If you’re a small business and you’ve decided to splash out on hiring a PR agency, you need to know what your agency should be doing for you. Too often, small businesses don’t know what to expect and some agencies can take advantage of that, not making your money work as hard as it could be to get the exposure and brand building you deserve.
We talk talked to Sydney Managing Director of Public Relations firm Soda Communications Dani Lombard about what you should expect from a PR agency. A seasoned PR Professional with a long and successful track record, including launching her own agency, Lombard lays out the top ten things your small business PR should be doing for you.
You have hired the agency to help you map out your exposure, to do the strategy, not just act as labour ticking off tasks you ask them to do. Lombard says “Once hired, your PR agency should develop a PR plan that aligns with your business goals. PR is always about supporting your business. Your plan should lay out the activities, strategic thinking and desired outcomes for the duration of the campaign. Once the scope of work has been agreed on, they should then attach timings to the activities so you know what’s happening and when.”
Industry knowledge and relationships
One of the most valuable things your PR has is relationships with editors and writers. They know who to contact and can get the attention of the right people… and they don’t just wait around for those people to reach out to them. They have a proactive, not reactive approach to their media relationships. Lombard says “It’s a no brainer that your agency needs to understand the ins and outs of the industry and have excellent media relationships within that industry.”
A team mentality
Lombard says “As a small business, you want your small business PR to be as passionate about what you do, as you are. Guaranteed the best results (and best PRs) are the ones that can walk the talk of their client, because they too believe in what you’re doing!”
You want to hear from your PR regularly with a status update of how things are progressing. Lombard says “The thing about PR is, it can take a while to generate a placement – a lot of time goes into crafting media materials, developing angles and following up with media (who are time poor as it is and may not ‘bite’ immediately). As a client, it might feel like you’re spending money and getting nothing in return, so regular updates can appease you by providing an update on what they’re working on and how things are tracking.”
At the end of the day, you are paying them because they are experts at getting brands media placement and building brands’ public images. They will need to get you placements. If they take you on as a client but can’t secure coverage for you, it’s a bad fit. “Ultimately, if you’re investing in PR you should expect some return on investment. While it’s not possible to guarantee media placements, no decent PR agency would accept a client unless they were reasonably certain they could secure coverage for the brand/product. Ask for a clear set of KPIs so you know roughly what you might expect for your investment and you’re both clear on what success looks like,” says Lombard.
PR doesn’t come cheap so you’ll want to know where your money is going, how it’s being spent, especially as most small businesses budgets are tight, more so than ever before thanks to the pandemic. Lombard says “Your agency should be totally transparent about how you’re being charged. How many hours will you get across the project or per month and what work will be performed within those hours. There should be an agreed up front monthly or project fee with no hidden surprises.”
We all like to think our ideas are amazing, but a good PR will let you know when something you want to do wouldn’t work. They are not yes men, and that’s a good thing. “Your agency is there to provide their expertise and counsel on the best PR approach. Sometimes they may push back on you, if they think something you’re interested in may not fly, or worse, could damage your business reputation,” says Lombard. “A good PR will establish themselves as a integral part of your team and, using their expertise in the space, will not be afraid to push back where needed. Ask difficult questions and look for sound reasoning behind their advice.”
A multi-channel approach
If you haven’t noticed, the media world has changed at lightspeed in the last twenty years, with new social media channels popping up all the time and ways to reach an audience that many of us don’t even know about. But a good PR will and will know what mix of media is right for both your brand and your specific campaigns. Lombard says “The media landscape has changed significantly in the last few years. A good PR approach will include not just traditional media like newspapers, TV, radio, magazines and digital media outlets, but influencers who have audiences on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook and more. Podcasts are also a terrific media channel to do a real deep dive into a topic or person.” She says that “Obviously the media outlets you’re talking to will be geared to your target audience. If you’re promoting an anti-ageing treatment that appeals to those 50+, you’re probably not going to need to approach a 23 year-old TikToker. Your agency should be looking broadly across multiple channels to reach your audience.”
They’re going to need your time
It would be nice if you could set it and forget it with your PR, but brand building doesn’t work that way. You might be paying an agency money, but they will also need your time too. “Your contribution to an effective campaign is essential,” says Lombard. “We get it, you’re a small business and wear every hat possible – CFO, CMO, CEO. In part of the onboarding of a new agency however, you’ll be required to review materials, provide feedback, and help to refine messaging. While it’s an initial investment of time on your part, it will help to set the agency up for success.” The more upfront engagement you have and the deeper your PR relationship, the more they can run it without your constant feedback, although always make sure to sign-off on anything that represents or speaks for/on behalf of your brand.
Measurement and evaluation
Very importantly, you can’t grow or refine what you’re not measuring. Data gathering, particularly online, is so good nowadays that you should be measuring everything, evaluating it and then refining what you do next based on what you’ve learned from your analyses. “A good PR or agency will be keen to show off their hard-earned results by reporting on them,” says Lombard. “Ask what reporting structure they’ll be using and how you’ll be able to measure whether the campaign was successful or not.” If they are placing paid ads for you as well, they can request analytics from the site or publication after the online piece has run for concrete numbers.
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