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Five questions that will reveal the effectiveness of your PR agency

Chris Field
Chris Field

More than 20 years of running a specialist retail technology PR agency has taught me many things. One is that the standard of industry PR is still poor, and only a handful of agencies are any good at it.

Choose wisely, because if you are trying to build a brand on which to build marketing and lead generation, PR is still the best way to do it.

Here are my five key questions you should be asking about your PR agency.

Does your prospective agency have the right industry expertise?

Agencies often claim industry experience, but have probably learned all they know from click bait media.

A superficial understanding of what is happening in a particular industry is not expertise. Everyone knows the basics. Real experience is based on time served, contacts, acknowledgement by industry peers. Selling stories into vertical media depends on all these.

If you are relying on them to speak for you in a market that you may not know all that well, it is critical that they can demonstrate their expertise.

Does your agency like meeting the media and pitching to them on the phone?

Press releases are not stories. Press releases are where great stories go to die and the industry’s reliance on them is not serving the customer right.

They exist because there has to be some record of the facts and what was agreed between the relevant parties. But agencies that rely on press releases are really in the cold-calling business. As any good sales person knows, the pitch should be made face to face or by phone.

Is your agency full of ‘yes’ people, or are they challenging you to do things differently?

Agencies that always do their clients’ bidding are not doing their job. One of the principal KPIs in PR remains the volume of press releases issued. Sad but true. The good agency will refuse to sign up to this box-ticking exercise and instead spend their time digging for stories. Clients may not always know because they are too close, but they are usually sitting on a treasure trove of stories, waiting for the PR agency bold enough to go digging for them.

Is your agency full of news junkies?

How often do you read stories where some company has jacked the news but added no value? Annoying right. It’s a classic PR exercise, but done badly, it simply reflects poorly on the client, particularly if the link is tenuous at best. Like the one that says, if only they’d used our product, then they wouldn’t be in this mess.Your agency should be taking time every day to find what is going on, and what it all means.

Does your agency instinctively know what the media wants?

Journalists tend not to suffer fools gladly. Classic complaints from journalists include, “No, you can’t change the deadline; that’s why it’s called a deadline.” No, you can’t change the story now that it’s published; if that’s what your client’s spokesperson said then that’s what they said.” No, you can’t review what I write before I go to press; if you wanted to change something, you should have done it earlier.” And, “No I’m not going to use the story now because you didn’t deliver what you promised.”

The PR industry does itself no favours by employing people who just want a job. Does your agency employ dyed-in-the-wool PR consultants?

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