I spent the start of my career, the 80s, working in advertising, account handling campaigns for brands such as Birds Eye, Max Factor and Texaco. It was a time of creative brilliance and financial excess. A time when ad agencies acquired PR businesses and direct marketing companies and called themselves ‘integrated’.
Integrated? I’ll let you into a secret. In reality, the ad people didn’t speak to the DM people because they made all the money; the DM people didn’t speak to the PR people because they were fluffy and lacked accountability and the PR people didn’t speak to anyone who wasn’t ‘Someone’.
How times have changed!
Then, PR was all smoke and mirrors and little black books of contacts, rather than delivering tangible results.
I saw an opportunity to create an accountable PR offering which delivered against outcomes tightly aligned to the business vision. Railing against the extravagance of consumer marketing, I decided b2b was the way forward.
Just before my 30th birthday, full of bravado and oblivious to the magnitude of things I didn’t know, I boldly created my first public relations company. Against a backdrop of 80’s excess, I defined our guiding principles: accountable, effective, evocative.
For reasons I now can’t remember, my first customer was a security business, nothing so sexy as cybersecurity (it didn’t exist!), we are talking kit; PIRS, control panels, cables and the likes, but it didn’t matter. The point was I was working directly with the European MD. An engineer, with a vision, a P&L to deliver and a set of clearly defined objectives. Working with him was exciting and rewarding because every day, week, month we would hear directly how the business was performing, where the problems were and we’d debate the best actions we could take to help him do what he needed to do. We worked in tight collaboration and I loved it!
That client relationship was the start of my love affair with tech PR. I love delivering. I love brainstorming. I love finding solutions and I love delivering against them. There is nothing more rewarding than working with clever, engaging people, and I’m privileged to have worked with quite a few over the course of my career.
MY LITTLE BUSINESS GREW
We attracted the technical companies who delivered lighting and sound to West End musicals and concerts, as well as major festivals. I took briefs while sitting with lighting designers and sound technicians in the deserted stalls of theatres before or between rehearsals.
And then, eLearning was born and that became a focus for us too! Different companies with similar problems, different teams with similar remarkable, focussed, smart people at their helm. The objective was always growth, expressed in a variety of ways and with varying degrees of sophistication.
The effect of their differing requirements was that we developed services which we could deploy as required; communication audits, audience research, messaging, media training, as well as media relations, content creation and campaign delivery.
QUALITY CONTENT HAS ALWAYS BEEN A CRITICAL ELEMENT
For us, being able to write quality material that an editor can just run, without editing, was a key part of our offer. As the digital revolution unfolded, the quality of what was at the end of the link became vital. Our focus on technical excellence, processes and service quality resulted in us winning Scientific Atlanta, a brand later absorbed by Cisco, who we worked with for eight years.
By this point, the feedback we started to get regularly from clients was that working with us delivered certainty; we do the job we say we’re going to do: we make our clients look amazing by delivering phenomenal results, consistently.
Our clients, almost exclusively engineers, scientists and technologists, prefer order, logic and structure. So, our processes and reporting procedures have a forensic like attention to detail.
I’ve learnt through experience that in the vast majority of cases, engineers prefer not to write. In fact, in most cases they’re not very good at it and they are smart enough to admit their talents lie elsewhere. They also have little time or interest to invest in non-core activities – and marketing to a scientist is most definitely non-core.
So, we do what we do best, we simplified.
We developed an efficient process for abstracting intelligence and opinion from them fast; from this we can craft material that will make their organisations, ideas and capabilities visible, valued and understood.
AND WHAT OF THE FUTURE?
Having spent the last two years establishing my second business, Emmett & Churchman PR, I am excited for the future. The skills I learnt as an entrepreneur before that word became fashionable remain:
Our focus is on tech in all its forms.
* Productivity is critical.
* Delivering quality results with impeccable service is non-negotiable.
* Making our clients look amazing by delivering phenomenal results is what we do.
And, like those halcyon days back in the 80’s we will seek out partnerships, mergers and acquisitions. But, only those that allow us to deliver the outcomes our clients desire.
Because in PR it’s not about a little black book (it never has been), it’s about you, our clients. If you’re looking to be visible, valued and recognised as the very best option in your market, call us. You’re in safe hands. And fear not. There’s only a speck of that youthful arrogance remaining. It’s been replaced by calm confidence and absolute certainty that our approach works because we keep on delivering exceptional results.
The world of marketing lives by the mantra “if you can’t measure it, don’t do it”. There are plenty of models in place to measure digital and direct marketing activity but what about other ‘top-of-the-funnel’ activities? How do you measure PR success and prove the effectiveness on the bottom line? Here’s how, at EC-PR, we use RESULTS to evaluate and quantify our clients’ PR campaigns.
R is for Retrieve those clippings
The easiest way to evaluate successful exposure is to track the volume and quality of ‘press clippings’ (and in a digital world we don’t just mean paper). At EC-PR, we track the what and where on a monthly basis and provide our clients with monthly, quarterly and annual comparisons.
E is for Extract impressions
Once we know where your brand is being represented we can calculate your reach. We simply multiply the number of clippings by the total circulation of the publication. It’s not an exact science – not everyone who views the content will actually read it – so this is where great content is required.
S is for Social interactions
Who’s talking about you across social media, what conversations are happening, are they positive/negative or neutral? We measure engagement, review it, and watch for changes. If positive social mentions of your brand increase after a PR campaign, you know you’ve got it right.
U is for Unique content
Press clippings and impressions are not enough – it is not a case of ‘spray & pray’.
You want quality in-depth coverage in the hero publications for your industry. We pride ourselves on developing topical, thought provoking ideas that interest the media, translate to the consumer and align with our clients’ communication strategy.
L is for Love those leads
The sales team can become your best allies in measuring PR effectiveness – by using their direct contact to ask prospects how they heard about your brand and services. They want PR to provide brand awareness and lead generation, so incentivise them to provide the insight that improves your ability to do just that.
T is for Traffic
Align your PR campaigns with digital marketing messaging (right down to those infamous ‘keywords’) to optimise your natural and paid search. It can be difficult to directly relate what traffic resulted from which action but measuring the volume of web traffic you get pre- and post-campaign is critical.
S is for Surveys
Ideally, you should do a pre- and post-campaign survey to measure a campaign’s effectiveness. But when budgets are tight, a dose of common sense is required. If you can’t afford to do it for every campaign, could you run an annual survey? We’ll also find other benchmarks (like the Interbrand index) to measure long-term effectiveness.
The purpose of PR campaigns is to get you visible, valued and understood. But we do more than drive audience behaviour and invoke their curiosity in your brand. We also provide insights on how to improve, which is only possible when you measure RESULTS.
When outsourcing your PR activity, you need to find a partner you believe can help you achieve your goals, who you trust with your confidences, who you will enjoy working with and from whom you will acquire valuable knowledge. Oh and the chemistry needs to feel right too.
With this in mind here are some questions worth asking before signing on the dotted line.
1) What does success look like?
You need to share a vision of what you are trying to achieve with the help of your agency. Take the time to envision your desired results and create targets against which you can measure and celebrate success.
2) Who will be your day to day contact?
Know who you will be working with, meet them before you sign up and start to feel comfortable with your brand in their hands. There’s nothing worse than appointing an agency and finding you’re working with the office junior.
3) Who will be liaising with the press on your behalf?
It is always important to familiarise yourself with who will be communicating with the press as they are an ambassador for you, your values and your business.
4) Who will be drafting press material for you?
What are their capabilities, expertise and experience? Have a look at examples of their work – not just press coverage but the material they sent to the press in the first place and ask what the turnaround times to produce it were.
5) What are the campaigns KPI’s?
Quantifiable milestones help to determine whether you are succeeding or not and enable you to identify whether something needs reinforcing, adjusting or aborting. Ask if you can speak to the agency’s clients about their experiences in how targets were set and managed.
6) How will progress be reported?
Regular progress reports are an essential to keep track of campaign activities, monitor progress against the KPIs and to identify and address any emerging challenges to keep the delivery of the project on track. Most agencies will provide a ‘end of’ report but will this come with recommendations on how to build on successes or use insights to implement changes where necessary.
7) What is the problem-resolution process?
Hope for the best and plan for the worst. You need to have a procedure in place to address issues and challenges. It’s better to have a process rather than an assumption of how things will work and, if it’s not in your contract, for this to be documented as a point of reference.
Client-agency relationships rarely celebrate a third anniversary, a shocking statistic which is indicative of how hard it is to find the right PR Partner. This is probably because the matchmaking process is not given the right consideration. We hope answering these seven questions will help you find your ‘forever’ agency!
Hiring a PR agency? 9 questions every marketing manager should ask first
Before you sign a contract with any PR agency we highly recommend that you ask these nine questions first. By asking the right questions upfront you are more likely to hire the right PR agency for your business, your relationship will last longer, and it will be a lot more rewarding. Asking these questions can help you evaluate whether you’re a good fit for each other. If they can answer them to your satisfaction, snap them up!
1. How are we going to measure success?
Your agency should be keen to know what success looks like and be interested in your business – therefore, they should be asking lots of questions. Understanding what success looks like is critical as you need to demonstrate the return on your investment.
Clear objectives and goals should be set for every campaign and you should be clear on how you’re going to measure success, but also what stretch goals you have. Let’s say for example you want coverage, all coverage is not equal, so be clear on whether you want opinion pieces, editorial or just simply, company mentions, and in which publications.
2. Who is going to manage our account?
Often when you meet large PR agencies, they’ll wheel out their most impressive Account Directors, and perhaps even their CEO, depending on the size of your account. You’ll receive a fancy pitch and feel like a million dollars. But then…when you actually start working together, those people are nowhere to be seen, you get a junior managing the day to day business, and every call with your Account Director costs. You may then regret your decision.
So, always ask these types of questions to understand who will be managing your account, and make sure you meet them all before you decide.
How many people will be working on my account?
What is the experience of the account team?
When will they be available to me?
Who will I be spending the most time with?
Who will be executing the work?
Now, size isn’t everything, in fact with a smaller account team you’ll be able to develop a much closer relationship with mutual understanding. The agency will get to know how you like to work best, and vice versa. That’s why the people who turn up when we pitch are the people you will be spending most of your time with! Find out more about our people here.
3. What is your speciality?
The purpose of this question is to establish the relevant experience of the PR agency to your specific industry or requirements.
How connected are they? You want to be certain that when you hire the agency they already have established relationships with the key journalists and editors in your specific sector. If they do, it means they clearly have experience of working with them, and know what specific content publications will and won’t accept. They will have intimate knowledge of the journalists likes and dislikes, and will be able to successfully pitch story ideas first time, every time.
Ultimately, the more specialised and experienced the agency is in your sector, the more successful they will be in delivering phenomenal results for your brand.
4. What do you need to know about my business before you can get started?
Here’s the thing. Your PR agency aren’t telepathic. Yes, you can choose an agency with specialised knowledge in your industry, but remember they need to get to know you, your business and your people. So, ask them what they need to know to get started.
Firstly, you’ll need to sign a non-disclosure agreement so that you can confidently share your company secrets – perhaps new product releases, changes of senior management or a merger/acquisition. If you want your PR agency to be proactive, you need to give them as much information as you would any new employee. This will take time. So, be prepared to answer lots of questions, and be prepared to be challenged. Great PR agencies challenge the status quo.
The investment you make in PR is not just financial, it requires your time to brief the PR agency and engage in planning and strategy sessions so that they can hit the ground running and the relationship is successful from the outset. This is why we have a three pronged approach to marketing, starting with research and planning.
5. Where do we fall in your client roster?
Knowing where you stand in terms of agency spend and production requirements compared to other clients is critical.
Do you want to be the top dog and be their most important client? Perhaps you do, perhaps you don’t.
What’s critical to understand is how important you are to the agency. If you’re their smallest client, the reality is that you’ll probably get the most junior account team. Remember, you want to ensure that the PR agency has time for your business. So, think carefully about the type of agency you want to work with, and where your business will fall into their priority list.
Hopefully, before you’ve even started the agency selection process, you’ve checked out their website for their client roster, and you’ve researched what’s happening in the news with their clients so you have a good understanding of their capability already. We’ve made it super easy for you to find our client roster, check out our case studies here.
6. Who are your references?
The hiring process is like hiring an employee. You wouldn’t hire anyone without asking for references. So, ask for them and make the time to call or email those references. Also, ask for a reference of a client that no longer works with the PR agency. You need to find out why they don’t work together anymore. Remember, you want to choose an agency with a proven track record of success and many other satisfied past clients. Also ask the questions that are important to you.
7. How often will I hear from you?
This may sound like a daft question. It’s not. You need to understand how the PR agency manages client communication and collaboration.
The reason is you want 90% of your budget being spent on real work, not project management or administration. Not only that, as editorial placements can take months, you want to know what exactly your agency is working on.
What should you expect?
It’s normal to hear from your agency at least once a week, with a monthly report on placements secured and plans for the following month. Not only that, do expect to hear from your agency when they’ve secured a new opportunity, or they’ve developed an innovative idea to move your brand forward. Not only that, you need to ensure that you’re still on track for success.
8. How much budget do I need to allocate to achieve my goals?
If you’ve never added PR to your marketing mix, we highly recommend starting with a six-month pilot project. This will ensure that your new PR agency can gain momentum and measure ROI effectively. Our experience is that a PR campaign needs to run for at least six months to gain any traction.
If you already have an existing PR budget, but you’re not happy with the results, then it’s a different conversation. Let’s be honest, if you were happy with your PR results, you wouldn’t be reading this! In this scenario we recommend full disclosure, be clear during the agency recruitment process your budget and more importantly, your expectations of what success looks like. Then, expect the PR agency to deliver a pitch and proposal based on your budget. If you want us to pitch our services, click here.
9. What if it all goes wrong?
Negative news happens. Everyone makes mistakes. A crisis is usually rooted in an act of god (rare); deliberate criminal act (uncommon); or human error (most usual) and has resulted in danger or financial damage to third parties and your brand.
How the crisis is handled will directly impact your customers, staff and bottom line. You want an agency to be confident in crisis management so, ask for examples of what they’ve done and for whom. They should be telling you how they can set up an emergency reactive press office and the strategies they would deploy to prevent, mitigate and manage negative news, should it occur.
If you’re facing a crisis, you need your PR agency to support you. Ask us how we’ve helped clients in these situations and what we could do for you.
We hope the tips above help you as you decide which B2B PR agency to work with. Ultimately, you must:
feel comfortable that you’re in safe hands
like the team that’ll be representing you
feel confident that they’ll work with you to achieve the positive coverage you deserve
If you want our help to make your remarkable brand visible, valued and understood contact us here. We love pitching our services to people like you.
I attended a talk at Sea Containers House on Tuesday evening entitled BrandZ ‘Spotlight on Myanmar’ (formerly Burma). The event, attended by the Myanmarese Foreign Ambassador, was promoting the country by providing a better understanding of Myanmar and specifically, the scale of the opportunities available to brands which have the necessary desire, resources and reach. The whole event also acted as a wonderful showcase for all things WPP, who happened to be hosting the event, there was no part of the group that didn’t get a moment of glory – and rightly so. It was interesting, impactful and informative.
A fascinating keynote was delivered by Martin Guerrieria, Global BrandZ Research Director at MillwardBrown who, amongst great insight, reiterated the vital nature of having a robust brand proposition and how those brands with a strong, relevant brand proposition consistently out-perform those that do not in hard financial terms year on year – research proves it. Those brands with a weak proposition consistently perform poorly. It’s a long time since I worked in mainstream advertising where research budgets are, quite frankly, enormous but this was a bit like coming home! A strong brand proposition is absolutely key to business success. Who says so? The balance sheet of practically every successful brand in the history of the world ever 🙂 .
Why then is this such a difficult message to sell to small and medium sized b2b organisations? I believe it’s because SMEs are focussed on ‘doing business’ and all the things that are required technically and legally to stay in business. And, as it is in our nature to employ people like ourselves, businesses often end up with lots of remarkable people who are very good at their specialist subject but, understandably, know little about marketing – its power, many facets and nuances. Here, we often see a secretary, a graduate, a young marketer or someone equally inexperienced being put in charge of ‘marketing’ without the experience or authority to really make the impact that strong marketing can deliver. As a result, we often see marketing being put firmly in the back seat and never having the chance to fully fledge. The opportunity to formulate and develop a powerful brand proposition is not understood, so why would it be a priority? A strong brand proposition has got to be the priority of your business leaders or it simply won’t happen. This, in turn, means your business will never achieve its full potential.
The question I pose then is: what is your brand proposition? If you can’t articulate it without hesitation – it’s weak. So call me
Communicaid helps clients to communicate globally with their international counterparts, customers, suppliers and wider stakeholders by providing training, coaching and consultancy. We were asked to help position the business as a trusted and highly valued partner amongst the HR & training community.
We designed and executed a PR plan which included thought leadership, case studies and opinion pieces. This resulted in consistent and extensive coverage in target press including regular feature length contributions was secured.
“…high quality coverage in specific press is achievable when the right process, knowledge and content are deployed. We have used the editorial coverage both to support our sales initiatives and to enhance our web ranking.”
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I spent the start of my career, the 80s, working in advertising, account handling campaigns for brands such as Birds Eye, Max Factor and Texaco. It was a time of creative brilliance and financial excess. A time when ad agencies acquired PR...
What should you be looking for in B2B PR company? When outsourcing your PR activity, you need to find a partner you believe can help you achieve your goals, who you trust with your confidences, who you will enjoy working with and from whom you will acquire valuable...