There are over 4500 PR and communications agencies in the UK according to latest records. Some are small, some are large, some command a high rate while some are not so pricey, some specialise in just one sector or one area of PR, while others offer a broad range of services and expertise. So how do you decide which one is right for your business and be confident that they will deliver against your marketing and business growth objectives?
Here’s some quick tips to help:-
- Proactivity and creativity
As a busy business leader or head of marketing, your time is often spent juggling many different things, and PR may not always be at the forefront of your mind. The last thing you want is a PR team that waits to be told what to do or for the news to come through (as we know that doesn’t always happen especially for SMEs).
Check that they have a reputation for being proactive and creative and I don’t mean always coming up with amazing campaigns or stunts that require big bucks but a team that continues to drive the PR activity forward under a modest budget. A team that proactively makes use of your experts, your assets, and your insight to deliver a joined-up communications programme that makes your content work harder and your budget go further in amplifying your brand in the places your customers are present. A team that constantly thinks ahead, that advises and strategizes to come up with stand-out ideas that makes your brand cut through the noise and oozes confidence against the competition.
- Understand your business
Does the agency understand your business and marketplace? This is fundamentally important when appointing a PR team who will be responsible for building brand relations between your business and your customers. The agency doesn’t necessarily have to have had direct experience in your industry but they do need to be able to demonstrate an understanding of what your business wants to achieve, the stakeholders you want to engage with, and how they propose reaching those people. For example, does the PR agency have good contacts within the media consumed by your customers? Have they organised events or exhibitions attended by your target market? Does their writing or posting convey your brand and positioning, to show that they’re under the skin of your business?
3. Check the team’s credentials
Is the team trained in media and social relations? Do they have specific specialist qualifications such as a Masters in PR or a degree in PR, media and journalism or is it a career they’ve fallen into by chance such as through an unrelated career change? PR requires many specialist skills from knowing how to capture media and public attention to advising on communications strategy, amplifying engagement through social channels or managing the message in a crisis.
This is important as your business will be paying for that specialist knowledge and will rely on it to deliver the marketing results you need. So ensure that the team you hire hold the highest PR credentials and latest training and techniques – especially as the algorithms around digital channels change constantly – to be able to advise you on the best communications strategy to support your business growth ambitions.
As well as being well grounded in the latest PR qualifications and learnings, ensure that your team holds practical experience too. Check how much experience they have and in what areas of PR? Does their experience match your marketing goals? For example, you may want to use the agency to amplify your brand and reach customers through a mix of social and audio channels, news platforms, bloggers, podcasters and influencers, traditional and broadcast media. Do they have experience across all these areas that makes you confident that they can deliver a powerful and compelling joined-up comms campaign? Can they advise on what channels and platforms are best for reaching your target market? What personal contacts and knowledge do they have of that media? Digital media changes constantly – do they know the latest techniques to elevating your profile and page ranking via these channels? It’s always worth asking for case studies and even requesting to speak to their other clients for references.
- Good writing and communications skills
Your PR team will be writing and communicating constantly on behalf of your company from blogs to social posts, interviews to podcast and video scripts, to news and thought leadership articles so it’s critical that you’re confident on their ability to do all three, well. Checking their own blogs, websites and social channels is a good place to start. Then ask them for examples of previous work or invite them to do a mini project to see if they pass the test.
Your PR team will be an extension of your marketing team. The business will be working with them very closely, often on a weekly or even for some, daily basis so, chemistry is important. Check with the agency that the person or people that you’re speaking with will be the team assigned to your business and who will be the main point of contact for your account. If it’s not you working with the PR agency but someone else within your team, then be sure that that person is involved in the hiring making process.
- Not just ‘yes’ people
A good PR agency will advise you on what won’t work as well as what will to ensure your budget is spent effectively. Ensure that the team you choose has the confidence to guide and instruct you on ideas good and bad, as well as know how to effectively manage in a media crisis.