The difference between successful results and complete failure often hinges on an effective evaluation during the hiring process. Here’s how:
Set realistic KPIs
According to a survey from Muck Rack, “72% of PR pros said measuring business impact is currently the top challenge facing the industry.” This makes sense, as most agencies offer classic PR (i.e. media relations, op-eds and press releases). The byproduct of classic PR is media hits, which are partially dependent on news and data from the company and often an immeasurable part of a prospect’s journey. If you need concrete and trackable KPIs beyond “we’ll get you X hits a month on average” to justify your budget or simply peace of mind, consider firms that are able to provide content marketing and social media services that can be clearly measured.
Make sure you have the right team
Big agencies and boutique ones can both do a great job, but the most important thing is understanding the team you’re getting and their processes. Many agencies are, understandably, built for scale, but what often happens is they provide a bucket of hours at an exorbitant price, or they have an inexperienced, overburdened account coordinator doing the bulk of the work. Try to make sure you have people on the team who are experienced and will be hands-on, even if it means paying a bit extra. Inquire about the number of clients they’re responsible for, and don’t accept a limited number of hours if you can avoid it because increasingly successful media relations is personalized and that takes a significant amount of time.
Help them help you
You can be the greatest company in the world, but your PR team can’t just repeatedly reach out to journalists describing how great you are and expect coverage. While hooking onto timely stories does work, the success is far greater when you can provide journalists with a newsworthy announcement or insight that make you into a resource and set you apart from the up to 500 pitches they get per week for PR pros that outnumber them six to one. When it comes to content, try working in a few original insights and perhaps consider adjusting and leveraging your best blog posts (check that they’re taken down or differ markedly from the original before pitching.)
Another technique is providing them with industry-wide data that doesn’t include client names, as this speeds up the approval process and prevents potential customer alienation. To take it one step further, try combining industry insights with consumer opinions from a survey service such as Google Surveys (make sure your sample size is large enough.) If relevant, compare those opinions to what’s offered in the market and editorialize your vision for how to close the gap. Paired with some graphics and placed in the right format, this type of research can be a potent weapon in your PR firm’s arsenal, plus it can be sliced and diced for other marketing initiatives such as email marketing campaigns and webinars.
There is no absolute guarantee of coverage and impact, or that your PR firm will be the right fit. However, setting the right KPIs, doing some further investigation to hire the right team and providing them with resources to go beyond the standard pitch can make a great outcome all the more likely.