Working with a PR agency can be a mixed experience for brands who are unsure about how best to navigate the relationship.
In Part 1 of this series, we took a look at advice from those who have worked internally from the brand’s side to manage a PR agency. In this piece, we give PR agency owners a chance to provide tips on how to make the relationship successful.
The road to a productive relationship between a brand and its public relations agency starts with the selection process. Yes, it can be time-consuming to interview and properly vet a PR partner—but the long-term rewards can be worth it.
“Look for a PR partner that has done great work helping brands with similar caché and budget parameters, or even better, done more with less,” says Bill Byrne, co-founder and managing director, Remedy PR. “If an agency shows you a case study for a brand that had 10x your budget, or Apple-level innovation and notoriety, that may not be relevant to your needs.”
“Being around the block a few times helps a firm bring a strategic view to the needs of a client,” adds Paul Carringer, president, Caring Marketing. “And, experience in particular areas of service helps a firm get to the needs of the client quickly and with results that can be measured.”
Once you hire an agency, your work isn’t over. Clients should stay engaged and view it as a partnership that thrives—or dies—based on the communication from both sides.
“We are partners with the clients,” says Carringer. “Their business is just as important to us as it is to them. Clients that consider us their partners—not simply service providers—are important. Help your agency understand what direction you are going and how they can help.”
Are the client’s expectations in line with what the agency can realistically deliver? Public relations doesn’t come with a guarantee. So how can clients manage their expectations?
“Many times, I give my clients insight on how the earned media industry works,” says Christina Nicholson, owner of Media Maven. “Yes, I know they want the big, national outlets to cover their brand ASAP—but so does everyone else. I find myself repeatedly reminding clients how the industry works because they want it to work a different way, they’re being impatient, or they expect the media to work for them.”
To effectively manage your agency resource, the internal point person should work with the agency contact to establish timelines that fit into not only their goals but also the media’s.
“Work with your team to set up a timeline and try to stick with it,” Byrne recommends. “Keep in mind the media have their own deadlines, so your timeline should be developed with their needs in mind.”
If clients expect results overnight, that can cause issues from the start. While it’s an agency’s job to educate the client about the expected outcomes, clients should understand that public relations differs from advertising.
“Modern PR takes time,” says Byrne. “Programs and tactics that worked five years ago, or even one year ago, probably won’t deliver the same results today.”
“With many things being disguised as ‘pay to play’ and the growth of influencer marketing, there are lots of moving and overlapping pieces,” Nicholson says.
“Regardless of how strong our relationships are with a journalist, it can take time to turn them onto your brand,” Byrne continues. “Sometimes, we’ll have stories run in tier-A media almost overnight, but it can also take weeks, if not months, to see a placement appear in some online-only outlets.”
Of course, trust is the foundation of any successful relationship. If you’ve done a thorough job of vetting and selecting an agency partner, they deserve your trust.
“Your PR partner wants nothing less than for this relationship to be successful,” Byrne says. “Trust that they know what they’re doing.”
So carefully vet them—regularly communicate with them—then get out of their way and let your PR agency do the work you’ve hired them to do.
For a complete guide on what you—and your PR agency—should be measuring to prove ROI, read our ebook on PR and social media KPIs and reporting. Choosing the right metrics to focus on will help you prove the value of comms—as well as your decision to bring on an agency to drive results.