Lewis Oakley, client manager 

In 2020, a company cannot get by on just delivering an outstanding product or service, it also needs outstanding messaging with heart.

Not everything in lockdown has been negative. We have reduced our carbon footprint, actively looked out for one another and have a new found appreciation of keyworkers. This awoken consciousness is spilling into consumer selection behaviours. Consumers want to know the values at the heart of a brand, not just what you offer. This is where PR can help.

PR agencies are experts in refining and developing messaging. Ensuring brand values are at the heart of not just what you say, but also what you do. Crucially a PR agency will also work with influencers including journalists and industry leaders to communicate these messages, providing endorsement and advocacy, ensuring they reach your customers.

If you’ve decided it’s time to begin your journey with a PR agency, it is important to first think about what you want to achieve.

Decide what good looks like 

For any brand and PR agency beginning their journey together, it’s important to decide upfront what success looks like. For some brands, this will be to drive brand preference to support lead generation, for others, it will be to increase share of voice in a particular area.

A good PR agency will not just listenbut be an advisor, giving an honest assessment of where you are and what is realistic for you to achieve.  

You may want to see your company on the front cover of national newspapers every week, but is that really possible, or for the right reasons? More importantly, would it achieve the goals that really matter?

Honesty is the best policy. Share your business plan with your PR agency and discover how they can best support you on a path of achieving your goals.

Take the time 

To get the most out of your new PR agency, it’s important to make the time for them. At Milk & Honey PRwe regularly hold agency immersion days and story mining sessions with key stakeholders. This allows us to get under the skin of all areas of the organisation we are working with – ttruly understand what they do, see the opportunities they may have missedand build an understanding of the best ways to work with them.

Regular contact is key for success. Your PR agency will likely want to have a weekly (work in progress) call with you each week. This gives everyone transparency into how things are going, what’s next and any key learnings. 

These work in progress calls are important, but to play a leading role you need to plan not just react. Your team will also seek monthly planning and feedback sessions.

Going forward, it’s important your agency can get a hold of you. If Sky News call and want to talk to you, your agency needs to have a direct line to your relevant spokesperson

Break it down 

Whilst you might set yearly targets, your PR agency will likely break this down into quarterly targets. This makes everything more manageable. They will plan month by month to have the greatest overall impact.

The key here is to have a PR agency that is constantly reviewing their targets. They may have set goals for Q2but then coronavirus hit! It’s time to reassess what is possible and what will add value. 

As your PR agency’s programme gets goingyou might see its value in unexpected areas. If the original goal was to build preference and you are suddenly faced with an aggressive competitor/threat of new regulatory changes/ supplier issues, you need a partner that can adapt. 

Match making 

There are lots of different types of specialist agencies out there. Find the right one for you. Agencies can specialise by audience type; by sector; by technique or by service. There are a number of tools beyond Google that can help you – PRCA has a list of accredited agencies across the country; Clutch acts as a directory of agencies globally scored by their existing clients. 

 Be sure to speak with your agency about your goals and how they can help you to achieve them. This is so you can get a good feel for the team and how they work. It’s important there is good chemistry between you, as you will be working side by side to develop and activate your chosen plan of action. 

Stay positive 

PR is not advertising; a PR strategy is playing the long game. It’s about proof and persuasion, building a brand. Even with all the copywriting skills in the world, there are some journalists who are not going to find your brand interesting immediately.

It’s important to stay positive and trust that you found the right PR agency to persevere and get you to where you want to be. Your agency will be working tirelessly to build relationships with key journalists, coming up with creative ideas and navigating choppy waters.

PR works best when both agency and client believe in each other.