Navigating the Minefield of PR Agencies
How to avoid disappointment and losing money when unravelling the mystery of the PR Agency – what to ask them, what you should know and what to expect.
Like any service or product in business, there are differences between each even if the same company owns them – no two Myers are the same, you probably favour Coles over Woolies or vice versa despite them both selling pretty much the same thing. Same with services such as graphic designers, printers, web developers or marketers; no two are the same, they will deliver in a different way, may have different terms, may have their own style, may have strengths in one aspect over another despite still being within their trade.
And PR agencies are no different.
Now I am not here to defend shoddy practice which again, like many other services out there, does happen, but what I am here to do is try and dispel a few myths about PR agencies and help business owners make a more informed choice when choosing to engage a PR agency and feel confident to know what to ask.
Because in many cases it is this lack of understanding of what an agency does or doesn’t do, results in frustration with your agency, or feeling less than pleased with the outcomes they have delivered – you didn’t know what you didn’t know. And you didn’t know they would do it this way or that, or wouldn’t do x or y or that there may be another way of doing things.
Ok, so first up and most importantly, something I make sure anyone who speaks to me knows and is clearly stated in my terms – there are no guarantees when using the media. I say that again – no guarantees. And by guarantees I mean that you even get coverage, where the coverage is printed, when it is printed, what is printed or said, if it is accurate…. basically once you share a story with the media, it is theirs pretty much, same with photography. Be warned!
Now this may instantly alarm some of you, however I ask you this – how many other marketing strategies can you think of that guarantee you something (unless they are using fraudulent or less than ethical means to achieve it) do you know?
For example, any SEO company that guarantees you first page of Google. Or a FB Ad agency guaranteeing you x number of sales before they know little of your business, simply to win your business – they are likely to leave you disappointed and with an empty purse. There are too many variables and aspects beyond a marketers’ control to guarantee anything more than their dedication and experience and professionalism.
All a marketer can do is target your ideal client and drive them to whatever platform you have be it a website, a store or landing page perhaps. However, if when a customer arrives, the product is too expensive for them, not good quality, the customer service is poor or you have sold out, then a marketer can do nothing more than advise you to improve on this.
I look into this sort of thing before I even begin as part of assessing if a business owner and their business is media ready. There is no gain in me spending time finding story angles and pitching to the media if a business owner is too nervous to speak to a journalist or their product doesn’t work or their service is flawed or unethical.
Which brings me onto my list of questions to ask a PR agency that could help you decide if they are a right fit for your business–
10 questions to ask a PR agency before you sign up
- Do they do traditional PR such as reaching print, radio and TV or are they more about social media, influencers, product placement and guest blogging? It’s important to ask as some agencies are great at one and not the other – take a look at their case studies and if your dream is to be on the radio and all you see are product placements in magazines – ask!
- Do they work on a retainer or do they do a set amount of work for a fixed price? And if they work on a retainer, what will you get for your money? Will they tell you up front what is happening each month and report on activity – if so when?
- Do you approve all media releases before they pitch them? You would be surprised at how many times I have heard that agencies have pitched a story without the business knowing, let alone knowing what the media release said.
- Do they understand your industry? How much time have they spent digging into what you do, how you do it and who you do it for? It is crucial if they are to find strong story angles within your business. And will one person be assigned to your project or several? Again, useful to know so that you are confident who to pass on updates to and so that you know each person is across the whole project.
- Do you know and can you have input into whom they will pitch your story to (the media targets)?
- How many stories will they pitch and how many targets for each story?
- Will you have the contact info of the media outlet on completion?
- Will they follow up a pitch and if so, how many times will they try or for how long?
- Do they work with start-ups, micros and small business or is their portfolio more larger businesses and well-known brands? Again it is important to understand where their expertise lies as PR for a well-known brand is often very different to that of an unknown start up.
- Will they help you to prepare for an interview and do they provide ideas on how to leverage your media coverage?
There you have it – a list that should help you to get the best from any PR agency that you engage. But remember – publicity is not guaranteed, but by asking the above questions you can minimise the risk of no publicity being down to not having the right team on-board. Now all that is left to do is start leveraging your coverage! I’ll save that for another blog!
Have a question? Considering using the media to position your business as experts in their field? I am always happy to chat and of course, feel free to fire my own questions at me to see if Hullabaloo PR is the right fit for you!