Council Post: How To Find The Right PR Match For Your Company
Public relations (PR) has always been hard to define. Even the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) goes through periods of redefining the term. It’s been nearly a decade since they officially redefined public relations and it’s likely due for a refresher. Public relations is and has always been a fluid term and business practice. This is my personal definition: Public relations is the business of communicating a brand’s message (or story) to its audiences.
Using this definition, a brand can be a person, a business or an idea. The message can be more than one message to more than one audience, but the idea is based around the concept that PR’s core is communication, clarity and understanding the truth of the thing that is being explained.
PR agencies in today’s world do a lot more than strategic thinking, crisis communications and putting out press releases; the skill set and offerings have evolved quite a bit. In this day and age, there is no single approach and companies have the option to select from a buffet of PR agency types, from the niche boutique to the all-in-one big brand.
No other industry has expanded as quickly as media and communications with the presence of social and digital media. Content creation, which used to be a niche for journalists, is now for everyone and anyone with a computer. With startups and small businesses emerging at every corner, communicating and differentiating your brand is more important than ever. The biggest challenge is communicating on all the platforms that are relevant to your audience. This is exactly why brands need an agency or professional with the strategic communication framework to drive awareness. PR is exactly that.
Around 2012, companies began searching for all-in-one services so they didn’t have to hire multiple agencies (marketing, social media and PR) to communicate. I’ve personally seen the shift from wanting a traditional PR agency to an all-in-one shop, especially with startups.
However, there is a dynamic to ensuring you have the right PR plan. Selecting the right PR partner is a critical step in this game. Whether it’s an all-in-one agency that will be able to manage multiple communications practices or a specialized boutique, here are seven important things to consider to engage in a successful PR program.
1. Determine your budget.
The budget will begin to weed out the agencies that you are going to vet in your next steps. If you have a bigger budget ($10K-plus), you have more options. If your budget is smaller, you may want to look at a boutique agency that could have more affordable options.
2. Have a list of criteria.
Have a checklist. Do you want them to be able to operate in a specific time zone, reach out to a particular vertical market or communicate with you in a certain way? There is no reason you can’t find the perfect fit, just make sure you know what you want before going into the conversation.
3. Vet multiple agencies.
Finding the right agency is like dating. Referrals from trusted sources are great, but you also need to do your homework. If you have time to make a selection, you may want to put out a request for proposal (RFP) to cast a wider net of PR options.
4. Understand the offering and approach.
I’ve been asked this question about “approach” more and more, and I realized that various agencies really do perform in different ways. You’ll find small agencies are generally more nimble to changing plans, while large agencies have expansive resources to execute larger events. That’s not to say the opposite isn’t true, only that you need to know your agency’s capabilities and reach.
5. Make sure they understand your business.
Do they “get” you and your business? There are generalist agencies that do a little bit of everything and some PR agencies that specialize. Find out what works best for you.
6. Get ideas.
If the agency has done their research before your meeting, they should be able to come up with ideas pretty quickly. They may not be the ideas that you use, but the wheels should definitely be spinning. These ideas can be the indicator that you’ve found the right match.
7. Discuss expectations.
Last but not least, discuss what you want up front. Directly map your business needs with PR or have the agency help you do that so that everyone is on the same team and understands KPIs.
Bigger multi-disciplinary agencies pull in advertising, marketing, digital marketing and SEO on top of in-house production teams to produce video, podcasts and graphic design. If you have the budget for an all-inclusive agency, it may be the right fit. However, you may find that a boutique agency with a targeted approach better meets your needs.
Selecting an agency and finding the right PR strategy is just as much about the energy of the relationship as it is the actual work that will be done. Public relations is about reaching your target audience with unified messages across all your channels. Keeping your brand voice authentic is freakishly important in these times.
Results will vary, but if you’re communicating effectively and make an educated agency choice, a solid PR program can be the key to your brand’s success.
Originally published at https://www.forbes.com.