You just finished the taxing process of bringing on a PR firm or consultant. You created an RFP and spent hours with various firms trying to differentiate their offerings, checking references, and you’ve settled on one that you’re genuinely excited about. Contract signed, sealed and delivered. Congrats! Now what?
We’ve all heard countless stories about the ineffectiveness of PR firms, and many CEOs are first to admit that they’re too busy building their companies to spend time guiding their PR partner in the right direction. Months can go by without checking in or discussing expectations, leaving both parties disappointed and dissatisfied with the lack of results, while thousands of dollars go to waste.
Below are seven tips to ensure that your engagement with your PR partner is rewarding, effective and fruitful -- right from the start.
1. Designate a main point of contact.
To work with a PR firm effectively, be sure to designate either yourself, if you have bandwidth, or someone on your team as the main point of contact. Constructively working with a PR partner requires regular check-ins, brainstorming time and providing them the necessary data and assets to help shape your company’s stories. Ideally, the CEO should not be the main point of contact for day-to-day matters like scheduling and sending over headshots. It’s best to assign someone else on the team for tactical matters that can be taken off your plate.
2. Outline KPIs and goals clearly.
Many CEOs or business owners will simply state that being featured on “Ellen” or the “Today Show” is their one and only PR goal. Instead, collaborate with your firm to come up with some clearly articulated PR goals that are based on initiatives tied more closely to the overall business, such as product achievements, HR goals or brand/awareness goals. That way, your PR plan reflects your business and will drive your goals forward in a more effective, strategic and rewarding manner.
3. Make sure you have regular check-ins.
Everyone is busy! Skipping or pushing a couple of meetings around might seem trivial, but two months will roll by, and you will find that your PR partner wasn’t able to progress as far as you’d like without your input. A 20-minute call once a week with the main point of contact at your company will do wonders. The PR firm can run through what they’ve been doing, share what’s ahead, and ask for anything they may need from you. It also provides you with the opportunity to share any product announcements or initiatives that the firm should build a strategy around -- especially at a startup, where plans may change day to day.
4. Invest some time in the beginning.
Your PR partner is going to be your most vocal, external brand advocate as they share your company’s mission and vision with the world. Spend some time with them right when you bring them on, talk through your vision and values, and enable them to get to know the company history. That way, when they share highlights about your company with journalists, it’s organic and authentic.
5. Involve them in your team.
Loop your PR firm into some internal meetings so they have a feel for what’s really going on inside the organization. PR requires some deep dives and digging for gold, so let them sit down with your engineering team, data science, designers, product and sales. You are so close to all of it on a day-to-day basis, but a pair of fresh, keen eyes may find something noteworthy or pressworthy within.
6. Examine their clients.
Take a close look at your PR firm’s other clients, and speak with your PR firm openly about them. There may be business development opportunities, partnerships and fun collaborations to explore. Empower your PR firm to think creatively about potential partnerships between you and their other clients, so that they’ll be constantly on the lookout if a collaboration aligns.
7. Think of them as brand advocates.
Your PR partners are an extension of your team. Send them your company swag, have them represent and wear it at events, ask them to tweet about your company and tell their friends -- and above all else, make sure they are using your product so they’re able to talk about it firsthand. Your PR partners are also ideal beta testers for new features, so test new product features out with them too. They will be able to provide valuable insight, as they aren’t too "in the weeds," but still understand your business well.
Ultimately, your PR firm wants to be creative and produce the best possible results for their client -- you. By following the tips above, you’re one step closer to building a positive and productive relationship with your firm.