Working with a PR (Public Relations) Agency
When planning to work with a PR (Public Relations) agency, it can be a tremendous help to understand what to expect from this relationship to make sure that you get the most from your public relations. Understand the difference between a retainer and a campaign and what you want a PR programme to deliver. Importantly, how much the activity costs. Being clear on all areas will allow you to engage the right agency and know what is needed so the agency client relationship to thrive.
We have combined everything that you would need to consider before approaching a PR agency here.
How do I engage with a PR agency?
Firstly, work out internally what your PR brief is and your objectives for doing so. It also helps to be clear at this stage on what you would like your key performance indicators (KPI’s) to be and what your budget is. Agencies want to know this early on so that they can respond with a considered plan that is both in scope and on budget.
Once briefed, the agency will formulate a plan of how they will deliver on your objectives, including the tactics and output they would recommend. The agency may ask if there is an opportunity to host a discovery workshop to take you away from the day-to-day and challenge thinking to find an innovative approach. It may also involve some 1:1s with senior staff to make sure that their knowledge of you is sound before responding with a comprehensive plan. You can also expect at this point that the PR agency will be conducting its own desk research as well as sector and competitor analysis. All of this will be incorporated into the plan, which the agency will play back to you.
The PR agency will then agree on fees with you and budget against the ones that you provided. You will need to sign a contract with the agency. Once work has begun, you can expect regular review periods. During this time, you will evaluate with the PR agency the work that has been carried out through agreed metrics, for example, the number of press clippings in a month, audience growth or key messages communicated.
What is a retainer?
Your PR objectives are about increasing credibility, awareness, and education. These are long-term objectives that certainly will not be achieved overnight. In which case, you would work with a PR agency on a retained basis. This will be at a fixed fee against an agreed number of hours per month and will be reviewed each year as part of a rolling contract.
What can I expect from a retainer?
When working with a PR agency on a retained basis, you will benefit from a wider scope of services that the agency offers. You can build relationships with a dedicated team and benefit from proactive management. This will help you prioritise and plan and ultimately, be more productive.
The longer you work with your PR team, the more their understanding of your goals will grow.
This will allow them to be even more effective. They will also be able to bring you sector insights that could widen your network and increase knowledge or even supply solutions or inspiration. You can expect them to be able to spot a good opportunity over and above delivering on a plan.
Your plan may involve key campaign dates to tie in with key business events, but you can be sure of a consistent flow of activity.
For example, included in your PR plan, you could expect a press office function whereby your PR team consistently monitors the media outlets that you want to be in to spot opportunities through news hi-jacking, opinion pieces or expert comment.
What is a campaign or a project?
Your PR objectives are well-defined and are based on short-term targets? You need the focus of a PR agency alongside your in-house team where you need support and results, fast. Budget is tight, or you would like to run a PR campaign as a trial to test and see what results it returns?
A PR campaign or individual project may work best if your objective is very specific such as a product launch or to solve a specific problem.
What can I expect from a campaign or a project?
Like a PR retainer, you will have access to a dedicated team that has been hand-picked based on the specialism needed. The project will still be based on a fixed fee for a pre-determined amount of work and you will receive a timeline of deliverables to make sure that the project still is on track and on budget.
With this approach you will also agree specific KPI’s with your team. This could be based upon volume such as coverage targets, or social media account growth or message within a set timeframe, for example.
What can I expect from client service?
The benefit of working with an agency is the service that you can expect. Our client’s have previously commented that we are ‘competent and capable’ and that we ‘take time to understand your objectives and work with you to keep focus and achieve those objectives.’
We take immense pride in the client service that we offer and it shows as we have won The Drum Recommends award for PR Agency of the Year for four years in a row (2018 – 2021). This award is based on clients rating agency work. Based on the feedback of our clients, it provides a true reflection of the service that we offer and the experience of working with us to get clients the results they deserve.
When you work with us, you will receive regular updates and will never be left in the dark. Our updates can feed into wider marketing planning meetings as required or they can take the form of a monthly call. We work with you as part of your extended team in a way that suits you best.
As well as our creative ideas and expert execution of these, you can expect us to share our insights, knowledge, and connections as we work with you.
Our client service charter lays out the expectations we have of ourselves and what we have of you.
How will AMBITIOUS choose the team to service my business?
At AMBITIOUS, we understand that the relationship that you have with your day-to-day PR team can make all the difference. We work as an extension of our client’s team so it is important that a relationship is well matched. The culture, chemistry and values must all fit and we spend time at the outset to make this happen.
We field the skills and sector experience within AMBITIOUS to make sure that we can do a decent job. It is obvious that we will match you with a team that has the most relevant experience in your sector. Not only will this allow the team to be more effective, but it also means that we can save you a lot of time and can even deliver you worthwhile connections within your space.
How do I brief a PR agency?
The best PR campaigns start with a clear and detailed brief. The process of briefing an agency helps you to define your goals, vision, and expectations. Be explicit in what you would like PR activity to do for your business including where you would like to be, who you are looking to target and where and within what period.
It also helps to provide further detail about what has worked well in the past, as well as sharing information about the structure of your team and anything else that you feel would be useful to know. Laying all this information out in a brief will allow the agency to address how they will achieve your goals most effectively.
Some helpful prompts can be found here to help you structure your brief and ensure that you capture as much as possible about what it is you are looking to achieve.
- What is the purpose of this activity?
- What are your key business objectives?
- What does success look like to you?
- Where are you now and where do you want to be?
- What problem does your business solve?
- What other marketing activity/channels are you using?
- What services should our brief cover or are you happy for us to recommend based on objectives?
- What has been your PR (media, stakeholder, influencer relations) /content/social strategy and approach to date? It is also useful to share wrap up reports with us.
- What has worked in the past?
- What is your internal structure and skill set?
- Who are your target audiences to reach with this activity?
- Job titles e.g., IT Director, CISO, CTO
- SME, Enterprise, Multinational
- Target priority sectors; and is this likely to evolve over time?
- Top 10 companies you would like to work for?
- What is the typical deal size?
- Have you done any work on persona planning?
- Who are your most valuable customers?
- Do you have any audience data?
- Who are your stakeholders? Have you done any prior planning work here?
- Who else should we speak to internally to get a good grip on your business?
- Do you have any geographical focus within UK?
- Will there be much emphasis on the Irish media?
- What period are you looking at?
- How do you compare to your competitors?
- Who are your UK competitors?
- How do you compare on price?
- What percentage market share do you have?
- Any budgetary guidelines or frameworks?
- Any guidance on investment you are looking to make to ensure that expectations are aligned?
What are insights, ideas, and impact?
At AMBITIOUS, we have grounded ourselves on three key principles. Insights, ideas, and impact.
INSIGHTS: we utilise the right tools across every appropriate channel to create a unique communications masterplan that will take you from where you are to where you want to be.
IDEAS: we will apply our creative and imaginative ideas to your business to ensure that you are found, heard, seen, understood, remembered, and chosen.
IMPACT: we are committed to ensuring that you will see a real return on investment. We deliver measurable results comprising reach, engagement, credibility, and education to support you to meet your business goals.
How much does a PR service cost?
We are transparent about our PR fees. Our rates are competitive, and we have benchmarked these against our competitive set. We work out the fee based on the scope of work and how much time it will take us to deliver.
Our rates are between £80- £160 per hour to deploy the level, seniority and skill needed for your scope of work.
We have a minimum retainer value of £4000 per calendar month. This is because we feel that anything under this value, we will not get to know your business well enough to do an excellent job.
To give an example, most of our average retainers are between £6-9000 per calendar month.
When it comes to appointing us on a project-basis, our minimum project value is £15,000.
How do you evaluate PR success?
Every client will have different things they are trying to achieve, and metrics will mean different things to different stakeholders. It may be number of press articles, social media reach and engagement, actionable content supplying brand awareness to increasing web traffic and website backlinks.
For example, when working with digital teams, they may be looking for support with increasing DA (Domain Authority), securing quality backlinks and supporting SEO goals to help with Search Engine Results Pages (SERP).
If we are working with a board of directors, a common objective is to see their business in the right place at the right time. In which case, an article in a national broadsheet that delivers on key messages might be the goal. They may also be looking for doors to open to stakeholders and industry accolades through awards or speaker opportunities.
Success to a sales team will often be supporting sales enablement. This means playing back media coverage that supports a client’s key messages through their own channels. The metric will be looking at how the sales funnel is affected by this PR activity.
If we are working with a PR Director, they may be looking at all the above!