How do you know which PR firm is the right fit for your company or cause? What factors indicate you will be able to build a long-lasting and collaborative relationship with the team? When looking for a PR firm – whether you are choosing your first or looking to change firms – focus on finding a partner who meets these three key criteria.
You want a PR partner who is…strategic.
Effective public relations programs are built upon research-informed strategies. Investing in a PR strategy ensures there is a solid roadmap in place to guide the program, that key message points have been carefully crafted, that competitors’ PR and marketing activities have been taken into consideration and that everyone is on the same page and working towards achieving a common set of PR objectives.
A PR firm that is strategic doesn’t let the tactics – press releases, pitches, expert articles – drive the car. They select their tactics based on what is best suited to help achieve the clients’ goals. And, they also focus on how to get the most value out of the PR activities they pursue. For example, if a client is launching a new product that solves a common but often overlooked problem, a strategic PR firm may commission custom research to garner a proprietary statistic to augment the value of the news and increase the relevancy of the news to the media and its readers/viewers.
Choose a PR agency that is…creative.
Let’s face it. The media landscape just isn’t what it used to be. A number of community newspapers have ceased publication in recent years and sponsored content has restructured how online news works at many outlets. That said, media will always bite for the right story at the right time. So…what exactly is that story?
Effective PR in 2016 isn’t just about maintaining a steady “pulse” with the media. It’s about packaging your news to give it optimal relevancy to the media and their audiences. This is where creativity comes into play. Take the integrated PR campaigns Co-Communications developed for Grace Smith House for example. We could have developed a series of traditional news releases touting the importance of healthy relationships. Instead, we conducted a focus group with our target audience (teens) and developed interactive online quizzes that educated them about healthy relationships in a format that they were excited about. And, with two PRSA Gold Mercury Awards and a PRSA “Best in Show” to show for our efforts, the results speak for themselves. (Curious about the campaigns? Check out the case study here.) Our award-winning campaign for Westchester Children’s Museum is another great example of creativity. We developed a grassroots campaign to rally the community in support of a common cause and used media relations as a tool for getting the word out about the campaign. (Curious about the outcome? Learn more here.) We’ve also dressed our team up as race car drivers to hand-deliver press kits to media for the opening of a new indoor racing facility…but that’s a story for another time.
Invest in a PR firm that excels at…execution.
A strategic foundation and creative ideas are both important but the results need to speak for themselves. When considering which PR firm is the best fit for your business or nonprofit, focus on finding a partner who is strong at execution. Simply put, your PR firm needs to be able to put their ideas into motion and drive measurable outcomes – whether that is increasing share of voice in the media, enhancing expert positioning, securing speaking engagements at industry conferences or leverage PR to help drive sales.
“Great execution is the ultimate differentiator.” ~Margaret Molloy
While looking at an agency’s case studies and speaking with their references can help to evaluate their executional capabilities, it is important to remember that every company and cause is unique as are their goals and the resources, both internal and external, that are being allocated to their PR and marketing campaigns. This is again where strategy comes into play. KPIs (key performance indicators) and success metrics should be aligned with your organization’s goals and defined as part of the strategic development process. This both ensures accountability and can help to guide the shifting and reallocation of resources throughout implementation of the public relations program.
Companies and causes alike can realize high value from an ongoing PR program and from engaging with the right public relations agency. By engaging with a partner who is both strategic and creative, and excels at execution, organizations can leverage PR as a high-value component of their marketing toolkit.