Over the years I’ve spoken to many people about their experiences with PR agencies and professionals. Whilst it’s always great to hear positive success stories, what concerns me are the negative ones.
“We hired a PR, nice person and they got us coverage, but we’re still not quite sure what they did!”
Or even worse.
“We paid £2,000 and we only got a few pieces of coverage.”
It pains me when I hear this. Especially from a small to medium-sized business when every penny counts. I get angry on their behalf. And the truth is, it doesn’t have to be this way.
With over 20 years’ experience working in agencies, I’ve seen what goes on behind the scenes. Whilst case studies promote great results, no one talks about the challenges they had to overcome, and most importantly what would be done differently on review.
Without the honest truth on what to avoid, business owners are making the same mistakes again and again, costing them valuable time and budget.
In this blog series, I’m going to highlight what business owners (those just starting out, or those who have not had a good PR experience to date), need to consider before working with a PR agency. Yep, warts and all!
Through better understanding, you’ll work together more effectively with your chosen agency and see the direct value to your business.
Understanding How PR Works For Maximum Value
Business owners start hiring PR services without fully understanding PR – its role, its process and its effect – and more importantly, how to use it to its best advantage.
No one expects business owners to get their MBA in marketing before they embark on their business journey. However, you need to be clear on your business objectives and what you need the marketing and PR activity to deliver in your brief.
But here’s the difference. There are those that will respond to your brief i.e. they provide suggestions of how to work together. But then there are those who will review your brief, ask questions and challenge you further as to what you’re trying to achieve and then advise you of the best route of action, but also how to plan the activity effectively for maximum impact.
Reputation vs Coverage
Business owners usually wait to contact PRs when they’re ready to promote or launch. This rarely leaves enough time for the PR to advise clients what they need to consider or prepare before going public.
Prospective client Adam* was looking to launch an app. Following further discussion, it transpired that they believed the coverage generated would help the company attract investors to secure funding for the second stage of development.
As PR professionals our role goes beyond media relations and how to manage your reputation amongst your team, your customers and those who will endorse and support you in the media and your industry.
Following more discussion, it became clear that Adam had spent time and money developing a product without validating the company’s offer properly – what problem did it solve and was it easy to use? More worryingly, there were potentially concerning aspects, particularly around safety.
It was a long and difficult meeting.
There weren’t enough assets from the client that journalists could use – no user feedback, testimonials or case studies. When the issue of safety to the customer arises there is a risk of negative and public media criticism. Who would invest after that?!
Instead of hiring a PR promising to have them featured across the national press they wanted, they were being challenged and forced to address important aspects of their business to review and investigate further.
One of the team described the meeting as “going ten rounds in a boxing ring.” However, better this review was done in the meeting rather than to press ahead, launch and pay for professional services unnecessarily to potentially receive public and media backlash.
Consider how you engage your PR support especially during the development stage, not just when you’re ready to launch or share the news, so you can best prepare your public activity and review any challenges and potential issues.
It Takes Seven Points Of Contact Before Someone Buys From You
According to marketing research, a customer needs seven touch points (where they would have seen, heard or engaged with your company) before they become a customer.
Unless you have the budget to work with one key partner across a variety of activities including advertising, editorial features, promotions, newsletters etc. then it’s not so easy appearing seven times in the same space. Plus with the volume of information out there, you need to be easily found across a variety of platforms, outlets or content.
PRs will indeed work to help build your reputation and credibility and promote your services or raise your profile amongst media, influencers or within your industry. Yet it’s what you do with those results in your marketing channels that counts.
You need to think about a number of things, including…
- Promoting endorsements, testimonials and coverage across social media
- Profile industry appearances, speaking events etc. and be sure to engage online as well as offline
- Use these results to direct customers to your website to learn more
- Ask them to sign up for more news or insights
- Retarget them through newsletters or advertising
…the list goes on.
Another client Emilia* wanted to launch a new online service for the food and drink sector. She didn’t have much budget, plus with larger company changes due to happen, she only wanted to embark on a two-month PR campaign before switching focus to another project.
Once you start to develop relationships with the media you need to commit to nurturing those relationships over a longer period of time. Due to the high volume of news, it can take three months for all the coverage to appear, especially in titles with longer lead times.
Instead, we reviewed their challenges and looked at where and how they wanted to test their product launch.
Rather than starting (and stopping) PR activity, they worked with one localised media partner that was targeted to reach their target client. Across a multiple channel campaign, across both print and digital to promote awareness. Emilia received enquiries for her service, plus had additional content to share and promote within her own community and social media channels.
If a brief isn’t the right fit for PR I’ll happily advise the client why so they can re-adjust their marketing plans to better meet expectations and objectives. Hopefully, the agency you’re looking to work with has the same ethos and integrity – I know plenty who do.
However, like any sector, I’ve heard plenty of businesses who have agreed to do the work just to close the sale, without questioning how this will help your business whilst securing results that don’t make an impact.
So let’s not leave that to chance for your business.
Follow this blog series to find out how to better work with your agency to see a distinct value in the activity, relationships and reputation you’re building for your business.
Join the conversation on Instagram @kvcomms or Facebook (KV Communications)
*Names changed for confidentiality