High Performance Public Relations: Getting the most out of your PR Agency

Public Relations can be hard to measure, expensive to maintain and difficult to sustain. So how do you select the right agency for your business objectives and keep the stories coming? Public Relations deals with intangibles such as ideas and words. Those ideas come to life through articles, influence spheres on social media, blogs, broadcast media and digital information streams. A well-orchestrated Public Relations campaign can be great for your image and enhance your overall marketing efforts.

Selecting the Right Firm

When selecting a firm think in terms of a partner. Do your research. Does the firm have a good reputation? Do they understand your business? Do they have other clients in the same category? Ask a few editors to recommend a firm. If you have a PR firm in mind, ask the editors for their opinion. Believe me, they won’t be shy about sharing their feedback with you. Before you make your final decision, ask to meet the team. I remember being very impressed with the senior partner who pitched us but when it came down to meeting the account executives they were very inexperienced and new to the firm. Delve a little deeper before you judge and find out if the account person has been on your side or the editors’ side of the business. If you see new faces to frequently and your account executive changes every year, consider billing your firm for training fees. Keep in mind, the right firm will be excited about your business and be thrilled to work with you.

You found the perfect firm, now what? You have your perfect match and you’re ready to go.

• Be sure to provide a comprehensive background on your company. Include your marketing objectives, key initiatives, business mix and target audience demographics to your firm. The more they know the quicker they can start to conceptualize ideas.

• Manage the process. Feed them good ideas, stay in contact and set up regular reporting and meeting schedules. Don’t over emphasize status updates. Monthly reports, bi-weekly calls and quarterly strategy sessions are good benchmarks. Don’t waste precious time on updates the focus should be on outreach efforts.

• Ask for candid feedback. If you firm tells you it isn’t newsworthy count that as a good sign. You don’t want to be wasting time on idea’s that won’t get any traction.

• Monitor results. Don’t confuse round up story with feature stories. Is your firm getting you key placements with your defined target audiences? Snooki’s blog may appear in the monthly round up report but is that what your customer cares about? Provide a dedicated PR phone number for placements so you can see tangible results, give the PR agency unique URLs to go with specific packages and monitor your analytics for results and social media for engagement.

• Regroup, repurpose and review. Check to make sure you are communicating efficiently and effectively. Communication is a two-way street. If you haven’t received any ideas or suggestions from your PR firm in a few weeks, find out why. Is your account executive able to repurpose stories for multiple use? They should be able to pitch key angles to horizontal, regional and international publications. Do they post on social media on a regular basis to get more spin on key placements? Once you have a long term relationship established review expectations, establish new goals and recap wins. If you have invested $50,000-$75,000 in PR and haven’t had a front page cover story, ask why.

Reputation Management

Today’s consumer is discriminating and demands excellent service. If your company doesn’t deliver on your brand promise, they will let the entire world know about it. So what do you do to manage a negative perception and boost your on-line reputation?

Root Cause- you must address the root cause of the problems. To get an understanding of what is going on behind the scenes, conduct a social media audit. Look at multiple platforms and review sites such as Yelp, Trip Advisor, Twitter and any other sites that impact your business. Review the comment and bucket or categorize them into common cause areas. This exercise will show you the pain points. Perhaps you have shipping complaints, cleanliness or quality issues or poor customer service comments. Next, prepare to address the various deficiencies with the appropriate division heads.

Leverage Staff Buy-in-once you have your bucket list complete, assemble your team. Run through the exercise showing the buckets and common complaints. Have an open conversation to determine if you need to adjust written standards, define if job tools are missing or set up new training protocols.  Create a plan that starts with stakeholder buy in and accountability. The end game is to deliver excellent quality. Once the stakeholder team has developed an actionable plan, take it to the staff in the form of a We Can Do It meeting. Then monitor results weekly and monthly for progress.

Ask your guest to write review. Now that you have presumably turned a corner, don’t be shy about asking for reviews. If you know a particular customer has had a great experience ask them to comment. Send, thank you e-mails with links to review sites for easy access.

Good Quality and Quantity. Build up your positive reviews and your popularity rating will improve.  Many of the sites work off an algorithm system for prioritizing. Remember, you’re only as good as your last review, so keep up the accountability on the back-end.

Senior Managers should respond to negative reviews.  Use the process to help identify ongoing customer issues and pain points. I know several managers who do an audit quarterly just to learn about operational deficiencies.

For a complete Social Media strategy and tactical marketing deployment suggestions contact; jcross@crossnm.com