PR is a great tool for professionals that provides an invaluable way of getting your brand out there and getting recognition for the incredible things that your company is doing.
However, to increase your social media impressions and get the best return on investment (ROI) that PR can provide through media and publicity, you need to have a few key pieces in place before you get started.
Here are the top priorities your team should have ready or understand before committing to hiring a PR Agency and launching a new PR campaign:
The most important thing to have in place before you begin is a realistic timeline. Many brands who get in touch with PR reach out too early, often with just an idea. Alternatively, many companies approach PR too late, after they’ve already launched. But there’s a sweet spot between the two.
It’s important to understand that media works around a timeline, so if you really care about getting into glossy publications, you need to work with s three to six month lead time, meaning you should plan to start pitching up to six months before you hope to see your brand in print. For example, if you’re pitching a Fall collection, you’d actually want to start pitching that line no later than May. For Holiday Gift Guides, it’s common for deadlines to be the end of June, so you need to be prepared to pitch in the month of June.
To be ready for PR, you’ll need to have strong branding in place, with a clear aesthetic, clear message and logo. If you want people to love you for who you are, you should have unwavering confidence in what you have to offer. Never confuse your audience with changing names, logos, or visions. Know what you have to offer and broadcast that message effectively. With strong branding in place, the PR agency will know exactly how to articulate your message and know which media outlets will most effectively engage new leads.
While company branding is important, it is also essential to note that a balance between sharing both branded and non-branded content on social media will give your brand the most success. Branding is important both to you and your audience, it becomes ineffective if it’s repetitive or too salesy and your social channels will plateau or decrease in all measurable metrics.
When you’re building a strategy to attract a new audience or potential customers, it is critical to have a strong platform to provide sought after information, details on credibility or user experiences, any additional details that your target audience may be searching for, and of course sales if you’re selling online. It’s just as important to have an aesthetically pleasing website as it is to have one that offers helpful information and a solution to users’ problems. If your site isn’t easily accessible with clear and understandable content, users will quickly move on. An attractive website makes visitors feel comfortable and receptive to what you have to offer. Most importantly, this foundation will be the home base for all efforts put in by the PR agency. If the website doesn’t keep the visitors, attracting them will be fruitless.
This should be a working website, not the 1.0 version but the grand finale version. When the PR firm pitches the media and they look at your company for the first time, you need this site to give them a positive first impression (you don’t typically get a second chance).
Your company’s photos are important. Which is why the PR agency relies on your ability to provide an accurate visual representation of your business, your values, and what you have to offer in order to attract potential customers. You should have a photoshoot since PR is going to need photo assets in order to pitch the media and have them cover your story.
Although hiring a professional photographer may be an expense, it is an essential part of building your brand, online reputation, and giving your PR team what they need in the long-term. However, this is something that the PR agency can cover on your behalf, but again, this is going to depend on you having a realistic timeline in order for them to have time to create all of those pieces in time. Typically, the PR team will need product shots on a plain white background, “on model” shots, as well as lifestyle shots, so that they can offer the media every option in high-res.
USP (Unique Selling Point)
Having a USP is vital when looking to boost your brand. Your PR team needs to know exactly what makes you stand out from your competitors. They need to be able to tell a story about why customers should choose your brand over a possible alternative. And more importantly, if you don’t have anything unique to offer, your campaign will fall on deaf ears. The USP could relate to price point, materials, a problem you’re solving, a philanthropic or sustainable element, or an interesting story from the founders.
Know your Target Consumer
An important question to start with is, do you know who you intend to reach? If you’re marketing a new product or service, who is it aimed at? Do you know where this target audience lives and how they consume media? Knowing this can save a lot of time and money with your PR agency and even mitigate loss associated with reaching uninterested audiences. Do they get their information via mobile, social platforms, print publications, broadcast or digital media? Once you know the medium, which outlets on that medium do they prefer? If you’ve done your research and know who you’re targeting, your PR team can handle the rest.
Before your PR campaign can progress through an agency, it is important to already have a strong presence on your social channels.
While this doesn’t mean that you are required to have thousands of followers on Facebook ,Twitter and Instagram, you should however have profiles fully set up ready to attract followers. This allows the PR agency to quickly begin sharing content, engaging users, and building a following on your social channels without having to spend time setting them up. While social media can increase brand exposure and awareness, it is much more impactful when used to build long term relationships with existing and potential customers.
The PR agency you choose should be a cultural and chemistry fit amongst your team members. If both parties share the same values and practices, then the campaign may yield maximum results. A cohesive team between business and agency can be crucial to an efficient and effective campaign.
Your company and the agency should establish detailed goals that align with how you’ll evaluate Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Finally, ensure all this hard work will be successfully implemented by verifying they have strong media and influencer relationships.
Receptive of Rapid Growth
It’s important that your company is prepared for rapid growth since PR agencies specialize in generating new customers. The number one killer of small businesses and new businesses in America is the inability to handle rapid growth. You need to make sure you’re ready for success and that your business is scalable. A lot of times when businesses get a ton of exposure, they’re unable to fulfill the orders. It’s important that you are confident you are able to handle the exposure and ensure the consumer is going to have a positive experience their first time interacting with your brand. Make sure your plans for inventory and distribution are solid. If you’re not ready to receive them, you’re business could lose credibility.
Choose the Best PR Team for Your Product
To get the most out of your PR campaign you need to choose an agency that matches your product. It’s important to know if they have expertise in the area that matters most for your product launch. Sometimes this may be traditional media, digital media, influencer marketing, or experiential events. What matters most is that they are skilled where you need them to be.
Research the agency’s past projects and see if they are parallel with what you offer. Make sure they can provide case studies, references and/or testimonials showing results in the industry of your product. That way, they have a pre-existing knowledge and experience in that field, maximizing output.
An organized agency is the key to a successful campaign. If a business can productively arrange their team to optimize agency performance, it can often be the difference between a strong or weak campaign.
To prepare, make sure you know exactly who will be involved in your account and who will be the primary point person. This point person should be able to coordinate with the team effectively and efficiently, ensuring expertise is correctly distributed among divisions. This creates organization and strong communication between your team and the PR agency.
Know What Services They Offer
Before you hire a PR agency, you need to be confident that they can achieve your desired goals. If you want to market a new product or service effectively via online platforms, choose an agency who specializes in digital PR over a more traditional approach. Moreover, if you want to stage a conference, an agency with experience in events will be more beneficial. It’s important to understand what kind of agency you’re looking for before you invest your time in one that’s not the right fit.
The agency’s method of measuring results must align with the outcomes you are looking to achieve. For example, if you are hiring a PR agency with the intent to increase the number of brand mentions you have online and their primary method of measuring success is monitoring sales, then they’re not the right fit.
It’s important that PR uses analytics tools to research what drives the most traffic. They should also analyze engagement from influencers and social as well as monitor circulation and media impressions. By constantly monitoring the data, they can see what’s working the best and maximize those strategies while minimizing efforts on anything that doesn’t move the needle.
Communication & Reporting
- Each PR agency has their own method of conducting business. When it comes to communication, some agencies like to brief their clients every day, while others may want to meet once a month for a full briefing. Before you choose your agency, first know how often you would like to communicate. If you prefer to communicate on a weekly basis instead of monthly, find an agency that is comfortable with your schedule.Great PR agencies will:
- Send clients Weekly Monday Status Reports with: a list of goals for the week, what was accomplished the week prior, a list of pending press, clippings of new press and a bulleted list of any items they need to move forward
- Send clients Monthly PR Recap with circulation and impression information
- Send clients Monthly Social Recap with data across all networks and highlights on what created the most growth so we can amplify those types of efforts
LookBooks / Line Sheet
Before bringing your brand to PR, you should have your product ready to present. To start, you’ll want to have all your assets in place before beginning a PR campaign. This should be followed by JPEGs – high-resolution product shots (on white background) as well as lifestyle shots that show the product in use in its natural environment/on model, etc.
Additionally, having a ready Line Sheet – a list of all products in the line with product shot, sku #, retail price, material information, product description, etc. – allows an editor to easily look through the products and request samples.
Finally, a Look Book is an essential aspect of bringing your brand to life before presenting it to PR. This visual is the essence of your brand, showing how the product should be used, styled, etc. For example, if you make outerwear (coats/jackets), your look book should show models in a cold outdoor setting, wearing the product in the snow, etc. The style of the look book shoot should match your branding (ie: if you are edgy, preppy, classic, etc.)
A Story / Narrative That Is Truly Press Worthy
When developing your brand story, it’s important to identify your USP(s) and to possess a differentiator. You should be able to easily answer what problem you’re trying to solve for consumers and how you plan to make a difference in the industry. For example, when pitching the media, we can’t just promote a new line of coats that look like all the others. There needs to be a unique angle to the story. This may be new technology, an added benefit, sustainable or eco-friendly aspects, a philanthropic angle such as a certain percent sales going to a cause that is authentically aligned with what the product is, etc.
Before reaching out to PR, ask yourself how you’re going to be a great client. How are you going to manage this new part of your team? Are you going to be able to answer their questions and fill gaps as needed?
When choosing your PR company, you want to first establish who on the PR team will be your direct point of contact. Will that person be accessible to you? You should also consider how many other clients/accounts your key publicist will be representing at one time. Will the team you are meeting with initially be the team actually handling your project once you sign the contract? It’s important to make sure you aren’t meeting with the top executives in the beginning but are then getting passed off to a junior person (or gasp, an intern) when it comes to the work.
Does the size of the agency match that of your business? Knowing which size matches your company will allow you both to communicate on the same level. For example, if you are an SME, you will benefit more from hiring a boutique agency with less red tape. A boutique will be able to cover each aspect of your campaign rather compared to a large agency that has a department for every PR function. Unlike corporate agencies where there might be a separate department for every function (traditional media, digital media, social media, event planning etc), the personnel at a boutique agency are fully capable in all functions from A-Z, which typically means a more integrated campaign where all functions are aligned with each other rather than kept separate.
Media Outreach Approach
The PR agency you choose should have media approach that aligns with your expectations. For example, if you’d like your brand to get out there as quickly as possible and on as many platforms as possible, then look for an agency that blasts out press releases and pitches to media, editors, journalists, influencers quickly and often. Alternatively, if you’re searching for more intimate coverage, a different PR option would be for them to take a tailored approach with unique, personalized approach to each individual based on the opportunity. It’s important to know what their strategy is, how they implement it, what their best practices are for pitching to journalists and if this strategy matches your expectations.
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