Improve Media Relations
Top public relations companies can secure interviews, manage media coverage, facilitate content sharing collaborations and more to grow your company’s brand awareness and increase search engine optimization rankings -- and they are able to do this through strong media relations.
The best communications associates have a large rolodex of journalists and media contacts that they can call upon to build your brand through publicity. Plus, PR firms can handle any incoming inquiries about your company and are able to deliver well-thought-out quotes that are on-brand and foster a positive public company image.
Public relations experts have access to organized platforms and databases that enable them to track how a message is being communicated, what the result was, and how they should proceed to secure the results their clients’ desire. Plus, PR agencies can manage your public image, which is particularly important when unexpected crises occur or you need to increase your credibility.
Without a dedicated team of public relations experts at hand, it can be difficult to remember what information was published where, when, and exactly what results were found. But an amazing PR agency will be able to formulate a multi-channel long-form plan for promotion easily. Because 80 percent of business decision-makers like to consume information throughout many articles over a single ad, investing in a public relations agency can drastically improve your ROI.
Boost Social Media
In the digital age, many great public relations agencies are now offering social media management services. Because so much promotion has headed to social networks, many brands are relying on content marketing and advertising on platforms such as Instagram and Facebook – often with the help of influencers.
Allowing PR teams to manage social media is particularly helpful in 2018, when millennials alone are 247 percent more likely to be influenced by blogs and social media. With the help of their many media contacts, public relations consultants can secure placements on various feeds, negotiate terms, set goals and track results, leaving your internal team free to focus on other important business growth goals.
Compete With Other Companies
Great public relations experts will have a new take on your business and brand identity due to their different perspective of the industry and your public image. They have access to resources and authoritative leaders who can determine the brands that are finding success through digital media and how they are achieving it.
That information becomes the power for your business, enabling you to truly compete with similar companies to the best of your ability and improving your chances of snagging new customers and engaging existing followers. It also allows you to develop new and unique business goals that can propel your company into new and exciting directions.
Increase Brand Awareness
At the end of the day, top public relations companies exist to increase your brand awareness across several channels. They utilize a mix of networking contacts and strategy to foster positive emotions and connotations about your company, which, studies show, keep customers returning to your products and services.
Although you might think investing in a best public relations firm is unnecessary, remember that 54 percent of people generally distrust businesses and brands. However, 64 percent of consumers say that common values are a top reason that that maintain brand loyalty. A great PR agency can help acquaint that 64 percent with your company through consistent brand recognition.
Ask Every PR Firm These Questions Before Your Work With Them
What PR-related tasks can you provide?
No matter how flashy a PR agency seems or how enthralled you are with their reputation, if they don’t provide the services you need, they are not the right firm for you. Take the time to assess your goals internally, then ask any potential agencies the following questions.
- What services do you offer? Are there tiers to them?
- Do you have any plans to expand and offer additional services in the future?
- Do you have any partnerships with other individuals or firms to help with similar digital initiatives?
- If we would like a one-time service that you offer but we don’t typically need, what would the cost be?
Who will be working on our account?
The best public relations companies have access to leading experts who have expansive contacts and success stories. But every agency is structured differently, so make sure you understand how each agency operates before you sign a contract.
Pro Tip: Don’t be afraid to request specific account managers or team members. You are paying for results and should feel empowered to request the individuals that you believe can deliver.
- Who will be working with our business? Is it a team of people or just one PR manager?
- How often can we expect updates?
- How often will we have phone-calls and in-person meetings?
- What PR-specific experience does each team member have?
- What experience does each team member have in regards to our industry?
Is your agency knowledgeable about our industry?
Public relations success is dependent on strong industry knowledge. Although most top PR firms have dedicated professionals with specific industry expertise in-house, take the time to test their knowledge of your industry to ensure you can depend on them to stay ahead of the trends.
- How will you determine our demographic?
- What experience do you have about this industry and how did you get it?
- What similar clients do you work with?
- What success stories related to our goals and/or industry do you have to share?
- Tell us about a campaign that didn’t achieve the results you had hoped for. What did you learn and how have you applied those lessons to other projects and clients?
- Who would you say are experts in our industry?
- What publications are relevant to our industry?
What tools, resources or programs will you use to produce results?
Perhaps one of the biggest benefits top public relations companies bring to clients is their access to the best platforms that make communication easy and measuring results quick. Some of these tools include news release blasts to hundreds or thousands of journalists, CRM databases, access to digital insights and more.
Ask the questions below to learn what a potential agency is really able to produce for your brand.
- What system do you have in place for setting and tracking goals?
- Do you have a go-to platform for virtual meetings?
- How do you send important news releases?
- How do you plan to manage our outbound communication?
- How will you manage our partnerships with influencers and other brands?
- How will you track our secured media placements, links to website, social media mentions, etc.?
How will you set goals and measure results?
Setting specific and actionable goals makes you 10 times more likely to actually achieve them -- and even fickle industries such as public relations should be setting direct targets. Whether it is securing a particular number of media placements, increasing social media engagement by a certain percentage or another media-related goal, the following questions will give you a strong understanding of how a top agency plans to track objectives.
- How do you plan to determine goals?
- Do you have a plan in place to execute campaigns?
- How will you personalize campaigns and processes for my brand?
- How often do you measure results? What metrics do you use?
- How do you define a successful campaign?
How To Choose The Best Public Relations Firm For Your Brand
Type Of PR Agency
Public relations isn’t a one-size-fits-all market -- there are several types of agencies that cater to various companies, industries, and even offer different levels of personal attention. Look at your internal team and external needs, then determine the type of agency that will fulfill them.
- Boutique - Boutique public relations agencies have smaller, more intimate teams handling more work -- much like a startup. Although some boutique firms don’t always have the vast resources that big agencies have, they often offer more personal attention.
- Big - A big PR firm is exactly what you think it would be -- a large, global company with far-reaching contacts and big tools to help clients. Big companies typically see great results with big public relations companies, but smaller businesses often fare better with smaller agencies due to smaller budgets and the need for more personalization.
- Specialized - These agencies are dedicated to either a specific industry, such as beauty or sports, or a particular aspect of PR, such as media relations, crisis management, or social media.
- Traditional - Traditional PR typically refers to a general focus on media contacts in newspaper, TV and radio. The agencies often focus on securing placements on these platforms and rarely offer additional digital services.
One of the most important tasks a great PR agency can complete is securing media placements and digital partnerships. Therefore, if they don’t have a comprehensive network, they likely won’t be worth your while.
You can determine the type of reach a public relations company has by both doing research and asking direct questions. Although most firms won’t just hand you a contact list, they should be able to tell you several outlets that they have working relationships with and give you examples of successfully secured placements -- many of which you should also be able to find online, too!
Unlike other industries such as marketing, which relies on numbers and data to achieve business growth, so much of successful public relations is based on industry experience. The top agencies have a team of experts that know key industry players, top competitors, and publications that will expand your reach.
Very niche industries that don’t have the deep pockets for a big comprehensive firm may benefit from a public relations agency that is tailored to that arena. This will give them the personal attention they desire and the contacts and know-how that they need without blowing their budget.
Although great public relations companies can handle a lot of intricate tasks and imperative networking, they won’t be going this road alone -- after all, it is a professional partnership. Learn exactly what your role will be in the relationship before you sign a contract.
Some clients will want to be heavily involved in every decision, while others will feel comfortable with letting their chosen PR company call the media-related shots. Whatever your choice, you’ll need to provide some guidance and information to your PR experts to guarantee success.
A great and reputable public relations agency will work hard to prove their expertise and success. And just like potential employers ask individuals for references, you can ask possible PR firms for clients who will speak on their behalf.
These client references are imperative to giving you a stronger, inside look at what working with a specific agency on a day-to-day basis will really look like and how much growth they can really generate for your business. Plus, if an agency hesitates too much at giving a few names and numbers, odds are they don’t have a client with a strong-enough success story -- a sure sign to move on to the next great public relations company.
Top Value Propositions & Differentiating Factors Of The Best Public Relations Companies
Public relations is an essential component of a well-rounded brand marketing strategy. Not only does good PR make it more likely that potential clients or customers will hear about and notice your brand, it also contributes significantly to the success of marketing efforts in other channels.
Many brands choose to partner with a PR agency rather than manage publicity in house. PR agencies have a level of communications experience and a breadth of knowledge on staff that can rarely be matched by an in-house team. Partnering with the right PR firm can do wonders for brand recognition and goodwill, but partnering with an unsuitable agency is bound to result in lost opportunities and a frustrating relationship.
How do you set your company up for a successful, fruitful relationship with your PR agency? Make sure you enter into an engagement with a company you trust to deliver what they promise. Understanding the key differentiators of top public relations companies is the first step to identifying those that will be reliable, effective partners.
Top Public Relations Companies Know The Value Of Relationships
More than anything, public relations is a relationship business. Top public relations companies know that in order to keep clients happy, they have to maintain healthy relationships with them. That means exceeding expectations in terms of media coverage and staying committed to regular communication. Public relations companies must also maintain solid relationships with media outlets and reporters. Cultivating these connections is what the business of PR is all about.
When searching for a new PR company, try to get a sense of their connections. Does it seem like they’ll have access to contacts at the outlets that matter most for your business? The team’s relationships will, in large part, dictate your success.
The Best Public Relations Experts Are Storytellers
Brand storytelling is an incredibly powerful tool. It’s what enables consumers to connect with brands on an emotional level. It transcends product benefits or value to instill something more meaningful -- personal connection. The best public relations companies understand the value of storytelling and are skilled at spinning tales on behalf of their clients. PR professionals know that the better they are at telling a story about your brand’s origins or mission, the greater the chance they’ll be able to gain mentions and publicity. Look for great storytelling when you’re interviewing PR agencies. If they know what they’re doing it will be evident in their case studies and the pitch they approach you with.
And Leading PR Firms Are Industry Experts
Onboarding a new PR agency is time-consuming in the best of circumstances, but onboarding one that isn’t familiar with your business can be flat out painful. The best public relations company for your brand is usually one that has experience working with clients in your sector or industry. For one thing, they’ll already have a whole roster of relevant contacts established. They’ll also be intimately acquainted with the best messaging approaches and the core challenges for a brand in your vertical. You won’t have to spend as much time in discovery because the agency will be ready to hit the ground running. Look for a PR partner that is willing to be specific about which industries they have experience working in, rather than one that pitches itself as too much of a generalist.
Respected Public Relations Companies Earn Accolades
Being recognized in the industry is a good indication that the PR agency is question has earned a solid reputation for itself. Though winning awards and accolades is by no means the only differentiating factor that matters, it is one that should instill confidence in the firm’s expertise, authority, and track record. Top public relations agencies are proud to share their achievements with prospective clients, and often call out their award-winning campaigns on their websites.
Great Public Relations Agencies Take An Integrated Approach
In the digital age, much of every PR campaign takes place online. Where the old-school approach was focused on in-person events, printed press releases, and pitches done over the phone or over lunch, the focus has now shifted to digital outlets like social media channels and social influencers, bloggers, websites, even podcasts. The best public relations companies are the ones who are capable of handling both the old school and the new. These agencies position themselves based on their ability to take an integrated approach to manage client publicity. Nothing happens in a silo because teams are in constant communication, covering all bases from offline to digital.
Smart PR Agencies Can Handle A Crisis
Most of the time, the role of your public relations agency will be to promote your brand and do proactive reputation management. However, crises do happen and if your brand is in the unfortunate position of being in the news for the wrong reasons, you need a PR agency that can perform just as well under stressful conditions as they do when things are going well. Top public relations companies are capable of handling a crisis, even if that wasn’t what they were initially hired to do. In every agency interview, be sure to get a sense for how the agency has handled crisis communication for previous clients, and what their process is for dealing with negative publicity. Hopefully, crisis management will never be necessary, but you want to be prepared if it is.
Service Offerings Of Top Public Relations Companies
Public relations companies often work closing with internal client marketing teams to ensure that the strategies on both sides are working in tandem to support the same goals. Still, some work that comes under the purview of PR agencies has a crossover to marketing, particularly when it comes to the social space.
In general, the types of services you can expect to be on offer from top public relations companies include:
- Media relations - Cultivating and maintaining contacts at target media outlet. Pitching story ideas and sources to these contacts in order to achieve press mentions and coverage.
- Event marketing - Designing and hosting special events to delight consumers and media targets and attain event coverage in desirable outlets.
- Social media marketing - Engaging with a community of fans and advocates through active social media participation and community management.
- Influencer marketing - Partnering with social media influencers in order to introduce brands to new and engaged audiences. Service usually includes influencer sourcing, content development, and relationship management.
- Crisis management and communications - Minimizing damage to a brand’s reputation in the fallout of a crisis or scandal, and working to restore brand goodwill in the long term.
How The Best Public Relations Companies Market Themselves
In order to gain the attention of top quality prospective clients, PR agencies have to do a little bit of marketing and publicity on their own behalf. It must be said that a major part of attracting new business in the PR field happens by cultivating an impeccable reputation that increases word of mouth referrals between businesses. The use of testimonials and case studies on PR agency websites helps further demonstrate their ability to get results and keep clients happy.
Thought leadership is another key aspect of any PR agency marketing strategy. Demonstrating expertise through content marketing and, of course, press mentions and new stories is a way for agencies to build credibility and attract new business.
You can also expect PR agencies to maintain an active presence on social media. Particularly if social media marketing is among the services the agency offers, prospective clients will expect the agency to be experts in executing in the channel on their own behalf.
PR agencies may also run targeted paid search and display campaigns (PPC) in order to attract visitors from relevant search queries. They also likely invest in search engine optimization to enhance their organic rankings for the same relevant terms.
With so many PR agencies in the business, it takes a lot of skill and experience to stand out. Top public relations agencies seek to differentiate themselves from the competition by emphasizing a set of key strengths.
Key differentiating factors, and the questions you should be asking to get to the bottom of each one include:
- Relationship experts - How does the agency maintain good working relationships with their clients? What contacts do they have access to in the media?
- Industry experience - Does the agency have experience working with clients in your industry? Do they have an understanding of the challenges you face as well as the best approach to publicity for a brand in your space?
- Storytelling ability - Can the agency tell an evocative and memorable story about your brand? Will they be able to convincingly pitch stories on your behalf?
- Accolades - Has the agency won awards and honors that recognize their expertise in the industry? Are they respected by their peers, and do they contribute meaningfully to conversations about topics related to their field?
- Calm in a crisis - Will the agency be just as effective in times of crisis as they are in times when everything is going well? What is their approach to handling bad press and negative attention?
- Integrated approach - Does the agency cover all the PR bases, including both digital and offline channels? Will they be able to work effectively with other marketing teams?
Top Qualities Of The Best Public Relations Companies
The only way to know for sure if a PR agency can do what they promise is by looking to see if they’ve been successful in the past. A proven track record is a key attribute of all top public relations agencies. They should be happy to discuss the results they’ve gotten for other clients and to be specific and concrete about their process for attaining those results. Don’t be shy about asking for references either. Speaking to another client of the agency is a good way to gain meaningful insight into how the agency works.
Transparency & Reporting
A major part of any good relationship is transparent communication. Some people have been burned by previous agency relationships where objectives and campaign progress or results were unclear. But top public relations companies are above all that. They’ll be upfront about what results you can expect from their efforts and transparent in reporting what’s been achieved. Look for a PR agency that sets regular check-in meetings and makes reporting to you, the client, a key deliverable of their service.
An agency partnership is more than a business deal, it’s a relationship, and hopefully, one that will last for years to come. Turning over agencies frequently can be bad for business, causing disruption to projects and all the attendant headaches of onboarding a new team. Top public relations companies value partnership, and as a client, you should too. Look for an agency populated by people you actually like and can see yourself working with long into the future. You’ll be trusting them with your brand image, so being able to get along and work well together couldn’t be more important.
With any agency, there’s always an onboarding phase which allows the team to get to know your business and go through a discovery process. You should expect this with any partner you choose to work with, but finding one with experience that’s relevant to your brand or industry can help reduce the amount of time it takes them to get up to speed. The top public relations companies for your brand will most likely be the ones who have worked with similar clients in the past. If they have, the learning curve will be significantly reduced, and you can feel more secure that they have the right connections already in place.
It’s important to enter into a relationship with any agency partner with a set of strategic goals in place. Top public relations companies will be committed to understanding your business’s objectives and using them as the basis for their approach to managing your brand’s publicity. Look for an agency that will create a PR strategy that is tailored specifically to meeting your goals and be sure that measurement against these goals is feasible. Entering a partnership with an agency that isn’t goal-oriented may result in wasted time and money spent chasing publicity that doesn’t move the needle for your business.