After you’ve selected a PR firm to help your organization define and share a strategic narrative with the world, you need to make sure you get the most value for every PR dollar spent. The success of a PR initiative is not completely dependent on the agency, however. While a good agency knows how to work around unique quirks or challenges a client brings to the table, there are a number of decisions and actions you can take to get the most value from using outside PR services.
Having worked both in-house as the liaison for a PR firm and now working on the agency side, I’ve observed a few glaring differentiators between companies who reap the most from employing an agency and those who get far fewer results than hoped. Some organizations may feel the frustration of minimal PR results, while others simply have no idea how much more could be achieved with this valuable partnership by simply making a few adjustments.
Here are five ways to get the greatest ROI from your PR firm, empower the PR team to succeed and as a result, rapidly grow the success of your company.
Involve PR at a High Level
Effective PR can exponentially multiply a company’s brand awareness/exposure, secure winning placement in analyst reports, steal the show at events and essentially smoke the competition in taking leadership of a market. That’s C-level stuff, pretty important, right? Unfortunately, many organizations keep PR at an arms-distance from executives, and end up with a tactical, low-level effort. Something as critical as a company’s messaging and image must come from the top, and the less bottlenecks and messengers in the way to slow down efforts and distort the message, the better.
A PR agency can best deliver value to its clients when it is involved in high-level strategy and planning, since PR is the conduit for sharing the company’s most important messages. Also, some of our most successful clients here at Catapult have given us a point-of-contact who is in an upper-management role, and has the trust of his/her C-level executives to make important decisions for the company. Having involvement of executives helps elevate the value of PR, and empowers the agency to think bigger, share more strategically and not fall into the slow-grind of being “order-takers” getting lost in the minutia of tasks.
Treat the PR Team Like Part of the Team
You are making a big investment in PR. Just as a company wants a new employee to get to know the company culture, become part of the team and excel at their job, an agency also needs that inclusiveness to succeed. PR agencies are frequently treated like “outsiders” when it comes to meetings, company planning, trainings and even news, which—like putting any employee in that position—only makes it more difficult for the agency to do its job. Many of our clients at Catapult treat us like part of the family, and this helps us make better decisions on their behalf and more accurately anticipate their needs. We also—as all people do—work better when we are part of the team.
Introduce the PR Agency to Key Players Throughout the Company
Certainly having a single designated liaison or point of contact for a PR firm is important and makes communications easier and more efficient, but there is enormous value in allowing your PR firm to build relationships with people throughout your company. That way when the time comes, as different initiatives require cooperation from different departments like events or sales, employees in-house feel comfortable working with the PR agency and better contribute to the success of the initiative.
Designate and make available an Industry Champion
A PR agency with access to your best industry expert will always obtain results. We need that credible spokesperson to be a visionary for the market to provide thought leadership and articulate the industry narratives. Sometimes different opportunities will call for different spokespeople, but choosing the individual(s) who act as the face and voice of the company is an important decision and can make or break a campaign. The spokesperson should be:
An executive or member of upper management. For big opportunities with media and analysts covering them, the CEO is often ideal, although sometimes having a more technical or specialized spokesperson is necessary. (Though members of the marketing team may be easy choices, media in particular don’t like to see the word “marketing” in a spokesperson’s title.)
Someone who can prioritize media and analyst briefings. No one likes a flake, and while unforeseen schedule conflicts are sometimes unavoidable, it’s helpful when the spokesperson can prioritize these opportunities and see them as an important part of his/her contribution to the company’s success.
An engaging presenter and knowledgeable resource. A spokesperson should be comfortable with sharing the company’s strategic narrative and able to answer questions on behalf of the organization as a whole.
Take Your PR Agency’s Advice
Of course I’m biased as a PR professional, but we are experts and though we may not spend eight hours a day in the trenches immersed in the technicalities of your product, you likely selected a PR firm that has deep domain expertise. They are specialists in your industry (or should be) and have been actively involved in a specific market space for years. We spend hours a day on analyst phone calls with different clients, reading and tracking the news, educating ourselves and writing about products. We are qualified to help you develop that key narrative that elevates your organization above the noise of the industry to a new place of leadership and category creation.
Make PR worth every penny of your investment with these tips and see what a difference it will make in the success and growth of your company!