How to hire a PR agency: 6 tips for informed choice
Even if you don't think your team is ready for a PR strategy or team, know that by not having these capabilities before they become an overt and desperate need, they'll still serve as an excellent source of leads for sales. Liz Smith from Oracle gave us these six simple recommendations on hiring intelligent PR specialists.
"Market weight" of PR people
Learn how monitoring mentions on social media stimulates the development of your business. Mentions are immensely important these days! Think of them as backlinks or recommendations.
As you narrow down the circle of suitable agencies, make sure that they have all the necessary connections with the leaders of your market and influential media sites. Finding an agency with good connections in different spheres (for example, the market of medical equipment and marketing media) is not so easy. On the other hand, the agency's ability to go beyond and establish links from scratch is much more valuable than the actual availability of these links at the start of your cooperation. The final word for your priorities: either you trust the professionalism of employees on the basis of their previous cases, or you take into account only facts.
Pay special attention to the "dexterity" of your PR people: do they fully understand the structure of new media, are they able to operate with different funnels? The line between the five key media channels is blurred enough, and the ability of PR people to juggle content from different channels becomes one of the decisive factors of your - namely your - success.
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Also pay attention to the scope of the agency: do the guys work in the global market or their specialization - narrow niches, or do they lack the flexibility and willingness to take on more modest projects?
Local agencies, on the contrary, rely on closer ties within a small segment of the market. As a consequence, your potential audience promises to be more responsive, and the "number of leads per square meter" is usually much higher.
Yes, a large agency - especially in networking, is unlikely to compare with niche offices in terms of penetration behind the scenes, but you will pay dearly for this ability, and is an important client for a small firm is much more useful than being "a generic number" for the giants. At a minimum, you will be given more attention. On the other hand, if large PR-players learn a new niche and pump their local connections, in addition to paying attention to your business, you will have much more resources at your disposal. It all depends on their strategy, your budget, and your desire for a personal relationship.
How creative should the agency be?
We are all mired in a sea of information noise, and the ability to find your voice (or outshout your competitors without being a bull) is one of the most difficult tasks of any specialist. Everyone talks about the gentlemen's set of PR-techniques - press releases, guest posts, media publications, comments, etc. - but it's extremely difficult to stand out against the background of information noise.
I'm sure that you, like any sane marketer or business owner, understand: the important consideration isn't on how loud you are but how well you resonate with your audience. If your agency does not have at least one fresh idea, how to tell the story of your brand, this is a bad sign. Do not think that beautiful marketing words from the lips of your PR man - this is the key to success. What is important is the ability to tell your story. A story that will be really close to your customers.
A PR-agency (or in-house specialist) will turn into a structural unit of your company, and synergy is vital. To determine the level and quality of interaction, use two key factors.
How much do two companies - your organization and PR agency - fit together in terms of internal culture? How is your workflow organized? For example, at Jos. Studios we put the analyst in the forefront. Data is central to everything and a clear map of the development of the company and our customers is paramount.
Particular examples and interpersonal relations between colleagues are equally important. You are ready to charge employees with daily to work, side by side with your new PR specialists. Make sure that the appropriate project and account managers are responsible, enabled, and accountable to meet your overall strategy. Otherwise, hire an agency capable of developing and then delivering your strategy.
Again, the importance is clearly centered on a timely and complete plan of action. All smart PR firms have a lot of experience developing brilliant strategies (and talented professionals who are ready to offer you their ideas). However, before initiating a closer relationship, make sure that the chosen strategy suits you, that it really synchronizes your sales, marketing, and global business goals.
As with any marketing initiative, at the beginning, it is necessary to start from the budget and work backward, and not to adjust spending at a whim. Here everything is simple: there is a budget - and there are results to be achieved. What can we achieve within our budget? -Not, how much can we cram into our budget, or how cheap can we get these deliverables?
If you are considering several agencies at once, try to adequately assess the pros and cons of each candidate. In spite of the fact that the overwhelming majority of companies work on the principle of monthly "subscription", the additional costs and the actual services rendered for the engagement can vary greatly. Again we have to remember the devil living in the details, who this time will be found in the budget column "Additional expenses": trips, communications, fees for unpublished materials, etc.
Some agencies charge a fee for the written material, while others charge for the published material (that is, the one that already works for your business). Do you feel the difference? In addition, decide on the priorities. What is more important for you: vanity metrics like the number of views and likes, or important metrics like conversion rate, CTR, and CPC.
And most importantly: how will you evaluate the success of PR initiatives? As in the case of content marketing, the exhaust from the invested effort and money will not be instant. The success of your PR partners depends on your support. The strategy, planning, communication, content, history of your company is all the more valuable the more details are in them. For each goal set, think over your measure of success (the number of new subscribers, social network mentions, site requests or backlinks). Determine the metrics by which you can not only evaluate the result, but also monitor progress from the very beginning. Well, and the classic recommendation: do not rely on just the likes, scans and other vanity results, which often have little to do with real business: income and return on investment.