Are you considering hiring a public relations agency?
Collaborating with a great PR agency could be your secret weapon.
Having worked at (and with!) many different types of PR agencies, let me give you the basic rundown on how to get it right.
Here we go:
- I. How To Work With PR Agencies
- II. The Benefits of a Public Relations Agency
- III. Why a PR Agency is Your Secret Weapon
- IV. Key Services Provided by PR Agencies
- V. Red Flags When Hiring PR Agencies
- VI. Tips for Choosing the Right PR Agency
- VII. Why Marketing Agencies Fail at PR
- PR Resource: A Glass of Many Truths
I. How To Work With PR Agencies
Before contacting PR agencies, knowing which type of collaboration format you’re looking for is wise.
There are typically three main formats for working with a PR agency:
Which format of collaboration is best for you?
One standard route is to hire a PR agency for a PR project. If everyone is happy, the PR agency is put on a primary retainer, allowing ongoing PR services at a more beneficial fee structure. For any additional projects, they’re welcome to compete with their proposals. If everyone is happy with the primary retainer and most additional PR projects go to the agency anyway, the agency can be “promoted” to an agency of record. Being a “preferred partner” allows the PR agency to agree on a more beneficial fee structure.
II. The Benefits of a Public Relations Agency
There are many situations where hiring a PR agency is the only way to access certain powers. A few examples would include:
III. Why a PR Agency is Your Secret Weapon
How can a PR agency be a secret weapon?
A PR professional doesn’t think the same way as most other white-collar is trying to steer the conversation towards products and services; the PR professional will instead create stories around topics that people care about.
PR is different. And in a wired world overloaded with a mindnumbing cacophony of marketing messages, different is good.
A PR agency can help an organisation break away from the noise and clutter of traditional marketing tactics and forge genuine connections with its audience. They do this by crafting compelling narratives that resonate on a human level rather than resorting to hard-sell tactics.
The PR approach not only makes an organisation more relatable and trustworthy in the eyes of its audience, but it also sets it apart from competitors. In a world where consumers increasingly seek authenticity and meaningful engagement, a PR agency can be a secret weapon.
IV. Key Services Provided by PR Agencies
PR agencies typically provide services following the stakeholder model:
Stakeholders in Public Relations
In PR, we often discuss stakeholders. And our PR specialisations are named based on which stakeholders we’re responsible for managing.
“In a corporation, a stakeholder is a member of ‘groups without whose support the organisation would cease to exist’, as defined in the first usage of the word in a 1963 internal memorandum at the Stanford Research Institute. The theory was later developed and championed by R. Edward Freeman in the 1980s. Since then it has gained wide acceptance in business practice and in theorising relating to strategic management, corporate governance, business purpose and corporate social responsibility (CSR).”
Source: Wikipedia 2Stakeholder (corporate). (2023, October 27). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stakeholder_(corporate)
This is the stakeholder model in PR:
Developing and maintaining relationships with various stakeholders is a significant challenge for PR professionals since their information needs are typically very different. 3A widespread misconception is that the PR function only deals with journalists (Media Relations) and product promotion (Marketing PR). However, such work represents only a tiny fraction of all the … Continue reading
“Public relations distinguishes itself from marketing by focusing on the stakeholder-organization relationship, which comprises mutual orientation around a common interest point and a multiplicity of stakes.”
Source: Public Relations Review 4Smith, B. (2012). Public relations identity and the stakeholder – organization relationship: A revised theoretical position for public relations scholarship. Public Relations Review, 38, 838 – 845. … Continue reading
Learn more: Stakeholders in Public Relations
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For instance, one agency I worked at (Springtime PR) provided specialised services in corporate communications, internal communications, crisis communications, and public affairs (PA). Another agency I worked at (Spotlight PR) provided specialised services in media relations, industry PR (B2B), and marketing PR. Yet another agency I worked at (Whispr Group) provided specialised services for digital PR.
It would be easy to say that specialist agencies are always better at specific types of PR challenges, but the difference between generalist PR agencies and specialist PR agencies is much smaller than between good and bad PR agencies.
I advise picking a good PR agency over a PR agency with a perfectly matched specialisation.
V. Red Flags When Hiring PR Agencies
Overview of the primary services provided by a PR agency, such as media relations, crisis communications, event management, and more.
VI. Tips for Choosing the Right PR Agency
Accepting that you must make a few fundamental decisions is a good starting point. Depending on your specific PR challenge, you should start by deciding between these preferences:
For instance, knowing beforehand that you’re specifically looking for a Big-Local-Strategic-Generalist-Senior PR agency will guide your decision (and help you ask the right questions!) when searching for the right fit for your organisation.
VII. Why Marketing Agencies Fail at PR
Perhaps your organisation is already working with a marketing agency? Perhaps they can do your PR, too.
I’ve met and interacted with thousands of marketers over the years, and one thing is abundantly clear: they don’t even know what PR is supposed to do. The most common marketing belief is that PR is synonymous with the idea that PR should generate publicity on the back of marketing campaigns.
But perhaps publicity for your marketing efforts is exactly what you’re looking for, anyway?
Unfortunately, for marketing agencies, you can’t use “marketing speak” with stakeholders, influencers, and publics. Not only do they hate it, they often take offence — publicly. And now you’re going from wanting better PR to getting worse PR overall.
Caution: Agencies of all sorts might tell you they’re great at everything — and that you don’t have to make any trade-offs. Err on caution, do your research, and ask follow-up questions. This is sound advice for dealing with any agency, of course.
PR Resource: A Glass of Many Truths
A Glass of Many Truths
Let’s say that there’s a glass of water standing on a table in front of you — and there’s water in it. The glass holds 100 ml of water but could store 200 ml if filled up.
I could say that the glass is half full. That’s true.
I could also say that the glass is half empty. Still true.
Both statements are equally valid, of course, but the choice of words will influence our stereotypical thinking about the state of the glass and its content.
The second statement emphasises emptiness (the glass needs a refill), and the first statement is fullness (the glass needs no refill).
Now, let’s get even more creative:
The glass is full. True, yes?
Technically, this statement is true as well:
50% of the glass contains water; the other 50% is split between roughly 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, argon, carbon dioxide, and small amounts of other gasses.
How about this:
The glass is not half full, nor is it half empty. Also true.
An equal split between water and gasses implies an exact division of protons, neutrons, and electrons. But Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle says no.
Such accuracy might not matter to you or me, but for a physicist, these precise versions of the truth might make all the difference.
So, what does a glass of water have to do with PR?
Learn more: Does Spin Suck?
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|A PR agency is typically a dynamic setting with varying high-level PR challenges and a mix of competitive talents. Organisations often cannot match such an environment to attract thrill-seeking PR minds.|
|Stakeholder (corporate). (2023, October 27). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stakeholder_(corporate)|
|A widespread misconception is that the PR function only deals with journalists (Media Relations) and product promotion (Marketing PR). However, such work represents only a tiny fraction of all the stakeholder relationships PR professionals must manage daily.|
|Smith, B. (2012). Public relations identity and the stakeholder – organization relationship: A revised theoretical position for public relations scholarship. Public Relations Review, 38, 838 – 845. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.PUBREV.2012.06.011|