In business, as in all walks of life, the way you present yourself to the world is of critical importance. It is no good having a fantastic product to sell if the public perception of it is misguided or negative. Equally, it is important that the service you offer reaches its target audience and doesn’t fall on deaf ears, like selling snow to the Eskimos. Often the best way to ensure an accurate and positive image for your products or services is to employ a public relations company to do it on your behalf.

However there are a few elements to consider before looking for representation:

What are your principal objectives in employing a PR agency?
You might, for instance, be attempting an expansion into new markets, the consolidation of present markets, an adjustment to your strategic communications approach or an overhaul of your entire media strategy.

What areas of public relations can be used to benefit your business?
In order to identify the best match for your media campaign you should also clarify whether the campaign will be largely business to business public relations, financial PR, consumer PR or corporate PR.

What will the budget of your PR campaign be?
It is important to assess the amount of value a PR campaign can potentially add to your business to establish the budget you want to use for it.

The critical thing to keep in mind when choosing a PR agency is that you will be entering into a relationship that involves spending a great deal of time together, often at each others workplaces, so personal chemistry and a degree of proximity is of paramount importance.

All relationships prosper from transparency, good communication, and an expenditure of time and effort, and your dealings with PR agencies should be no different.

As such, it is necessary to establish ground rules to ensure that there are no misunderstandings and that the relationship can grow through a sound financial structure outlined by a clear budget that is drawn up and agreed upon by both parties and includes guarantees about future performance targets. If these conditions are met, having the appropriate PR company working for you can be a marriage made in heaven. But how to find the perfect partner?

The principal way clients draw up a list of public relations agencies is through recommendations by colleagues, advice from journalists associated with PR companies or when a third party independently evaluates your needs and matches them with the appropriate agencies. Considerations at this stage include the degree of specialisation the company has in your industry and whether they have the suitable media contacts to be able to infiltrate your target media. In light of this another likely place to look would be in the PR company listings or advertisements in a trade publication of your industry or field.

Of the PR specialists selected, the next stage is to choose a maximum of three agencies to deliver a pitch that would allow you to asses whether their company matches your public relations requirements. Issues to consider when selecting a shortlist of agencies are the territories the agency covers, the size of the agency, the kind of budget the agency is used to working with and whether the agency has the necessary resources to launch your kind of campaign. Smaller agencies, for example, might offer you a younger, more personalised service while outsourcing elements of the work, whereas larger agencies will be able to do everything in-house and have more experience in your industry.

With respect to these issues it is a good idea to check whether the candidates have Consultancy Management Standard accreditation, although you should also be aware that many of the younger or smaller companies are not accredited. The Consultancy Management Standard is an independent audit by the Public Relations Consultants Association that assesses its members over a series of tests including the agencies standard of management and accountability, the probity of its long term business plan, the soundness of its campaign management, and the degree of satisfaction it gives to its clients. Companies applying for the Consultancy Management Standard also need to have a three year minimum trading record, £200,000 annual income and employ at least five full time staff, thus assuring you of their financial solvency.

At this point it is essential to write a brief outlining the clear objectives and time frame of the work you expect of the PR agencies. A well thought out brief is essential because it gives PR agencies a sense of what you are about and what you are hoping to achieve by employing them. It is also a way to detect whether they are likely to share the vision and passion you have for your business. Following a successful pitch the companies might enter into a provisional relationship using workshops or trial projects. This is advisable because it gives you time to develop a stronger relationship with them and assess whether their team is compatible with yours and they have any fresh ideas tailored specifically to your business.

Always remember that the final decision of which agency you select must nece

By yanam49

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