Congratulations! After a long and thorough search, you’ve hired a PR firm. While it may seem like a match made in heaven, don’t spend too much time sitting back and smelling the roses – it’s now your shared responsibility to cultivate that relationship. Here are a few more tips to get the most out of your PR firm long past the honeymoon phase.
Set clear expectations. Defining success by setting goals and measurable objectives is a key element of any effective communications campaign, and is good practice from the get-go so that there’s no surprises later. You can do this by developing a written brief for your PR team, or can be a part of a larger discussion during your kickoff meeting where you define business problems, gauge views on challenges and opportunities, and determine how success will ultimately be measured.
Communication is a two-way street. Communication is the bedrock to any successful relationship. Your firm should provide you with regular status updates and proactively flag issues. Likewise, agencies rely on client feedback – positive and constructive – to know whether they need to refine their plan or pivot direction. Be sure to establish early on how often you’ll meet as a team, preferred methods of communication and accessibility, and approval and reporting procedures.
Successful teamwork is built on trust. Treating your PR firm as an extension of your team within the circle of trust instead of a third party will provide the best return on your investment. For your PR team to be a strategic partner, there needs to be a constant flow of communication back and forth – both good and bad – so that we have as much information as possible to do our job well. Beyond sharing your corporate background, facts and data that help us tell your story, it also means being transparent and providing insight into key personnel, company politics and corporate changes so we can help you anticipate and mitigate any challenges that may arise before it becomes front-page news.
Be open to new ideas. You’ve hired a PR firm because you value their expertise and want results. It’s fair – and expected – to ask questions about our strategic recommendations. And while you may not always agree with our viewpoint, challenging every new, innovative concept or micromanaging will kill your campaign before it’s even out of the gate. Similarly, if you’ve tried a tactic before without much success, it doesn’t mean it can’t work. Your new agency may be able to help figure out what went wrong and propose a new strategy and metrics that will make it a winner.
Jennifer Heilman is an account director in Stratacomm’s Washington, D.C. office.