Colette Ballou is the founder of Ballou PR. With a client roster that includes Eventbrite, Seatwave and Shopping.com she is well placed to give us the inside track about what to think about before hiring a PR agency.
It’s heartbreaking when an agency-client relationship doesn’t run smoothly, and one of the number one causes is that expectations aren’t aligned. So here are a few things to think about to make sure this doesn’t happen to you, and a few bonus tips on how to be an irresistible prospect for a PR agency.
First and foremost, PR takes time: count on six to nine months to really gain traction if you are starting from scratch. It’s a long-term investment; one-off projects here and there are not fully effective. You can’t just show up with your press release and get coverage – that happens about 5% of the time, and only if it’s really interesting news – a huge fund-raising, a truly breakthrough product or service, or it ties into current news or trends. It usually takes months of educating your target press about what you do and it’s value before you can get coverage.Another misconception: PR works in tandem with sales, not alone. PR should help you drive business development or sales — press coverage legitimises your business, but it’s not going to drive deals on it’s own.
Finally, take your agency into your confidence. They need to know the good and the bad, as they can help you manage bad news effectively.
And a word about PR agencies:
All the good agencies are often at capacity and pick and choose their clients very carefully. Remember, PR agencies sell time and they must optimise the price for that time as there’s not a lot of productising in PR (note to you all, a business in need of disruption). It takes time to bring a client on board, understand what they do, and start the machine. So a prospect who insists that they need coverage right now, with a small budget and other unrealistic expectations, and (worst of all) who tries to negotiate prices as low as possible is automatically identified as a bad prospect and passed on – so gently that you may not know it’s happened to you. No matter how awesome the company is.
Here are my tips in being an irresistible prospect:
1. Know your budget and tell the agency what it is up-front — they can sometimes work with small budgets if you’re not in a rush
2. However, listen to the agency if they tell you it’s not enough. Sometimes we get creative – we bundle the 3K/month you have for the rest of the year into an amazing 4-month project that gets you tons of coverage. We know that the results will often convince the company to find more budget as we’ve helped them overcome their fears about PR not working. Sometimes we tell you to spend your money on something that will be more effective — SEO/SEM, for example.
3. Take the time to create an agency brief. To help our prospects, we give them a template of a brief to fill in. If they don’t take the time to fill it out and talk to us, we know the relationship is doomed from the beginning and we pass.
4. Know that PR takes your time and skill – we can get you the interviews, but if you don’t listen to our training and fumble it, or worse, don’t show up, you won’t get the coverage. This is one of the reasons we don’t accept pay-for-results – we can’t control the entire process.
5. Approach agencies 2-3 months before you need to start PR
6. Remember that this phase is the courtship phase — if things aren’t going right, they are not going to get better.
To find out more about Colette and Ballou PR visit their website at www.balloupr.com
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