During these uncertain times, communications needs seem to change every day, leading many businesses to hire a public relations agency. Here is an insider’s primer on how to start — and manage — that partnership for success:
1. Define your needs. Often, newly hired agencies are only told a client’s communications objectives. While these are important and help your PR team to understand your goals, it’s much more helpful if they understand the need behind those goals. What is the business outcome you’re hoping to support with communications? This is especially critical when times are challenging. By sharing the issues your business is facing, along with key details like which audiences you need to reach, you can then develop a plan together. You’ll find that it will not only achieve communications goals but business needs as well.
2. Teach them your business… PR people are really experts at one thing: PR. They may have experience in your specific industry, but they will never know it as well as you do. Take the time to share your insights with them, providing the information they will need to make a real impact.
…but not all of your business. Information is essential, but too much is overwhelming. Pulling your agency into multiple conference calls per week, giving them reams of documents to read and asking them to watch your library of YouTube videos are going to take up valuable time. Instead, have them focus on the parts of your business that are essential for the current communications needs.
3. Know your team. When starting work with an agency, you’ll generally have a day-to-day contact who will be your business’s leader. However, your agency team is likely made up of other professionals who offer a range of knowledge and skills. By knowing everyone on the team and the role they play, you can direct information, and even assignments, to the right people. This is especially helpful when timelines are shortened. At mission-critical moments, direct outreach to the right PR expert can be essential.
4. Keep them in the loop. Don’t handicap yourself by keeping your agency in the dark. A lot of planning and preparation goes into a successful communications effort. The more time your team has, the better. Even if your internal leaders haven’t made all the decisions yet, share a quick update with your agency. It will make a big difference in the end.
5. Give them time. Not only do you need your agency’s time, but they also need yours. To be successful, the team will rely on your ongoing attention for such things as approving activities, providing updates and sharing internal changes. Something as simple as a 15-minute call once per week will go a long way toward ensuring clear messaging between your teams and staying aligned on work and goals.
6. Don’t forget the importance of access. Just because you are your company’s PR lead doesn’t mean all communications need to flow through you. Giving access to your senior executives, sales team and other subject matter experts throughout the company will have many benefits. First, it will reduce your time commitment for agency needs, and more importantly, it will help improve efficiency for the PR team by having a direct line to the people with specific information.
Public relations agencies are a great resource for businesses, particularly during uncertain times. Use these tips to make the most of your relationship with an agency — for now and in the future.
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Author: Ethan Rasiel, CommunityVoice