There are two main reasons why:
First: No one knows your business as well as you do. Challenging your pitch with the media is always something that helps you structure the way you communicate.
Second: PR agencies cost a lot of money. But more than that they also take time to manage. They can’t be as autonomous as you’d like and it is logic. They are not in your business so they need regular briefing, validation and new ideas coming from you.
So you would better do it yourself. You will spend as much time as if you were managing a PR agency but you will have greater results.
The side effects of doing PR yourself:
- Legitimacy. When you handle other PR agencies, they can’t play you and you also know what works and doesn’t, so you don’t expect the moon.
- You get feedbacks first hand that help you create better content for the journalists.
- You get creative when talking to journalist, you can help PR agencies with their pitch
Step 1: When should you chose a PR agency ?
My belief is you should do PR yourself as long as you can meet journalists.
When your company starts growing abroad or in other states this is when you should start looking for agencies or freelances.
Don’t hire a PR agency so they can tell you how to communicate and what to say. They are an extension of your brand. Not your brand. If you don’t know they won’t know as well.
Step 2: Why should your company do PR — Public Relation ?
This question seems dull and the answer obvious. But ask your marketing team or founders and they will each have a different answer… This is because there are plenty.
Some companies want to generate leads with PR. Others want awareness, at Toucan Toco we are okay with the first two but what we want even more is credibility. What we want is to give our sales legitimacy when they go and challenge other big software houses.
Bigger companies do PR for a different reason. Because journalists naturally talk about them, their PR looks towards answering to criticism.
Knowing why you want to do PR will help you chose the right PR agency and set the right objectives.
Step 3: How do you define results and objectives ? Know this before selecting a PR agency !
PR is like black magic. Sometimes journalists are interested by what you have to say, sometimes not. So it’s super hard for PR agencies to tell you what they can deliver if you don’t set clear goals.
Knowing your needs will help you define the right agency for you. So please don’t ask for a TV spot to a big show if you want to talk about your B to B software. The PR agency won’t magically make it happen.
You should always define your needs and objectives. Per example at Toucan Toco we want two things:
- Get awareness and credibility with our customers in HR, Marketing, Sales, IT and Finance.
- Showcase our company’s culture and productivity methods to increase our employer branding.
When your objectives are clear they can be challenged with the different PR agencies.
The discussion become very precise and deep because you know what you want to hear during the selection process.
Step 4: Why is it so hard to find a very good PR agency ?
When people ask me that I often think about two main arguments.
The first one is on the client’s fault. People always expect the moon with PR agencies. But they don’t spend time with them, don’t give good briefs and don’t give them interesting news. Then they complain they are not on TV. Well… no surprise there.
The second reason why it is hard to find a great PR agency is because of the market. It is a foggy industry. Word of mouth still prevails. PR agencies have the worst websites when they even have one. So internet will never help you find the right agency.
Plus, there are a lot of PR agencies. They are often small size companies with less than 15 people. Usually what happens is that all those small PR agencies are a result of seniors leaving bigger PR agencies with their contacts/CRM.
Step 5: How to find a great PR agency ? Ask a journalist out.
You don’t always have a network that can give you great recommandation. If you grow in many countries it is definitely true.
The approach I recommend is the following.
I sent Linkedin messages to journalists asking them to point me the people they enjoyed receiving calls from. One of the best way to test a PR agency is by having it recommended by a journalist.
If a name comes up twice when you’ve sent 10 to 15 in mails to journalists, you should go and take a better look.
Once you have a top 3 of PR agencies or freelance go call their clients to get feedback.
What’s funny here is that you already did your selection without having talked to the PR agencies. Now you go and call them.
What’s good to know:
1. PR agencies are specialized:
These PR agencies often have a specific expertise, be it fashion, sports, B to B …
Agencies that don’t communicate on their speciality are to be avoided.
People telling you they can address anyone are lying to you or themselves. You know how the saying goes: jack of all trades master of none.
2. Always pick on someone your own size:
Take a PR agency who handles the client that have your size.
You don’t want to be facing google. If they have to chose their priority you know it’s not going to be you.
Step 6: Chose people not PR agencies !
In most PR agencies the person you will talk to is the sales or the owner. Despite of what they will tell you, what is always happening is that they won’t be the one calling and sending the press releases to the journalists.
Knowing that, you should always ask to meet the team first and focus on the most junior person. This is the one you have to test. Because it is the one in charge of doing all the grunt work. Calling, sending the press releases.
70% of what you spend is for that junior. I am okay with this because the junior will get all the knowledge from its seniors and has a lot of energy.
You should always interview the juniors as if they were applying for a job at your company.
What I usually do is that I give them a press release or another type of content and I ask them what they would do with it ? How would they call the journalists ? How many times would they send them an email. How big is their mailing list ? Do they target 240 journalists (bad) or do they focus on 20–50 journalists ??
If you feel like they have what it takes: high level of energy and passion for your product, go ahead with them and create emotional bounding.
You want them to think about how to sell the news of your company when they are walking in the street after work. Not about another client.
Thank you for reading !
At Toucan Toco we are working with PR agencies in Spain, Italy, Netherlands and New York pretty soon. If you are a native french speaker who’s great in english there is a job waiting for you
I can write an other article answering the following questions:
How to handle your PR agency with Trello ?
How to keep your PR agency motivated ?
Should you change PR agencies every 6 months ?
How to handle multiple agencies at the same time ?
Should you do a PR plan for the year ?
If you want answers to these questions please comment !