How to Work with a PR Agency: 8 Tips
Last week, I wrote about What You Should Expect from Your PR Agency. In short, you should expect a lot. Public relations is a relationship business. Great client relationships almost always translate into greater success for the overall PR program. But success is a two-way street. If you have a good PR firm that holds up its end of the bargain as I described last week, following are some things you can do to maximize success:
- Arm us with information. Give us everything you have. We want to understand your company goals, your PR goals, what makes you different, and what you think. We even want to know if you spend your weekends skydiving in New Hampshire or playing the drums in a cover band. We are experts at digging through information to find the big ideas and small details, that when combined, will compel the press to write.
- Make us the first to know. The earlier you can bring us into a major news event, the better our chances of success. Even if we can’t do advance outreach, when we have the opportunity to determine the best strategy, prepare our media lists and prioritize our targets, we’re dramatically more successful. Unfortunately, if the release has already crossed the wire, it can be too late to interest the press.
- Be responsive. If you see a high priority email with “Immediate NYT opportunity” in the subject line and notice a few missed calls from us, time is of the essence. Reporters’ deadlines can be minutes away, and we are at their mercy. The first to respond is the first to be quoted.
- Celebrate wins enthusiastically. We are accustomed to accepting no news for good news. You don’t owe us gifts or praise, and we are grateful for your business. However, if you want to be the account that everyone begs to work on, celebrate our wins enthusiastically. At InkHouse, we still talk about a client who stopped by in-person and unannounced to deliver champagne after a big launch. The team was stunned, and a year later, we still talk about it.
- Know when to blame, and when to commiserate. Your PR firm is at the mercy of reporters, and reporters are at the mercy of editors. Space sometimes shrinks at the last minute and editors are forced to cut stories. We, too, are frustrated when this happens, but it does not help us to blame the reporter. PR deals in earned media, which brings no guarantees. Join us in commiseration with the reporter, and chances are good that we’ll get into the next piece.
- Respect our media relationships. You hire us, in part, because of our media relationships. We treat reporters as if they were clients to maintain those good relationships: we don’t bring them stories we know they won’t write, and we don’t ask for corrections unless the errors are material. The upside of this is that they will listen when we bring them a good story, and they’ll make the corrections when it matters. If you can take our guidance about how and when to approach reporters, you’ll get better and more plentiful coverage in the long run.
- Calibrate your expectations. Some clients want product profiles in The Wall Street Journal, others want an Op-Ed in The New York Times. Before you fire us for telling you that this is going to be very, very hard, take a quick look through the publication of your desire. For example, by the most recent account, the Times receives 1,200 unsolicited submissions every week. A brief tour of the Op-Ed section of the Times will reveal that they print only a handful each day – the odds of acceptance are less than one percent at best (unless you are a well-known thought leader). There is almost always a path to great coverage. It just might not be the exact one you had envisioned.
- Try it our way. If you find yourself reworking our angles, and editing our copy, and are then disappointed with the results, try it our way one time. The media landscape is changing very quickly, and so must the pitches and materials we employ. In other words, we might need to remove some of your marketing language to get more traction with the media.
The eight tips above are examples of the most important element in a successful client relationship: partnership. We have the most successful relationships with clients who treat us like a partner, not a vendor. We want to be in it with you.