Tag Archives: tips

How to Find the Right PR Agency

This is a post that I’ve wanted to write for quite some time. After stints at agencies and on the corporate side I’ve learned how to manage PR agencies to get the best service and results. When talking with new business owners I often discover that this can be a real challenge for them if they are not a communication professional or have a PR background. In answering their questions and providing guidance on how to manage an agency I’m often coming back to several key points.

First you need to find the right agency. It sounds simple but I cannot stress this more. PR agencies know the people you need to connect with and manage those relationships. Building new ones from scratch takes time. If your campaign is short and immediate then you need to get the right team on board quick. Be sure you meet every team member that is handling your brand.

Do they have a clear and measurable plan? All successful projects are documented and define expectations during the planning and launch phase. Ask about the roles and responsibilities of the agency’s team and how it’s communicated. Ensure your goals and achievements can be accurately measured. It has to be more than high level, broad statements. There needs to be language that dictates a plan of action that can be judged on results and deliverables.

Generating awareness and building trust are what’s needed to have great PR. But what are the deliverables of these efforts? The value of connections, their influence can be easily researched today and can be quantified in terms of size, scope and level of influence. How do they demonstrate ROI for the day to day conversations that lead to future placements and impressions? Is it a contact sheet, a summary or both? How often will you review the data, daily, weekly or monthly? Everything is measurable, it is the responsibility of the agency team to qualify, quantify and measure their actions and corresponding worth.

What is the change management process and how does it affect the billing? All good plans may need modifications and this is most true for long term, multi-stage projects. If it sounds too complex, break it down into a few smaller phases like a launch or promotional event. A clear understanding how to manage your budget while at the same time dealing with change is crucial. Ask the agency how they factor revision time into design? At what stages are you involved so that your feedback is incorporated into any changes?

How can they make the best use of your time? Carve out a specific time each week to communicate with the team as a whole. Get as much feedback on what your customers and audience is saying from those that are doing the work. This also allows them to ask you questions they may be facing in the direction of the product. Also this builds teamwork and brand enthusiasm among the team.

Managing an outsource service requires your time and diligence if you want to get real value. It can be a bit of a gamble if you are starting from scratch. You can burn through several vendors in a short period of time or you can find a great one after doing a thorough search and defining what you want. And remember PR is not advertising. If you want your message to appear the way you want it each and every time, buy an ad. If you want to build an audience of key influencers and provide insight into your brand, hire a PR firm.

I always tell prospective agencies that I am both their best friend and their worst nightmare. I’m their friend because I can help get them in the right direction quickly with getting started and knowledge transfer. I’m the nightmare when they slip up and try to shake the blame instead of letting me know how they plan to address the issue or problem. Rarely am I the latter. I am always interested in how I can help the agency team help me! That’s what I’m paying for!

What tips do you have when looking for a PR agency? How do you manage their time and efforts?

Your Brand is Being Discussed: Are You Listening?

Blogs, Twitter feeds, Facebook groups and MySpace pages, what does it all mean to today’s marketing professionals? Whether you’re plugged in to social networking or not, these new technologies are allowing consumers to communicate and discuss brands in all aspects to a global audience. You may not have a Facebook page or Blog, but you probably use the internet to research major product purchases like digital cameras or household appliances. Most likely, the user comments, product ratings and other consumer feedback have a strong impact on your purchasing decision.

During the November meeting, Triangle AMA members and guests were able to hear firsthand from Sean McDonald, Director of Communities and Conversations at Dell, about the strategies, viewpoints and initiatives Dell has undertaken to give both customers and employees a voice in the brand. Through the effective use of Web 2.0 technologies, Dell has enabled interactions that result in direct consumer feedback and decreased support costs.

The goal of marketing is to get people talking about your brand. Traditional advertising tells us to buy their brand because it’s better, faster, and cheaper or whatever superlative you can fill in here. Advertising and traditional marketing communications have no dialog. Humans want engagement and ignore one way messages.


The Break Up
Uploaded by geertdesager

McDonald demonstrated his point with a short video clip portraying advertising and the consumer as a young couple breaking up. The problem between the couples is that they don’t communicate between themselves as in a typical conversation, and this is true of traditional corporate communication.

With the advent of Web 2.0 technologies consumers can do what comes naturally to them…have conversations. But why should a company care? Several reasons:

  • Your company has an online presence
  • You sell or service customer
  • You spend money on advertising
  • You spend money on branding
  • You want customers to be your marketing force
  • Your customers know how to use web search engines like Google and Yahoo!

McDonald explained that we are at the dawn of the connected age. With only 20% of the approximately 6.7 billion people in the world online, more and more people are participating in the internet and going beyond basic web searches and surfing. Every second there are more computers and web-enabled phones being sold, new blogs and domains created, and thousands of messages being sent via email, text and instant messaging. So many that the number of text messages sent and received everyday exceeds the population of the planet!

In terms of the population of the “online” world, expect to see the population double in four to five years from 1billion to 2 billion users. More and more content is being loaded to the web everyday and citizens have become publishers and content providers. A single blog post can have as much power as major news stories reaching millions of eyeballs with a global reach.

Citizens are now creating and publishing online at an amazing rate. Content creating, information sharing and publishing have shifted to customers, employees and other stakeholders. With Web 2.0 technologies content moves faster then ever before and across languages as consumers have the ability to publish content anywhere and at anytime. The corporate enterprise is not longer in control of information and communication.

What has not changed is human behavior. The opinion of a friend or acquaintance that has used a product or service before still ranks as the most trusted source of information. Nielsen reports that 78% of those surveyed rank consumer recommendations as the most credible form of advertising.

What can your company do to address these changes? McDonald offered a basic four point strategy:

  1. Listen
  2. Join Conversations
  3. Tell YOUR Story
  4. Collaborate with Stakeholders

From here McDonald demonstrated how Dell listens and engages with its stakeholders. Noting that it’s more about people and processes than technology, McDonald also stated that great technology facilitates better processes and ways for humans to connect. The tools and technology are social network sites like Facebook and Dell-created user communities like Digital Nomads a community that discusses how to stay connected and productive wherever you work outside of the traditional office. The people and process involve having dedicated resource(s) in your organization to monitor and respond to the communication. Negative feedback needs to be welcomed as constructive criticism and managed.

Sounds simple, but developing new processes, acquiring resources and dedicating your time is a challenge. It’s important to determine metrics and return on investment (ROI) when planning. ROI can be measured in terms of frequency of brand mentions and driving traffic to your ecommerce site, but it should not stop there. Creating positive external validation of your brand and customer engagement is as valuable as advertising. Dell was recently named the SNCR Brand of the Year as the brand that has made the most significant advances in utilizing social media tools, technologies and practices.

In closing, McDonald ended his presentation with several questions that marketing professionals can ask themselves when developing Web 2.0 strategies along with a list of the partners and tools his team at Dell uses. His parting thought was to “smile more” as it “makes your customers happy and your competition worried.” Click here to view Sean McDonald’s presentation at triangleama.org.