Unlocking success: Insider secrets for optimising your relationship with a PR agency  

- June 11, 2024 3 MIN READ

Engaging a Public Relations (PR) agency is no different to engaging any other outsourced service provider. To ensure you get the best possible return on investment for your start-up or SMB, you must ensure you have your internal processes in order when you commence, writes Anthony Caruana and Kathryn Goater, Co-CEOs, Media-Wize

The best outcomes in a PR program come when your business works with the PR agency or freelancer in partnership. Your business can’t simply throw ideas or demands at your PR partner and expect the best possible results. First, you need to start with understanding how PR and media relations work and hire a PR who you trust to provide strategic counsel and advice. A PR will know the best methods and tactics for success and how to package up content to maximise the chance that journalists will want to cover your news.

PR is not advertising or marketing, it is about earning coverage on merit, it is the coverage that cannot be bought and therefore more valuable. There must be clear expectations about how the partnership will work so the PR investment delivers the best possible value. 

Set realistic KPIs and expectations

Successful partnerships don’t happen by accident. They happen when both partners have a clear understanding of what each expects. PR agreements typically include activities such as issuing media releases, writing bylines and pitching for interviews. Performance indicators could include things such as securing a set number of interviews with target publications, placing bylines regularly, or securing regular mentions in the media. Be reasonable and realistic – everyone wants to be on TV and in the major daily newspapers, but do you have a story that really resonates with strong news value to achieve that? 

Some agencies will charge a set price each month for an ongoing retainer contract while others might charge an hourly rate and then down tools for the month once the KPIs are achieved. 

 Build in time to plan and review

A partnership with a PR agency is no different to any other outsourcing arrangement. Regular communication is vital for maintaining a good working relationship and ensuring everyone understands their obligations. 

 A regular meeting with your PR partner is critical. Your business should have someone attend that meeting who can coordinate your internal activities such as finding subject matter experts who can review copy and organising spokespeople.

Establish your internal review and approval processes

Once a PR agency sends a media release, byline article, interview pitch or anything else out to the media there is almost no chance it can be recalled. PR agencies will never send something to the media without the express permission of their client. That means your business must have an internal process that reviews all communications with the media.

 While the PR agency will do the legwork of contacting the media, following them up and coordinating any ensuing activity, it’s your business’ responsibility to ensure everything the PR partner provides to the media has been properly reviewed and approved. It is the same as when you send an advertisement to print you understand the copy once approved is final and cannot be changed. 

Work with experienced partners

 Experienced PR agencies understand the media market and can guide you as to what the best story to tell is and how to tell it. There will be times the story you want to tell and the story the agency recommends aren’t the same. The best outcomes come when both parties listen to each other and craft an engaging story that gets your business’ message across while giving the media outlet a story that will be impactful to their audience. 

Trusted counsel 

 Choose your PR partner based on their understanding of your market and the journalists and publications you want to reach. Trust their guidance and listen to the advice they provide about what is a story worth telling and what isn’t. Often, we see clients pressure PR for unrealistic outcomes or to dispatch media releases that are barely newsworthy or packaged in a self-serving promotional way. Clients who listen to the advice and do the hard yards to find proof points, customers and back up claims succeed more. 

Listen if your PR warns you about risks to brand or reputation from activities or messaging. Their job is to anticipate what a journalist will think and help you navigate the liaison in a safe way and avoid a potential crisis or backlash. 

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