Small to medium sized businesses, whether launching, embarking on a campaign or choosing to switch PR agencies are often faced with the challenge of appointing a company from a wide range of options and have a tight budget to take into consideration. Although each brand’s needs will vary, when researching, receiving proposals and understanding the contract terms there are a number of things to bear in mind:
If your audience is local, you may wish to consider PR agencies in your area so that they have a good knowledge of, and contacts in, the local media. However, some agencies have virtual or multiple offices and location shouldn’t be an issue for many who are happy to travel to face-to-face meetings, even overseas. However, you should have the conversation to check such details early on to ensure your time isn’t wasted and check the contract terms regarding expenses.
Not only should you be clear on travel expenses and also subsistence, which may include agency staff meeting journalists, ensure you understand whether other costs, such as postage or press release distribution on newswires, is included in the fee. Items that are re-charged to in addition to your monthly service invoice must be budgeted for from the beginning of the research process.
PR has changed over recent years and is no longer restricted to writing press releases and liaising with the relevant print media. Apart from other traditional PR methods, such as entering awards, obtaining conference speaker slots and writing opinion pieces, an agency must understand online PR visibility, which includes being able to undertake social media and off-site search engine optimisation activity where appropriate. These three disciplines are interlinked and when integrated in campaign, each underpin the other.
Businesses who want to reach a very specific audience, for example a niche B2B sector or consumers who read homes and garden publications, may choose to look for an agency that specialises in or has had previous clients in that area. Undertake searches such as ‘technology PR’ or ‘FMCG PR’ and read through the agency’s case studies before making the initial call if this is what you are looking for. Whilst it can sometimes be beneficial in terms of media contacts and them already having an understanding of the sector, an agency approaching a product or service range with new eyes can often bring fresh creativity. They should always undertake the necessary research too because they should want to deliver results and retain you as a happy client.
Of course budgets have to be met, the proposal has to be exciting and the pitch engaging but you must believe in and like the people. Although you may not sit side by side the agency staff that will work on your account, they will be there to support you so it’s important to have confidence in them. Therefore, you may want to request for two or three people that will be on your account team to attend the pitch meeting so you can get to know them a little. Rapport can go a long way in a PR agency-client relationship and if you get this wrong you’ll soon be doing your research again and ultimately wasting resources and money.