies and consultants who say “yes” to you, a good PR professional will actually tell you – what and how your competitors are doing it better, why your news is boring for the journalist and where you’re failing and succeeding.
If your agency isn’t questioning you, you should be question them on their approach. The benefit of hiring an agency is that they can share their perspective as an outsider.
10 PR Cannot Function In Vacuum
In order to get the best bang for your bucks, your PR should be integrated with the entire marketing strategy.
PR is valuable, but fails to be effective when it is used as a stand-alone strategy in building and shaping your product or service. PR, social media, digital marketing, paid search and brand communications should be aligned towards a common goal.
Although there’s a whole lot of work you need to do before hiring a PR agency, asking the right questions from the onset will set you and your agency for success.