Many companies believe they can just pay a PR firm, leave them to it and they will automatically get results. But to get the most for your money and to gain the best results, your PR needs your input too – and at the right times. Here, I give my top tips for a successful partnership …
* Trust your PR firm.
Do your research before you employ them. Presumably they have excellent contacts, lots of good ideas, are enthusiastic about your brand, have a portfolio of happy clients and use social media as well as traditional routes to gain publicity. You should therefore regularly see the results of their work in the press. So once you have chosen the people you want, work with them. Don’t then pour cold water on suggestions and make their lives a misery. Be open minded and consider everything – that is what you are paying them for.
* Be available.
It is most frustrating if your PR consultant cannot get hold of you. They might well have an editor on a national newspaper who wants more details now, this instant, before morning conference. That is not something that can wait until tomorrow… unless you want that editor to go elsewhere. So take the call.
* Try not to interfere.
Remember you went to them for their expertise and advice. So resist the temptation to tell them how to do things. Yes, of course voice your concerns but listen to what they have to say. For example, I have received press releases with the most ridiculous long-winded and pompous quotes from the company director. I know it won’t be the PR that sent it out but will be because he ordered those quotes to be there… (but they won’t help the company gain publicity…)
* Be realistic.
Fact: Your PR firm cannot guarantee they will get you into the national newspaper of your choice – or that when you are in it, your firm will be mentioned exactly as you wish (if at all despite your PR’s efforts.) And don’t be ridiculously choosy. I’ve had PR companies come to me asking only for one particular paper. And it isn’t them but the clueless client they represent. Giving your PR a list of publications you will be in and those you won’t is absurd. Be grateful for the tiniest mention in any national paper or magazine – they will all be hard won and all go towards promoting your brand.
* Be prepared to take a risk.
You can send standard press releases yourself but a good PR company will have other ideas about how they can promote you. You might not initially like the sound of some of their ideas but taking a risk – for example, putting out some edgy new research or revealing a news story about your company – can sometimes yield the best results.
* Understand results can take months.
It can be hard if you see great coverage for a rival firm and wonder why that isn’t happening for you. But avoid comparing yourself with another client, whose business will be completely different, and try to understand that results can take a long time. Gaining PR and awareness takes time to achieve. You might be lucky – your PR spots an opportunity to push you forward – or something happens in the news that gives you a break. Generally, however, PR campaigns can take a lot of hard work. It takes time to consider ways of promotion, time to create the right pitch, time to speak to numerous editors and send out information and follow it up – and therefore money before you start to see results.
* Remind them you’re there.
The worse thing you can do is email daily with the most annoying words in the world, “Any news?” But at the same time, don’t let things drift on for weeks without speaking. A good PR should be regularly updating you on what they are doing anyway but people get busy and even the most professional and well-meaning PR can sometimes do with a little chivvying.
* Keep your PR informed.
He or she is not a mind reader. If you are planning a new website, win a new contract, decide to write a book or win an award, tell your PR. You need to be feeding them information they can work with and it might be something that can be turned into a news story for you. There’s nothing wrong with making suggestions to them either and asking for their thoughts.
* Speak with your PR before chatting to any press.
The local paper journalist you’ve known for years who rings you ‘for a quick quote’ might be doing just that. But check first. Your PR might have lined you up for an exclusive chat with a national newspaper on the same issue – who might not be interested if you have already blabbed to someone else. So if you have employed a PR, don’t then forget them or make assumptions.
* Review results and costs.
There is nothing like a misunderstanding over the finances to spoil an otherwise good relationship. Review costs all the time. And finally if you are unhappy, speak up sooner rather than later. That gives everyone the best chance of putting things right.
Written by Media Agent and journalist Alison Smith-Squire.