Should You Hire a PR Agency? Answer These 4 Questions First
It’s that special time of year again! Not the holidays (although they’re always thoroughly enjoyed by the Rally Point team) but rather that short action-packed period of time before most people enjoy some family time and a new year kicks off. This week alone a substantial portion of our clients went public with major announcements or contributed sharp and insightful commentary to a range of media outlets and content channels.
This is also a time of reflection and planning. Now is decision-making time for 2023 with organizations around the world aiming for a January kickoff on all kinds of strategic initiatives. If you’re evaluating a strategic communications plan as part of those efforts and are considering a new PR agency, here are four questions that will help you focus:
Is there strong cross-organization support for PR?
Public relations is a whole-company affair and not just for the marketing department. The entire executive team must be engaged in a campaign on some level. Specifically, we encourage our clients to build a “bench” of external voices to provide perspective for all external communications channels including media relations, content, events, speaking opportunities, etc. What does that mean? Take a tech client, for example: while the CEO takes center stage, a General Counsel provides industry-specific views on legal issues and a CTO speaks purely to technology.
More importantly, as a PR agency we can build strategies and tactics but we always need client feedback to drive success – something that goes beyond an isolated effort within an organization.
Do you have the right budget?
I’ll break it to you from the start: good PR is not cheap. The right agency should function fluidly with your organization to build the right strategy. It’s not about the volume of media hits and should never be a “pay to play” arrangement where fees are attached to individual placements. You want your PR team projecting your organization in the right way, not through incentives that aren’t aligned with your business.
Are there clear expectations for an agency and a means for measurement?
How are you prioritizing your communications objectives? Is it more important to land a mention in the Wall Street Journal or to drive consistent coverage in industry-specific publications? These are just two of the questions to ask yourself as you consider an agency hire. The right agency should also help you define what success looks like and how to achieve it. Whenever we evaluate a client prospect initially, we give honest feedback about what we think is achievable. It’s our view that no one wins when expectations are unfair or impossible to match.
Following that expectation-setting discussion, it’s critical to consider measurement. Be sure to define metrics at the beginning whether it’s share of voice, share of search, sentiment analysis, or strategic competitor analysis.
How do communications factor into your overall business goals?
Before founding Rally Point I worked in management consulting. During a conversation about project management on a large-scale engagement I suggested to a director that we isolate the communications workstream. He pushed back and said, “but aren’t communications implied in the project plan?” My answer: a resounding “no!”
Communications is a discipline unto itself and it’s critical for all businesses to consider it as such. We regularly see where communications impacts overall strategy including recruiting, fundraising/investor communications, partnerships and consumer reaction. Our view is that PR and external comms must align directly with any organization’s overall goals.
Consider these questions as starting points in your agency search. Make sure you discuss them in depth with your agency partners and get their feedback. Every engagement should start from a place of trust and honesty. Don’t hesitate to reach out and schedule a meeting if you want to talk about the PR needs.