Nine Things to Know Before Hiring a PR Agency
Occasionally, prospective clients reach out to us who have never engaged with an outside public relations agency before.
This lack of experience can present a challenge, and an education about the overall PR process itself becomes vital if the prospective clients hope to achieve their business goals.
Those new to PR are usually new to the concepts of an integrated communications strategy, how it works in practice, and what the cost and ROI will be.
Many of these businesses that are new to these concepts have gone on to become long-term DLPR clients. But sometimes, the real challenge is overcoming preconceived notions of what a PR agency’s communications program can deliver and how the process should work.
Based on these past experiences — and in an effort to help prospects and everyone engaged in the public relations process — we thought it would be helpful to compile a list of “9 things to know” before hiring an outside communications consultant:
- PR is more art than science. This can be a very new way of thinking to executives who are more quantitatively focused. PR relies heavily on the qualitative, such as creative ideation, subject-matter expertise, media and client relationships, teamwork and industry experience.
- ROI is often subjective and somewhat intangible, despite the myriad attempts and importance of quantifying public relations results. Common metrics like “impressions” and “audience reach” only tell part of the story. It is the cumulative impact of the PR program over time, and not the eyeballs trained on a single media placement, that will drive business value.
- The best communications counselors are able to provide unfiltered advice. Sometimes, that means giving clients very direct and even critical feedback.
- Bias admitted, but the fact remains the same: The more time a client invests in a program, the more the effort of said program will pay off. A new communications strategy typically takes at least six months to one year to prove effective (although there are some exceptions).
- Earned media placements, especially profile stories, aretruly earned. They should not be thought of as advertisements or puff pieces—journalists care deeply about their editorial independence and the “public service” nature of their work.
- Strategic communications is part of a long-term value creation process and not something to “try out” or with which to “test the waters.”
- The best clients communicate openly with and trust their PR firm. This level of trust and openness directly correlates to the success of the program.
- No matter how much news one consumes, clients need an expert on how the media operates. Interacting with journalists is often counterintuitive and requires a nuanced understanding of how they think and work.
- A PR firm’s credibility with the media is often tied to the public perception of the client. Help the PR firm succeed on your behalf by maintaining a spirit of transparency, accessibility and accountability.
Keeping these nine points in mind before and during an engagement with a communications firm will not only align expectations, but also create a more valuable and successful PR program.
by Zach Kouwe
Senior Vice President