Hiring a public relations firm should not be taken on lightly. In B2B companies, earned media is still considered 88% more effective as a sales tool than owned media. Third-party validation is still a critical element in building value for your company.
Over the past 15 years, we have found that many firms underestimate their contribution to the overall success of the PR program. Most PR firms that have been around for a while are pretty good at what they do, but sometimes the relationships just don’t work. Sometimes it is just chemistry, sometimes it is budget, sometimes there are just missed expectations, and sometimes you just need a change.
It is easy to say “Fire the agency!” but it is much harder to look within to see where you may have gone wrong in managing the relationship. Here are eight things you can do to get a better return on your investment.
Understand your competition
This may seem like a no brainer but it isn’t. Understanding how your competitors communicate is just as important as understanding how your solution differs from your competitors – many executives underestimate this. Studying how your competitors communicate can provide insight to their overall business strategy, can tell you who they partnering with, who are their customers, and the direction they are taking the company.
Identify a regular day-to-day contact
The agency needs a go-to person that understands the nuances of the business and how it fits into the broader industry. The go-to person should be privy to product plans and corporate initiatives and should be empowered to make decisions. Most importantly, the primary contact needs to have the time to find the ammunition needed and feed it to the team for the program to be successful.
Have multiple spokespeople that are available upon request
Most reporters are under some sort of deadline and will only provide a short window of opportunity when they want to speak to a company. PR teams may work for many months, particularly with national or business outlets, to secure an opportunity with a specific reporter for your company only to find that the key spokespeople are not available to talk to the reporter for days or even weeks. Once the opportunity is lost, it is likely lost forever or for just a very long time.
Allow enough time so the team can be effective
The more advance planning that your agency gets, the more they can maximize the news in the press and make an impact. Getting the word out is a process, not just a single event. Give the agency lead the heads-up when expecting BIG news.
Create visuals, and more visuals
Visuals are critical to storytelling these days. Pitches that use visuals are more likely to be noticed – think in terms of graphics, photos, charts, and video. Work with your PR firm to determine what works and what doesn’t.
Coach your “visionary” to communicate so that mere mortals can understand it
Success public relations programs need a senior spokesperson (VP or CxO) that can discuss vision in a way that is easily understood. They need to be able to communicate where the market is going, how the company is leading trends, offer controversial opinions, and discuss other “hot industry” topics. Many visionaries are thinking 5 and 10 years out in terms that are not easily understood by the average reporter. Work with your agency to coach your visionary.
Put your ego aside
Your PR team is on the front lines in the industry every day. They are monitoring the pulse of how you are faring as well as your competitors. If the team comes to you and tells you your message isn’t resonating or your primary competitor is killing it with their latest campaign, don’t get angry. Listen to what they are saying even if the news isn’t what you want to hear. It means the market is changing and your company isn’t changing fast enough. Firing the agency won’t necessarily help you respond, it will just delay the response by 90 days while you ramp up a new team.
Know your customers
Keep your agency apprised of new customers and why you won the deal. Also keep them informed of why you lose deals. This information plays an important role in the overall program.
To learn more about how to leverage your customer success, download our eBook titled Happy Customers Tell Great Stories.