Maximising the value of your PR agency from the outset: defining success and planning to achieve it

One of the most common mistakes a business makes when employing a PR agency is, ironically, not communicating properly.

This can be frustrating for both parties, especially when one side is “employed” to communicate the business’ messages to the wider world. The agency is an extension of your business, relaying key information to journalists, shareholders, investors and potential employees.

If your PR agency is not equipped with all the information that they need, they will fail in delivering the messaging that you want, and therefore, not deliver on the established KPIs and ultimately, waste your marketing budget.

In a time when marketing budgets are being cut, it is essential that you are getting ROI, but for this to happen there is a responsibility from the client side, as well as from the agency.

However, before this can start it is essential that all parties sit down and determine what PR success really looks like, what the business is trying to achieve through using a PR agency and a corresponding timeline.

Once these things have been determined, it is essential for the PR agency to undertake a full benchmarking study to understand the business’ current reputation with media, work out how the business wants to change and how this can be tracked.

This is achieved through a series of interviews with clients, journalists, prospects and influencers. As well as an influencer benchmarking study, a PR/ marketing agency should also discuss a number of key indicators for web tracking, SEO, social media and sales conversions. While many clients sometimes feel that this benchmarking process is not required – it is absolutely essential first step in delivering the PR success required for the business.

The benchmarking study ensures that the business understands how it is portrayed and where it needs to improve in order to generate results. This set-up phase also provides the PR agency with a platform to develop a full and accurate PR plan that can be shared across the full business to each and every team (especially the C-Suite). This ensures that any content is not merely getting your name in a target publication, but it is on-brand, on-message and is tied in with your core messages and objectives.

PR can be an important channel for brand awareness and wider business success. However, internal communication of PR activities is just as important as external comms. Marketing is an extension of the sales team, and some ensuring that the sales teams are fully connected with the PR outreach and coverage can provide great conversation openers, but also prepare for tricky conversations – particularly if the sales teams are contacted about specific PR coverage that they were not aware of.

By sharing coverage across the business, not only does it give other departments an insight into the external communications programme, but also the opportunity to generate further insights from departments that may have great content that has yet to be shared. By doing this you are treating your agency as an external team member rather than a siloed service supplier, meaning you’ll get the best out of your PR spend and any existing content you may have.

The most successful PR coverage reflects the core business offer, and this can only be achieved with buy-in from the whole business. So once you have an agency on board make sure that everyone, not just the marketing team, is involved in any initial benchmarking study and future plans.