There’s no question that public relations can deliver a lot of value, especially when it comes to getting your message out, establishing credibility in the market, and building your brand in a way that advertising just can’t buy. But there’s more to it than simply hiring an agency and waiting for the great press to start rolling in. It will take work on your executives’ part, too — maybe a lot more work than you realize.
Here are four questions to ask yourself to determine if your organization is ready to hire a PR agency.
1. Do you have clearly defined goals for what you want PR to achieve?
Every business has the same goal: growth. The challenge, of course, is identifying how to get there. That’s why, before engaging with a PR firm, it’s helpful to develop specific goals that you’re looking to accomplish. Maybe it’s acquiring more clients in a new market vertical, establishing your CEO as a thought leader, or polishing up your company’s messaging. Regardless, a PR firm can’t help you reach your objectives if you haven’t first defined them.
2. Does your company have a culture that encourages the adoption of new concepts and strategies?
Today’s media landscape is evolving rapidly, and that change presents a number of opportunities for corporate executives to spark and join industry conversations. That’s not to discount the tried-and-true methods of spreading your message, such as conducting media interviews and contributing bylined articles, which are certainly valuable, but what about other options? Consider appearing as a guest on a podcast, posting an article on LinkedIn and getting it “promoted” by specific content teams on the network, or conducting a Q&A on Twitter (just be careful with that last one).
While all of these options aren’t for everyone, it’s important to be open to taking some risk and trying out new ideas. A little unfamiliarity at first can be a good sign that you’re stretching out in a new direction while challenging yourself and your organization.
3. Do you have someone to serve as a dedicated account liaison?
PR firms are experts in the realms of marketing, communications and media. They are not, however, experts on your company’s background, history, market and future plans, and that’s why they need your guidance as a business partner.
There should be a dedicated liaison both at your company and at your agency to serve as single touch points for questions, concerns and essentially anything else. Ideally, the client-side person would have at least an hour or two each day to dedicate to PR activities. A PR firm can and will secure media opportunities for your company, but it will require some time and resource investment on the part of your company to make the most of those opportunities.
4. Are you okay with not being completely in control?
It is critical to understand the difference between earned media (a third-party news source) and owned media (company blogs, social media, press releases). Earned media provides a broad reach and the opportunity to establish relationships with reporters and editors. What it does not provide is total control, although media training and messaging can help shape the way your company and its thought leaders are represented in the media. But keep in mind that with earned media, you’re essentially playing on someone else’s court. They’re in control, and they make the rules.
For example, in an interview with a reporter, the reporter is free to choose which of your executive’s quotes he or she would like to highlight in an article. They may even decide against including any of your company’s commentary at all. For a contributed byline, the editor is free to adjust the headline or your verbiage, as long as it doesn’t change the overall message of what you’re trying to convey. If your executives can’t accept that they can’t completely control the narrative, earned media is not for you.
Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t be. While it may seem like the prerequisites for working with a PR firm are lengthy and complicated, they really aren’t. There are a few simple common characteristics for each key element of establishing a successful PR partnership: It requires focus, thought, effort and time on your part. As long as you can commit to delivering all of those things, you should be set up for a successful and fruitful relationship with your public relations partner.