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Ready to hire a PR agency? 5 steps to prepare for a true partnership

by | May 25, 2024 | Public Relations

As the owner of a tech-focused PR agency, I know that I speak for many of us when I say the following: hiring a PR agency is not a magic wand that will suddenly make your company the envy of the world, nor will it miraculously increase sales or get you on the cover of the Wall Street Journal. Investing in PR without first putting in the work is the literal epitome of putting the cart before the horse. It just won’t work. 

So, the question is not if you, as a B2B organization, should hire a PR agency, but rather when you should invest in PR. Having a solid PR strategy can absolutely play a huge role in establishing thought leadership, increasing visibility, and capturing leads—but only if there is a robust marketing and sales strategy in the mix.  

Our recent, “The PR Agency Readiness Checklist” reveals five steps you should take before kicking off a successful partnership. Here are some highlights: 

1. Develop a marketing strategy and marketing team

The first—and arguably most important—step is pulling together a marketing strategy and assigning a team to work with an agency. I can’t emphasize this enough.  

Repeat after me: Without a marketing plan, you don’t know where PR fits in. Without a marketing team, you can’t direct a PR agency. 

It sounds simple but many companies fall short in overall marketing planning prior to slotting in PR. A company needs to shape what their overall goals are and outline all the various efforts they’ll deploy to get there, such as tradeshows, ads or sponsored webinars. 

PR agencies don’t need every detail of the plan, or to know everyone on the team, but they need to know you’re prepared and thinking of your story to tell.  

2. Identify PR-specific goals

Now that you have your marketing foundation, your team must be on the same page when it comes to goals and what you really need from your PR program.  

Do you simply want more media coverage or are you looking to create buzz in preparation for completing a round of funding? Whatever your goals are, it is critical to develop very clear PR strategies that not only support your overall business goals but that also help feed the marketing engine. 

When looking at PR-specific goals, an agency can help define the right metrics and KPIs, while setting expectations. And remember: PR can be a long game.  

3. Receive executive buy-in

Too often marketing teams do the groundwork and are ready to onboard a PR agency, only to have it all erased by the CEO in the last hour before signing the SOW.  

For a CEO whose job is to maximize profitability, I completely understand that investing in PR can be a substantial line-item in the annual budget. That’s why it’s important to get sign-off from key executives before connecting with prospective PR agencies.  

In the courting process, a good PR agency should work with their marketing counterparts to present how a PR program is a valuable piece of the marketing strategy. This will ensure that everyone on the team is on the same page and ready to position the company for future PR and marketing success.  

4. Confirm the budget

Once you have executives’ blessings to hire a PR agency, it is just as important to create a budget for PR that aligns with your goals.  

The reality is, budgets vary dramatically from company to company. Identifying the right agency is about finding a partner that serves companies with the budget you’ve outlined.  

One thing to note: it’s helpful to set aside a fixed monthly retainer. This is because PR requires an investment in time, building relationships, pitching and staying in front of journalists. Any stoppage in between months or campaigns can disrupt the stream. 

5. Define what you want out of a PR partner

With goals and budget in mind, you’re ready to identify the qualities you want from a PR agency. Just like any relationship, you may have certain values and preferences you’re looking for from a partner.  

Here are a few things to consider when considering fit: 

  • Expertise: Are you looking for a specialized agency that has established contacts in your industry or a generalist agency that can help you expand into new markets?  
  • Location: Do you want an agency that’s local or remote? 
  • Skillset: What do you need most, an agency that produces great content or one with more top-tier media contacts for broadcast coverage? Or a combination of the two? 

Knowing exactly what you want from a PR agency will help you establish a long-lasting partnership that is based on mutually defined goals—a win-win for everyone!  

Follow the checklist and reap the rewards

We all know that it doesn’t pay to rush into any relationship, and PR is no different. PR professionals tend to get a bad rap for not delivering on desired results. But, as I’ve outline here, most often it is because the company was not ready for a PR program to begin with.   

Skipping the checklist can create unnecessary bumps in the road by setting unrealistic expectations, losing C-level executive support and driving gaps in communication.  

Whether you’re an established provider or a seed stage startup, it’s important to know how you’re positioned in the market, and then follow the checklist to see if you’re ready for a full-scale PR program. 

Catherine Seeds
Catherine Seeds is president and CEO of Ketner Group Communications, the go-to PR agency for retail tech companies. In her role, she oversees the agency’s business development, partnerships, HR/operations, client success, and agency culture initiatives in collaboration with the agency’s top-notch senior leadership team. During her tenure, she has played a crucial role in every phase of the agency’s success, including overseeing two rebrands, ensuring steady growth, and opening the agency’s office in New York while growing the remote team.

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