Five Tips to get the most out of your Public Relations agency
Blog submission for TLN website authored by Wendy Underwood, President of Fever Pitch Marketing Communications, member agency for Canada.
Hiring a new public relations agency is not for everyone. It requires a leap of faith to have another organization take the lead on your reputation. In fact, before Fever Pitch takes on a new client, we ask them, “Do you really need a PR agency?” And in some cases, we find that the answer is “No, not really!” Perhaps they have a product that competes solely on price, or they would get better (and quicker) results focusing on a paid social media strategy. Whatever it is, we know that everyone is going to be happier if we start the relationship with both sides set up for success.
So, once you’ve decided that public relations is the way to go, how do you get ensure the best results from your investment? Here are five tips to help you get the most out of your PR agency.
1.Make the Right Choice: Avoid paying money for a duplication of efforts by choosing an agency that complements the talent you already have in house. If you’re a big organization with separate marketing, content creation, social media and media relations teams, and you just need help with media pitching, then you can afford to hire an agency with a very narrow specialization. But if you have a smaller staff, you’ll probably want a flexible account team that can help you with everything from writing projects to media pitching, social media strategies and influencer programs. In a perfect situation, your agency will act as an extension of your team, filling the gaps in your in-house skill set. And you should treat them like this too: think of them as your business partner, not the hired help.
2. Communicate: In the communications field, it should go without saying that this is important. But unfortunately, this can be the most common issue that agencies come up against. We always say, “We can’t tell media what we don’t know!” When you get past the first flush of your relationship with your agency, it’s easy to forget to keep them in the loop about what’s new in your destination or with your product, upcoming milestones or developments. Make sure that you schedule regular meetings or a framework for these updates. And if possible, especially if you’re a larger organization, connect your agency with other marketing departments. Knowing about a new advertising campaign or product release as early as possible maximizes our ability to get a client some great earned coverage.
3. Follow Through: Media relations can’t happen without the ongoing cooperation of other areas of your organization, so make sure that you’re following through on your part of the deal. Nothing is more frustrating than setting up an interview with a key media outlet, only to have the company spokesperson forget to join the call. You’ve already paid for the agency’s time to create this opportunity, and that investment is lost if the client doesn’t do their part. And it’s not just about time; it’s money too. Make sure that you budget properly for the hard costs to leverage your agency’s work. You wouldn’t decide to exhibit at a trade show, and just budget for the registration fee. You would also budget for banners and signage, brochures and promo gifts to give away. PR is the same: make sure that you’ve put enough money aside for hosting journalists in your destination, product samples, contest prizing and whatever else will allow you to capitalize on the interest that your agency has generated for you.
4. Prioritize: Budgets aren’t unlimited, and neither is your agency’s time. Make sure that they’re using those hours to get you the results that your company is going to value most. This means you need to be clear about what your key messages are, and understand that you can’t make everything a priority. If your sales team is focusing on Western Canada this year, let us know so we can give media from those provinces priority on familiarization trips. If you’d like to nurture the culinary tourism market, we’ll make sure that those are the stories that we’re pitching first.
5. Respect their Expertise: You might know your product or destination best, but your agency should be the expert on their market and their contacts. This goes double if you’ve hired an agency to represent you in an overseas country. The beauty of an alliance like Travel Lifestyle Network is that we’re all owner-operated, independent agencies, and we’re all experts in the nuances of our own market. As the Canadian member, Fever Pitch provides our clients with regular market updates and has an on-the-ground knowledge of the media landscape, national trends, potential opportunities for our clients, and cultural sensitivities (expert tip: these are not the same as in the US!) Hopefully you selected your agency for their market knowledge, so listen to them when they say that a campaign or tactic is not right for their market. Ideally, include them in your strategic planning in the early stages so they can give feedback on how this will resonate within your target audience.
For more information on how the 19 members of Travel Lifestyle Network can help tell your story in over 24 countries around the world, please drop us a line!