A few months ago we participated in a client RFP. The first phase of their search involved an initial RFI with a lot of smart and detailed questions. There was one in particular we found especially impressive for them to include:
What are the top 10 things a client must do / have to be successful with PR?
“Well this is promising,” we agreed internally.
When prospective partners genuinely want to know what THEY can do to help ensure a successful program we all breathe a sigh of relief. It signals a partner who recognizes that investing in a formal Communications program is a commitment, not just in dollars, but internal resources. We appreciated that they want to be smart about the whole process so sprinkled some advice on working with a Comms partner as well as what to expect on their end during the process. I warned them I was turning what we submitted into a blog post, so here you go:
1. Treat your PR partner like a partner, not a vendor: When your agency feels like they matter and are truly seen as part of your team, they will fight to the death for you. PR folks are incredibly loyal when it comes to their clients – an amazing line of defense that’s often overlooked and undervalued.
2. Customers say it best: The best way to stand out (especially in advertising) is to make your clients the star – not you. They can speak on your behalf. Having good relationships and campaign successes opens up opportunities for educational industry content, speaking opportunities, and sales marketing collateral to help close leads.
3. Know your goals: Plans change, goals should stay relatively the same. Have clear cut goals on who it is you specifically want to reach and what you want to say once you get there. Plans should develop out of those main pillars.
4. Share information: The best PR folks do not operate on a need-to-know basis. They demand information from all fronts of the business. We are inspired by many things which can’t be predicted which means sharing internal campaign reports, or problems sales is having. To you a customer status report might just look like numbers but to a smart and trained PR person they can easily spot a trend or something that can be used to further engage the company in industry discussion and customer acquisition (and retention).
5. Be flexible: Media can be very last minute and sometimes that one story you’re waiting on isn’t getting finalized until the 9th hour and they have questions. Sometimes briefings are booked or coverage promised and the reporter gets busy and can’t do it. Being flexible to the whims of media, and knowing it’s about the long-term view, is the way to stay focused on the prize, not the immediate.
6. Data and use cases: The industry loves data and use cases. When you have an arsenal of campaign successes and best practices it makes it that much easier to break through with the ad trades and secure presentation and speaking opportunities. These trades always want to hear about data findings and successful brand campaigns and what made them work (or not work).
7. Good internal communication and processes: Having clear communication between departments and teams that share information (new accounts, particular campaigns) is a huge benefit towards a successful PR campaign. As mentioned above, PR spans across departments and should be developed with the goal of using PR and communications to solve problems. When you can set-up and identify processes to share information internally, everything works more smoothly.
8. Wiggle room in a budget: You want to allocate budget based on determined activities, but always leave a little extra wiggle room for ideas that come up like, hiring a freelancer to write a market report or an ebook with tips for developing brand strategy.
9. Do your homework: Often times PR folks arrange meetings with influencers, program directors and media. We invest a lot of time and thought creating thorough background materials so you will be prepared when you walk in that meeting. What happens more often that not, is the executive doesn’t take the 20 minutes to review the materials and read a few articles to get familiar with the person they’re meeting with – which shows. It impacts the quality of conversation and wastes time. Come in knowing who you’re meeting and what you want to say to them based on their current published point of view.
10. Be a resource: Everyone we connect with on the media and program organizing front needs help connecting with the right people to get their jobs done. Program organizers appreciate referrals to brands and other agencies with vertical specialties. Media love data and case studies and connecting with other executives doing interesting things. Always find ways to be a resource outside promoting your own brand. It goes a long way.
11. (an extra, because I just thought of it) Dedicate resources: You know the whole, it takes a village thing? Well, PR and external communications isn’t much different. It requires access to people and information. It also operates best when there is a day-to-day point of contact who can allocate the brain space to collaborate with the Comms partner. Otherwise, your Comms team starts to feel like an island, not integrated into the whole, which makes for weak execution and all around dissatisfaction. Be prepared to allocate time to support requests from your Comms team (data, time for internal interviews, weekly meetings, department touch bases, etc.). This goes back to point #1.
Here’s a post I wrote about being successful working with a PR agency. Many of the points directly relate. http://kickingsand.com/2009/02/5-ways-to-gain-more-value-from-your-pr-agency/
What do you think? What else would you add? We encourage conversation on our blog so please leave us a comment below!