Before you embark on your communications journey, ask yourself the following: what would I like to communicate to which target group? Within what context? And what would I like to achieve? These key communication questions are still relevant – even sixty years after professor Harold Lasswell formulated them. If you are having difficulty answering these questions, enlisting the help of a PR or communications agency is a good idea. Such an agency can often help you create a clear messaging and brand story, especially because they are somewhat of an outsider. Yet even if you do have the answers to the Lasswell questions, a PR agency can be of great help.
But how do you choose a PR agency? What should you pay attention to? I have been the CEO of a PR agency for almost twenty-five years and have always been on the other side; answering both relevant and less relevant selection questions. With these insights, I have listed five of the most important questions you need to ask before choosing a PR agency.
Well-founded advice is essential for a long-term collaboration. Starting with a clear outline of your communications messages. A good PR agency is thorough and asks questions like: who can do what with your product or service? Why is the target group interested in your product or service? What is the company’s vision? And is it able to deliver on this vision? A PR agency that has knowledge of your industry can provide assistance. Even if it is only because they know how the market works, who your competition is and with what message your organization can set itself apart.
If your message is clear and differentiating, it is then key to communicate that message to the target group. In this case, it is important to work with a PR agency that is impartial regarding the channels you can deploy for this. From traditional and social media to paid and unpaid assets. Depending on the target group you want to reach, an agency’s warm relationship with influencers and journalists could be a tiebreaker. Oh, and have you decided on social media? Make sure to ask for proof in the form of analyses and results. I believe it is important to see what you are investing in and whether the right (monitoring) tools are being used. The agency will in the very least need the tools to quickly find relevant influencers and to monitor and analyze social media. The more insight in the interaction and results, the more you can stay in control.
The power of good communication increasingly lies in the combination of multiple fields of expertise. PR no longer revolves around sending press releases to dailies, which similarly means marketing no longer revolves around buying advertisements. The most successful communications campaigns deploy a combination of skills and expertise. Together, you start from scratch and decide how you want to deliver the message. Next, you combine the right skills, offered by the agency. In terms of PR, I would suggest a mixture of creativity, a lot of relevant (branch) experience and well-established press contacts, complemented by in-house services like media training and crisis communications. And do not forget that PR and good content marketing are now virtually inseparable. Experienced in-house specialists are crucial. And as long as we are talking about specialties: event marketing know-how and in-house designers that can immediately be called upon for campaigns are a welcome addition. The power is in the combination of specialties and the skills to deploy these the right way. A PR agency that is capable of facilitating all of this, might just be the best choice for you.
PR involves people. In the end, they are the ones you will be collaborating with. So, I advise you to go to the website and check if the employees and company culture make you feel comfortable. And if you are paying the agency a visit: do you trust the people who will be doing the work? Are you dealing with an individual, or with a well-coordinated team? Do the teams give you positive vibes? In my experience, a good work relationship with the PR agency’s people, makes them go the extra mile, which leads to better results.
Finally – and maybe most importantly – the PR agency should understand your long-term goals. A good agency can turn a business case into a communications plan and combine all (communications) disciplines. Often the first meeting will give you a good idea of if you are dealing with motivated PR consultants who know which goals to achieve. Do they have an open mind and do they think outside the box? Are they open to all means to realize your business goals? In that case, you may have found your match.
Does your PR agency score well on all five questions? Stop looking, you have found the right agency. Whether that is LVTPR or not. Want to know our answers to these questions? Feel free to contact us.
Charly Lammers van Toorenburg
CEO LVT Group