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How to get the best out of working with a PR agency

Entering into a relationship with a PR company isn’t something to be taken lightly. Carefully selecting the right agency is important - they need to understand your company and product, and have a clear vision of how you can work together. We’ve written before about how to select a PR agency - this article will guide you through what to do next.

1. Be prepared to work together
The key word here is ‘together’. You can’t simply sign the contract and assume that the coverage will start to roll in from that point on. It takes time to develop relationships with target media on your behalf, and for the agency to craft your story into something that will interest journalists. This requires your help and input - they’ll need to be able to pick your brains and really get to the bottom of what it is and the whys and wherefores of how you’re doing it.

2. Be as open as possible
A PR agency should give you a good grilling about your company at the beginning of your contract and there will be plenty of material covered in these discussions that isn’t for public consumption. But the more honest and open you are prepared to be about your company - your successes, your failures, learning processes and motivations - the more the agency will have to work with. Things that you don’t think are particularly interesting might actually turn out to be newsworthy when presented in the right way.

3. Get involved
PR agencies aren’t magicians - they don’t have any secret sauce or a button marked ‘coverage’ that they can press as soon as you’ve signed up. A lot of hard work is involved - running a campaign for even the most innovative product or service is a task that involves a lot of discussion, planning and elbow grease. The more involved in this process you are, the better the results will be. Don’t assume your work is done when the contract is signed.

4. Educate yourself
An understanding of how PR works is essential for getting the best out of it, so you should educate yourself. Of course, a good agency will lead this process - listen to them, and take their advice on board. They are the experts, after all, and will tell you what your strongest stories are, what will work - and what won’t. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to your agency about the processes involved in PR.

5. Listen
Here at Clarity, we have a number of former journalists in our ranks. This means we have a strong idea of the kind of things that will make your company worthy of writing about - and can present this in a way that will grab a journalist’s attention. The media landscape is incredibly noisy and journalists are very selective about the stories they cover. o be part of the conversation you need to present your most interesting side. If you have ideas for the kind of stories you’d like to see written about your company, by all means suggest them - and listen to the feedback.

6. Understand why you have engaged with PR
You also need to be aware of the kind of coverage that will benefit your company the most. Who are your customers and what kind of media do they consume? Are you more interested in attracting the attention of potential investors or new customers? Again, this will be part of the education process that your PR agency should be leading, but make sure your expectations are realistic. While everyone would like to be on the front page of the FT, most companies won’t achieve this and many would see no tangible benefit for their business even if they were.

7. Be available
It’s very important that as the client, you are available to the agency as much as possible - especially when you have a campaign running. While no campaign should go ahead without all the materials - press releases, quotes, images and so on - approved and signed off anyway, journalists may have interview requests or very specific questions that will require your input and participation.

8. Deliver what you promise
Many PR campaigns are built around assets that your agency will require you to provide - access to spokespeople, market data, product data and so on - so be sure you can actually provide this before deciding you want to build a PR campaign around it. For example, if your company is about to sign a partnership with a marquee-name client, make sure that the partner is happy to make this public before planning the announcement. Or if you’re preparing a product for launch, be sure it is ready for the market before pulling the trigger on the PR campaign.

9. You’ll (usually) only get one bite of the cherry
No matter how good an agency is, they won’t be able to undo mistakes of the past. For example, if before engaging with your PR agency you pushed out a news story that didn’t work out, for whatever reason, don’t think that you can have another crack at it again. Journalists are meticulous when it comes to doing their research on a company, and if they feel that they are being handed an old story to work with then the relationship they have with you can be damaged. Of course, a good PR agency will advise you on this and suggest ways in which you can move the story on so it becomes newsworthy again.

10. Be flexible
PR campaigns don’t always work out as predicted, and this can be for a number of reasons. As we’ve mentioned, the media landscape is noisy and your story will be competing with a number of others. Journalists are busy and can afford to be selective, so should a campaign not go as expected, work with your agency to see what can be done to change tactics for a more effective result. They will lead the way on this, but be prepared to throw your own ideas into the mix and to help develop their ideas.


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