Maximising the potential of your PR agency: the importance of time and trust

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Maximising the potential of your PR agency: the importance of time and trust
Posted on May 14, 2019 by Jennifer Redfern

If you’ve been following our series on how to get the best out of your PR agency, you should now be on the home run! You’ve discussed and agreed what success looks like from the outset, you’ve communicated campaigns internally, you’ve committed to a differentiated brand offering and you’re being realistic about the type of coverage you can achieve. The next step in your PR journey is to give the process time and trust the experts.

Although reputations of brands and individuals can be ruined in the blink of an eye, they take much longer and much more hard work to build. This means that your awareness issues can’t be solved overnight. No matter how perfectly your PR agency pitches your company’s message, all of your potential clients will not know your name immediately after your agency has distributed your first press release. Instead, awareness builds gradually, with every piece of coverage placing you in front of fresh pairs of eyes and slowly increasing your credibility.

This is why PR agencies offer their work on a retainer basis. You might want PR for a one-off project, but unfortunately, calling a PR agency a fortnight before your product launch isn’t going to cut the mustard. The agency needs to spend time getting to know your company in order to define the appropriate messages and introduce you to relevant journalists. Even before starting a retainer, the agency needs to review your company’s background, your current marketing collateral and competitors. This process allows them to come up with specialised content ideas and messages that will resonate with the journalists and audiences you have specified.

After completing this essential strategy phase you still need to give the agency time once they start on the retainer. They need to develop relationships with journalists on your behalf, and it can take weeks to build this level of trust. At Keen as Mustard our retainers are for a minimum of six months and – typical of PR agencies –  we advise clients not to expect ground-breaking results within the first three. Journalists and editors often work ahead of time – your agency may have secured you coverage in editions of publications which will not appear for months down the line, so you have to wait to see the fruits of their labour. Unfortunately, these decisions are up to editors and not your PR agency, so patience is required on your part.

However, as well as time, your agency also needs resources. The nature of doing PR for a company within data, research and insight means that your stories and messages rely on data, which often means self-funded research. Even giving your agency all the time in the world won’t give you excellent coverage if you can’t provide the resources for them to work with. So, before starting your relationship with your PR agency, be certain that you have the capability within your company to provide this information. Your agency should be able to advise you on the type of data you should be providing to them and should be experts at crafting the stories around it. But ultimately, they work in PR, not research, so the content itself is up to you.

The final step to a successful relationship with your PR agency is trust. You’ve hired them to generate you coverage in the media, so have confidence in their expertise and that they’re looking for every opportunity to get your name mentioned. Researchers often write good copy, but don’t be surprised if your PR agency’s choice of content and style of language is different to what you would have chosen. Your PR is trained to write for the media, so trust that they know the details and focus that will stand out to journalists and ultimately get you coverage. Of course, you may think you can cut costs by writing copy yourself, but remember your agency will have to edit or rewrite your offerings to fit their purposes anyway. And never waste time drafting a long article for an agency to ‘place’. The PR will have to create a compelling synopsis and pitch to a journalist, who may well come back with a taoSave yourself and your agency time (and a series of exasperated emails) by asking them to write copy from the get go.

Remember, your agency wants you to get coverage that drives your awareness and conversations with potential clients just as much as you do. You hired a PR agency because you needed their expertise so take on board their recommendations and expect them to challenge your assumptions.  You’re working together as a partnership and with the right amount of time, resources and ultimately trust you will both see the results you’re after.

Read our 6 tips for working with a PR agency whitepaper here.