Conversations at the Intersection of PR, Traditional & New Media

Working with a PR Agency

prToday public relations is a fundamental tool for any marketing and communication strategy. It is central to brand and corporate reputation management programmes. In the last few years, too many organizations and their CEOs have learned the hard way that reputation can be a double-edged sword that cuts both ways. The reputation alert has been sounded, and most organizations have realized that corporate reputation stands on the two legs of compliance and public relations.

Unlike in the 1990s when it took a back seat, public relations today is getting a bigger slice of advertising and marketing budgets. This is because ad media costs have sharply increased, the size of media audiences have shrunk, and there is too much advertising clutter, especially on television.

While advertising represents the top-down authority figure selling the product, public relations has historically represented two-way communications. We want to engage our audiences to talk with us to ask questions and to have their say about our products. We want to deal with the audience close up. An ideal article in a newspaper or television or cable discussion from other experts or someone from the general public with another opinion doesn’t negate the positive story, but adds another dimension. It makes the communication genuine and not a message from the town barker.…

Certainly, a skillfully written PR feature article can communicate more product information than an abbreviated 30-second TV commercial.

Thus public relations is now recognized as a legitimate component of the marketing mix. For this reason, managing the news and creating an ambient mood around a product or a company has become an essential marketing strategy.

The goal of marketing PR is not to build a mass of news clippings but to win a market share. Integrating PR with advertising can support a specific marketing objective.

What should a client do to get the most from his PR agency? Here are a few pointers that an organization should adopt in dealing with the PR agencies.

1) Let the agency get its deserved retainer.

If you haggle with your agency over retainer, editorial and events management fees, you are making a big mistake. Agencies have costs, too, and salaries of creative people are not cheap.

A client, who values the importance of corporate reputation, would volunteer to pay extra for the best professional writers and strategic communicators and allow the agency to experiment in search of more creative ways of story-telling.

2) Don’t keep threatening your agency

Many clients have the habit of scaring the agency with intimations that they are always looking for a new agency. This is counterproductive. Agency executives who are terrorized are not in the best position to produce great PR programs.

The ideal client-agency relationship should have “permanence,” and in order to achieve permanence, it must be in the minds of both client and agency from the very beginning.

3) Don’t compete with your own agency

Some company PR managers are insecure backseat drivers. They want to do the writing of news releases and feature articles themselves. Some even go ahead fix media interactions on their own without even letting the agency know. Why? Just to impress the bosses that they are as good, if not better, than the agency. They order the agency to dispatch their news releases “as is,” not aware that there are style-book procedures and limitations. When the editors don’t pick up their brainchild, they make the agency a convenient scapegoat.

The client gets best results when the corporate communications team and the agency executives work as a team. The corporate communications team should put full trust in the professional competence of the agency pros and let them be responsible for creative communications, crisis & issue management and media training.

4) Do not always find faults; but instead help finding a remedy.

Many clients shower the agency with scathing insults if there are few media attendees during a product launch, but never pat the agency on the back when deliverables are exceeded. If you find that the agency has not performed well, you should of course speak your mind, but in a diplomatic way.

5) Brief the PR agency exhaustively.

The more you acquaint your agency with your company and products, policies and procedures, the better job it will do for you.

6) Leave the agency alone to come up with a strategy for you.

PR agencies have well-experienced strategic communicators. Over the years, they have handled various crisis along with the other PR situations and have established strong working relationships with the media. Allow them to do what they are best at.

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Disclaimer

Disclaimer: The thoughts expressed by me in this blog are my personal views and do not represent the views of my employer or the organizations I have been associated with. I believe in the principle of sharing information. Feel free to link to any of the posts in this blog.
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