Congratulations! After a long and thorough search, you’ve hired a PR firm.
Although 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 the relationship.
Here are a few principles to keep in mind for getting the most out of your PR firm long past the honeymoon phase:
• Expectations should be clear. Defining success by setting goals and measurable objectives is a key element of any effective communications campaign, and it’s good practice from Day One to prevent surprises later.
You can do this by developing a written brief for your PR team or as part of a larger discussion during your kickoff meeting in which 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 of 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, your 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 will provide the best return on your investment. For your PR team to be a strategic partner, you need a constant flow of communication back and forth, both good and bad, so that everyone has as much information as possible to do his or her job well.
Beyond sharing your organization’s background, facts, and data that help tell your story, you should also be transparent; provide insight into key personnel, organizational politics and corporate challenges so the firm can help you anticipate and mitigate any challenge that may arise before it becomes front-page news.
• Be open to new ideas. You’ve hired a PR firm because you value its expertise and want results. It’s fair—and expected—to ask questions about its strategic recommendations.
You may not always agree with the firm’s viewpoint, but challenging every new, innovative concept or micro-managing projects 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.