Here come the girls!

Published:  21 March, 2011

Need help promoting your business? Put yourself in the hands of a professional public relations agency and get your company noticed for all the right reasons. Lisa Arcangeli reports.

Essex-based Foundation PR was established in 1998 and specialises exclusively in the building industry.

“One of the most important things for a merchant to appreciate is that they will have to develop a relationship with their public relations company,” says Helen Curry, managing director and owner/operator of Foundation Public Relations.

“The advantage of using a small agency is that the person you meet at the pitch will be the person who will deal with your account. You will need to trust your PR agency, because sometimes the things you will tell them will be commercially sensitive. Look for someone who knows you sector and understands your market, how merchanting works and the commercial pressures you are under. You also need someone who will understand your customers and the kinds of things that they are looking for.

“Ask your most trusted suppliers who they use and ask trade journalists who they consider to be a good PR
person when you are looking for an agency.”

Mrs Curry says a good PR should be prepared to show you how they evaluate their results. “We give our clients one-page executive summary reports every month to show them the value of the coverage that was gained – where the information appeared, what kind of message was achieved, what kind of market we targeted and what other markets we hit. That enables the client to openly and transparently evaluate what has been achieved.

“One of the key qualities you will want from a PR person is reliability – someone who will do what they say they will without your having to nag them.

“The PR should have reasonable technical knowledge. They should be creative and be able to develop new ideas. They must also be able to deliver those ideas in a successful way. From a client’s point-of-view, they will need to tell the agency what kind of budget they had planned for their PR and have to have a clear picture of what your objectives are. Do you want to get more footfall to your branch? Do you want to increase sales? Is the PR to launch a new branch?

“Small independent merchants should look for a PR agency that is local to their branch. That way, the PR will know the area and the local media.”

To sort the men from the boys, Mrs Curry recommends that a prospective client should always ask what the agency can do for them electronically. “People are using the internet as a business tool – but not necessarily
during your opening hours. Someone who can help you with maximising your digital media is a useful person, even if you already have a web agency.”

Jo McCarthy, the deputy managing director of Midlands-based Willoughby Public Relations, says clients should seek a PR consultancy that understands their products and their audience. “We undertake training free of charge to get to know our clients as best we can in order to work as an extension of their team,” she explains.

“PR people have to get under the skin of their client’s business. We should be able to think as the client does. That way, we can understand our clients’ language and their key issues.

“It is a good idea for clients to think about what they want to achieve and what key messages they would like to communicate. Writing a brief before an initial meeting is a good way to give a PR consultancy some direction.

“Having views and being prepared to share them is really important if you really want to position your organisation as a leader in your area of business,” she explains.

“Providing your PR consultancy with up-to-date information and market insights will help them do a better job. Briefing is therefore important."


Sign Up

For the Builders' Merchants News enewsletter.

In the spotlight

We have vacancies all over the UK for those who work within the Building Supplies sector.

Events Diary