Picking and working with a PR firm is a big deal—and a big investment. If your company has gone through this before, or you’re involved in an agency search now, you know it’s a lot of work to get through the RFP process. The success of the partnership that’s about to begin is predicated on how much investment you’re willing to put into the relationship after you’ve said “you’re hired.”
Common sense, right? You’d be amazed at how many companies pay too little attention to the firm once they’re on board. As with any successful relationship, you get out of it what you put into it. That’s why a quick primer on what works well when working with a PR firm may come in handy when it’s time to welcome your new consultants to the company.
Prepare to Participate
Whether you’ve brought on a firm ‘for more arms and legs’ or as a strategic partner, they’re going to need the help of a dedicated internal resource, especially early on. Think of their team as yours; you’ve just gained four or five, depending on the size of your program, brand new employees! They need to be on-boarded, they need information, orientation and direction. For as smart as the people are, they’re new to the company, its culture, its processes and everything else that usually takes time to ‘get’ when they start a new job. You’re their guide. Be prepared for all the requests they make in those early days to get themselves up to speed.
Don’t hold back
Information is power and the more information you pass on to the firm, the more successful they’ll be. Sometimes clients don’t think a specific statistic or an older piece of content is important to share with the agency. Typically, they’re wrong. Good firms have creative people who spend their days stretching even small resources into meaningful results. You hired them for their abilities – give them everything you have and watch how the firm uses them.
Keep their feet to the fire
Holding the firm accountable to what they pitched you on is critical to showing them you care. Any firm with a reputation to uphold will do this themselves, but having an internal contact that demands accountability also shows the firm how committed the company is to them, too. Great client and agency relationships are the result of both sides wanting the other to be successful.
Broaden their access
A small minority of client side contacts are stuck on being the single point of entry into their company for the firm. They restrict access to executives, product people or other potential thought leaders who’d be fuel for the visibility program. This is counter-productive. Nothing bad can come of having exposure to more points of view on a market, more experiences within that market, and the opportunity to merge and increase networks. Introduce the assets in your company to the firm. Encourage regular touch points and the free flow of communications between everyone. The account will become and stay healthier for it.
Tap the agency’s special skills
If you picked your agency for its particular strengths, make sure you take advantage of them once they’re signed on. Some agencies excel in vertical markets, government, non-profit, crisis communications. Or, like here at SHIFT and among other things, using data to better inform programs—the list goes on. Tap their expertise quickly and don’t let the program stray from its overall goals.
Agencies are filled with creative people who like to be challenged, solve problems and above all, work with other smart people. Keep that in mind when bringing on a firm. Get involved. Don’t restrict them. Get what and who they need to make you look good and most importantly. Then get ready to celebrate the wins with them.