hiring with red fan communications

What you need to know before hiring the perfect PR partner

Every week I sit down with CEOs and CMOs who believe they need a PR agency on board. When I sit down with companies of all sizes to talk about their search for a PR agency, I often find they already have a preconceived notion of what a PR agency will actually accomplish.

But when they meet with our team, they are delighted to learn that a strong PR partner is thinking about more than just getting ink; they are thinking about business objectives and implementing engaging strategies through a strong and integrated public relations campaign. The right PR partner is an investment, not just of money but of time. The search and selection of a PR partner needs to be done wisely.

Absolutely one thing is for sure: A business can’t hire a PR agency until they have their own ducks in a row so that they can clearly outline both the business and public relations goals that they would like to achieve. These goals often fall into categories based on the timeline of the company:

Launch

  • An entrepreneur needs to establish their brand to reach investors, clients and new hires while continuing to inspire current employees. They need a campaign that allows them to reach these audiences through various mediums.

Grow

  • A medium size company may want to grow their reputation as a thought leader in their industry or set sights on being acquired or going public. If they aren’t putting forth strong messaging and unique proof points, they may fall short of these goals.

Redefine

  • An established brand must find ways to stay fresh and relevant while engaging their established and target audiences. This may be the launch of a new brand or the reinvigoration of an existing brand. A fresh push can provides a company with a platform to attract the up-and-coming consumer so that they are not left in the dust while other competitors move ahead into the space.

Once you are able to identify the stage your business is in, the next step in your search for the perfect PR partner is to ask yourself the following questions:

1) What are your company objectives and how will your agency help you achieve them?

It’s the client’s responsibility to show up with clear business goals and a budget to use PR wisely. The agency should help the client determine the best way to use PR to reach the desired results. Both parties need to establish what success looks like, establish metrics and key performance indicators.

2) How you will work together to measure the success of your campaign?

Make sure you know the specific goals you want to achieve and outline a timeframe and budget to achieve those goals. It’s a red flag to strategic PR firms when a company asks for a proposal or plan without having a discussion on goals and budget. Make sure you have this conversation up front with agencies you are considering hiring because it will allow you to more efficiently learn who is the right partner for you. After all, the agency needs to be creative in taking your budget and making sure it is used in ways that allow you to achieve your goals. The last thing you want is a proposal with ideas that you can’t afford to execute on. Likewise, the last thing an agency wants is to be brainstorming a customized plan without a budget outlined.

3) Have you found an agency that will provide you with sound, strategic counsel?

You want a firm that goes beyond media relations. If they don’t fully understand your business or have a fire in their belly about making sure you win in your industry, then you’re not going to get the best results. Pay attention to how you feel when you sit with the team. Do they make you feel confident that you will achieve the results you are looking for?

4) Will you be a priority client?

You want to know your business will be a priority within the agency you pick. So review the type of clients they are working with now. Know that your budget doesn’t place you as the smallest client in their portfolio. Make sure the agency provides you with a consistent team and that they are in the room with you during the new business presentation. Clarify if the relationship with your agency will be exclusive or not. Ask whether they plan on working with one of your competitors or an organization that presents a conflict of interest. Whether you’re a restaurant or a tech company, this question needs to be explored.

5) Do you have a point person within your company that will be overseeing this relationship?

The best agency relationships are established with companies that invest in an internal contact that has immediate access to the C-suite and can turn on a dime to get information, review and approve press materials, set up interviews and help ensure campaigns run smoothly.

At the beginning of the relationship, establish who the agency will communicate with. Be sure to set up a weekly call or email report each Friday, accompanied by face-to-face meetings. Keep in mind the relationship and level of engagement your PR agency has with your company affects the outcome of your campaign.

6) Does the agency have relevant case studies and solid references to present?

Asking an agency to present relevant experience and solid references allows you to see if they do, in fact, understand your offering enough to a) present client examples that resonate with you and b) prove they have the experience in order to be successful. Agencies with a proven track record and happy clients in your industry are a definite plus.

Answering these questions will allow you to see if the best next step for your business is hiring a PR firm. Some questions to ask once you start interviewing agencies include:

  • What excites you about managing PR for my company?
  • What would you like to see changed in order to secure the press and interest we desire?
  • What do you think of our competitors and how would you differentiate us from the rest of the pack?
  • Are there any PR challenges you foresee and what will we need to do in order to prepare for them?
  • Who on your team would be our day-to-day contact?

At Red Fan, we are dedicated to establishing solid client relationships and have found that a thorough vetting process (both on the client-side and on the agency-side) leads to better client chemistry as well as more compelling campaigns and impactful results. If you are interested in exploring if Red Fan is the perfect PR partner for you, contact us here. We look forward to hearing from you!

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