By Adrienne Routledge, director, Sapphire Public Relations
Good business is all about relationships and there is much you can do to ensure that the relationship with your preferred PR consultancy becomes a long term and successful one.
But it is dependent on a number of factors and considerable legwork on your part, starting right at the selection process.
There are three main areas to look for – skills, services and personality. Good PRs need to be many things but being inherently nosy is pretty fundamental. PRs need to demonstrate from the start effective interviewing techniques that allow them to get really quickly to the heart of what your business is all about.
Unfortunately, client feedback show me the process is not carried out nearly thoroughly enough, exposing both sides to potential gulfs in understanding and gaps in knowledge. Be prepared to be quizzed by your prospective consultancy about your business and, if you’re not, you should wonder why.
Make sure PRs understand the media, as a large chunk of your remit will be to see your company featured favourably in the press. Good project management skills are also vital, as PRs will often work on many different projects for more than one client, so make sure you’re confident of their project management skills.
Go beyond the blurb presented in the corporate brochure or web site and quiz the individuals who would be assigned to look after you. Don’t be afraid to find out more about their individual and particular areas of expertise or experience.
It may be obvious, but make sure any shortlist of consultancies offers the range of services you require. There are increasingly blurred lines between the different marketing disciplines, and much more call for integrated campaigns and programmes. Some consultancies will just offer media relations, whilst others offer much more. Consider your immediate and long term needs.
The personalities of your PR team, and your own, and how they come together can make or break any client/consultancy relationship. So make sure you know whom your designated team will be, and how the work will be divided between them. Trust is huge as is sharing the same values and being like-minded. Make sure you understand the values and business principles that your consultancy operates by and that these reflect your own.
Relationships are two-way and PRs will also have certain expectations of you, the prospective client. As well as a professional fee, we ask for commitment by the bucket-load. To make the relationship work hardest, you need to be prepared to invest time and resource, especially in the early days when we’re finding out about your business. But we’re also finding out about you and any company spokespeople, so be prepared to be candid and open. The more we know about your business and its ambassadors, the better.
- Don’t promise something you can’t deliver. For instance, don’t promise to be available for a long fought for press interview, and then pull out. We won’t thank you for it and neither will the journalist – after all, our success thrives on maintaining good and trusting journalist relationships.
- Acknowledge and heed deadlines. They are real and won’t go away, no matter how important you are.
- Remember why you outsourced to a consultancy in the first place and don’t try and do everything yourself. Many business people feel they can write well -whether press releases or articles- both techniques that are bread and butter to good PRs. So, use your PR as your expert and enjoy the freedom it gives you to do your job.
- Don’t go ‘secret squirrel’ on us. It can backfire horribly. If things look set to go awry, tell us, and trust us. Together we can then work up a plan to best manage and control the communications process. It’s little use telling us after the event or after it’s been reported on or leaked to the media. No PRs relish such fire-fighting.
- Don’t expect too much. No PRs should promise you any coverage of any shape or form. It’s irresponsible, misleading and untrue. Good PRs can help to create a story or pull out the most significant parts of a story or message and should even be able to advise on a story’s news value, but guarantees are not part of what PR is about.
Finally, PR is highly enjoyable and can be hugely gratifying. Even after 20 years in the business, I still love it, most of the time. So, do your homework, do the legwork and hopefully you will enjoy a relationship with a PR partner that really will help your business thrive.
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