Here come the girls! 2/2

Published:  21 March, 2011

“PRs also have to come up with the ideas that will be of genuine interest to journalists,” Ms McCarthy says. “It’s about taking a client’s ideas and then expanding them to create interesting editorial content.

“I like to call clients on a Monday and again before the end of the week. The more you communicate with clients and the more they talk to you, the more effective you can be on their behalf.

“A client should never assume that once they have hired a PR company, that’s the job done. We always set targets at the start of a campaign, and have measurements in place. Reporting back to the client is very important.”

Clients should look for an agency that can tackle new ideas. PR is not just about sending press releases out, she explains. Clients also need to check that their PR company is moving with the times. “PR is changing and social media is on the rise. Being aware of conversations your customers are having about you online is important. That way, your PR team can step into these conversations and get involved on your behalf,” she says.

Catherine Towns, director of Surrey-based CIB, urges prospective clients to prepare a brief before going to pitch. The full service agency offers PR alongside its creative and digital services. When approaching an agency, a client will need to think about who their target audience is, what their key messages are and whether there are any specific activities they wish to promote, she says.

“Is the client looking for an agency to give them a view on a one, two or five- year strategy? Is there something specific they want the agency to promote? How will the agency measure its results?

“A client should look for an agency that can show some specific experience. It might not necessarily mean
experience of working for a direct competitor, but they should look for experience of talking to their target audience and the general industry.”

Ms Towns says it is important that a client is open about how much they are prepared to spend – and that they tell this to the agency upfront. “A big difficulty for a PR who’s pitching for business is when potential clients don’t give you any indication of their budget. If you give an agency an idea of how much you want to spend, the agency can provide a much more thought-through approach and can recommend the best ways to get the most for your money, including tactical activities that you may not have considered.

“I can understand why people don’t want to divulge this. They may be afraid that if they cite a figure, the agency will spend it. In reality, you are both aiming for the same thing – to achieve best value and to be as successful as you can with the budget available.”

PR should support the client’s business objectives. “The first thing we try to understand is whether the client is prioritising any particular market, product category or region in order to think of ways in which we can support those business objectives.”

A good agency will entrench themselves in your business. “A PR will be an expert in public relations and even in your industry, but they will never be as much of an expert in your business as you are. To get the most out of PR, you have to put something in. The most successful relationships are where the client is in regular dialogue with the agency,” she states.

The first stage therefore, is top level strategy to make sure that the PR reflects your overall business plan. The second stage is letting the PR know everything about your business. A big agency can bring a wealth of experience from its larger team.

“The client not only benefits from the experience of its specific account handlers, but can also benefit from a cross-fertilisation of ideas from the wider team. Agencies with many clients in the same sector will be dealing with the same journalists on a day-to-day basis for all their clients so there are more chances for opportunities to arise. They are absorbed in key issues. For any new clients there will be less of a learning curve as the likelihood is that the agency already has an in-depth know-ledge of any regulations and industry issues through its work with a broad range of clients.”

This article was first published in the December 2010/January 2011 issue of Builders' Merchants News.


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