Guest column by Marie Grove-Walton, the founder and managing director of Grove Communication, a London based boutique PR & social media agency focusing on fashion, lifestyle and luxury goods.
Why hire a PR agency? You want to increase sales and grow your business. You need to build your brand in a crowded market and require some good expertise to do so or maybe just want to outsource the very time intensive work Public Relations can be.
An effective relationship with your prospective agency starts from the very beginning. From the first meetings, to the pitches, to the first month of working together, here are a few top tips on how to get the most out of your investment and time:
- Put together a clear brief: Be completely clear in your mind first what it is you’d like to achieve, both in the short and longer term. Then present this to your agency ahead of your first meeting. This could be as simple as a bullet point email, but will help both yourself and your agency be clear of expectation levels and what is achievable for both parties.
- Be thorough: Introduce your agency to your company, target audience and company background and growth in your first meeting, ensure you thoroughly go through the product(s) in detail and any inspiration behind the designs. The better informed the agency is, the better they can build your profile with the right titles and craft the right press releases and stories for your brand.
- Plan, plan, plan ahead: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” – Benjamin Franklin sums this up perfectly. Press need a steady stream of new information ideally every 4-6 months to keep your brand relevant to their readers so one of the most important things to do is to sit down and forward plan each season in detail with your agency so you’re both working towards the same end goal simultaneously and ultimately driving your sales. Forward planning should include; what are the key products to push each month, when do you want to launch newness and what will be the relevant story/press angles, when will photos, imagery and samples be available? Press work a minimum of 4-6 weeks in advance (with longer leads working up to 4 months in advance), so your PR will only be as good as the information you give your agency and the time frame in when you deliver it to them – being constantly reactive and last minute rather than proactively forward planning is a waste of everyone’s time and money and will not result in the best possible coverage outcomes.
- Produce great assets: To a very large degree, the quality of your PR will only be as good as the assets you have produced for your agency. Unless you plan on having your agency assist with this important element, there is really no point even getting started until you’ve got high quality images – including digital assets and short films on your brand or new products where possible – as well as great shots of the founders/CEO’s that shows them off within their brand environment (if the latter part is a key part of your PR strategy). You need strong assets that tell your brand or product story. I’ve seen time and again where brands invest heavily in most areas of their business and then skimp on good asset creation and in my experience, that’s a big mistake. Press are stretched for time and budgets, so the better quality the assets you can present to them, the better your PR outcome will be. Your agency should be able to advise you on this. I cannot stress this enough.
- Trust your team: To get the most out of working with a good agency, there has to be a big element of trust – if you don’t have the confidence and trust the team working directly on your account, I wouldn’t bother signing up. PR builds over time so it’s important there is a mutual trust that the agency you’ve hired is going to deliver for you and that you’re going to deliver what your agency needs in a timely fashion in order to collectively achieve the best possible results.
- Communication is king: This is the key to keeping every engine – to most things in life – running smoothly. You should aim to meet with your agency at least one per month ideally face to face, to go over the past months focus and achievements and forward plan together the next few months. This is also a great time to go over new products coming out, review what is trending, what your competitors are doing in the market or notify your agency on any delays in product delivery, etc, so small issues can be ironed out quickly or strategies shifted.
PR is often very misunderstood, so if you or your staff are not aware of how PR works, it’s a good idea to ask your agency to give you a crash course so you’re all on the same page.
Remember, PR is a long-term investment – I would steer clear of anyone that promises the world in the first three months. It takes time to get the account up and running and introduced properly to the press. Once the press understand and like your products, it takes time for them to work your brand onto their pages and build your story from there. Hence, if you’re signing up hoping for a really quick fix, you’re better off putting your money elsewhere.