By Katie Oxenford
The Hoffman Agency, San Jose
A large part of the success or failure of a PR program depends on the strength of the relationship between client and agency.
That’s why, at The Hoffman Agency, we don’t take on a client unless we believe it has what it takes to be a successful partner. In fact, we often share the following slideshow with prospective clients so they can see how they can get the most out of working with us.
If you’re looking for an agency partner, or currently working with one, here are 7 steps you should consider to ensure you have a winning team:
1. Define your business objectives.
PR objectives should map to your sales and marketing goals, and do so in a way that allows PR to make the biggest impact. For companies eager to gain visibility, it’s easy to skip the step of defining objectives and jump right into media outreach.
Are you trying to get noticed by VCs to get additional funding? Do you want to build product awareness, change brand perceptions or establish thought leadership in an industry?
Go beyond the goal of “getting media coverage” to defining what impact you want that coverage to have. A good agency will tell you upfront whether those objectives are achievable and, if not, what steps need to be taken to get there.
2. Have a clear vision of success.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to have appropriate expectations and to agree on what constitutes success. If this doesn’t happen, it’s likely you’ll set yourself up for disappointment.
Even if you have the most “innovative/disruptive/groundbreaking” thing to hit the market, it will likely take some time to build up brand awareness before you have immediate or regular top-tier placements.
Like all good things, successful PR takes time, patience and a lot of relationship-building. Often, PR needs to lay the groundwork to establish industry presence, and once that’s achieved there will be exponential PR value.
3. Invest in the relationship.
The agency/client relationship is a lot like a marriage. You need mutual accountability, respect, trust and ongoing communication.
When it comes to communication, being responsive and reachable is key. There’s nothing more frustrating to an agency than having a “can’t turn this down” press opportunity land in your lap, only to find out that the client is unavailable for comment. It’s also important to keep the agency informed of any changes happening internally so that it can gauge what might have PR value.
Finally, there needs to be constant feedback – both good and bad. Agencies want to please, and if you give them direct, constructive feedback, they’ll react in a positive way.
4. Open up the company. Mi casa, su casa!
In my experience, the best client relationships and results come from having “one team” with access to senior leaders and company/product strategists.
For one, it saves the client time if the agency can go straight to the appropriate person if it needs comment for a story, an update on product plans, or anything else that may be helpful in driving PR. Introducing your agency to the exec team also builds trust, and in doing so you can have extra backing when explaining PR strategy to company decision makers.
5. Think of your agency as a long-term business partner.
PR agencies can be strategic partners that can grow with your business over time. Your agency should be able to think strategically about your business problems and know your industry intimately enough to provide thoughtful suggestions to your campaigns.
If you’re bringing in an agency only when you have an upcoming product launch or a crisis, it’s going to make it difficult to continue your momentum and have PR success that expands beyond the here and now.
6. Remember to utilize owned media.
Companies have the opportunity to establish their own online media properties for communicating beyond their corridors.
By developing and harnessing “owned” media such as company blog posts, infographics, bylines and social media pages, you can build brand credibility and content that can be leveraged by journalists. Without these, you’re pitting your agency against an uphill battle.
7. Take risks.
Be willing to try something new. It’s the agency’s job to come to the table with fresh ideas, and while all of them may not be feasible, keep your mind open to possibilities. Some of the best story placements are a result of companies trusting their firm enough to take risks, even if it’s a matter of exchanging lukewarm messaging for a bold stance.
Whether you’re from an agency or in-house, let us know if you have any tips to add!