Here is a black and white tip for you: if you are considering a Sydney PR agency to do your PR work and they don’t do the following, then ditch them from your list: have a blog; employ staff who are active on social media; produce thought leadership content; have employees with professionally filled out LinkedIn profiles; know what they are talking about when you flag the topics of thought leadership, inbound marketing, content marketing, brand journalism, strategic alliances and 3rd party credibility.

Are you getting the Sydney PR professional you really need

Further dimensions of the above assertions are that:

  • the blog should be from the agency or one or more of their employees
  • a number of employees should be active, from a business perspective, on some non-blog social media platforms (e.g. Goggle+, Twitter, LinkedIn, new darling Pinterest etc)
  • PR agency employees’ thoroughly filled out LinkedIn profiles should include recommendations from those they have worked with/for (not including colleagues!!)

And no, you don’t need to be interested in having an agency undertake a social media program specifically for an agency to be adept in the items listed above.

But, and get this, if the agency can’t tick these boxes then they are not talking the walk when it comes to best practice PR and they are not conversant with the application of best practice PR.

If an agency is not applying and/or cannot speak articulately on why or why not the above approaches are relevant to your business then you are speaking to professionals who are not the best out there – go elsewhere!

In regard to the elements PR agencies should feature listed above, each of them should be a default inclusion in your public relations and/or marketing strategy. Certainly, they may not be ultimately suited to your needs, but it most cases they will be.

You will also find some agencies and/or professionals say that they don’t need to be active in social media, including having a blog, or to be producing their own thought leadership content. What an absolute load of bollocks. Inherent within this argument are the following rationales:

  • We are good enough to undertake your social media programs but we don’t spend much, if any, time on these platforms in a professional business sense ourselves
  • We are focused on achieving our own business aims and don’t believe in contributing to the advancement of our profession through the dominant communication mechanism of our times, the internet
  • We don’t believe that the internet is the best mechanism through which to generate positive word-of-mouth branding and tactical awareness after face-to-face interpersonal communication
  • Thought leadership and inbound journalism aren’t very important for differentiation and stakeholder engagement.

If you subscribe to any of the assertions noted above, then you definitely need professional public relations assistance (but not from any who agree with the assertions)!!

This is the second in a series on choosing a Sydney PR agency. The first post discussed the issues of who works on your account (junior or senior employees), quoting and hour allocation, matching agency capabilities with client needs, Chinese wall, customised attention to PR needs and does the supplier need to be based in the same city as the client.

Measuring the impact of PR investment

Whatever path is taken in Sydney PR agency investment, it is imperative that metrics are put in place as part of the strategising and the final plan. This does not mean that an agency should be dropped if objectives are not achieved. There might be very good reasons for this (client dysfunctionality and inability to provide content or sign off as needed for one!) but they need to be discussed and ways to gain better outcomes identified and incorporated.

The rationale behind the metrics needs to transparent.

Agencies are adept at putting forward potential outcomes (media coverage, social media sharing, links to sales etc) that are wildly optimistic and bear little relation to reality. Don’t fall into the trap of accepting sexy looking outcomes without questioning the rationale behind them.

If an agency does fail to deliver on silly objectives, well, they’ve only got themselves to blame if they aren’t achieved. And similarly, clients should not push for ridiculous outcomes that bear no relation to their financial investment in the PR program or the quality of the content they can offer for the various tactical mechanisms they are implementing.

An agreement should be:

  • in writing before ANY WORK commences
  • pedantic in addressing the nature of the work that it is required be done
  • conscious in addressing the issue of activity reporting (and for goodness sake don’t get too anal about this as where do you want your time spent – getting results or reporting on results….?)
  • sensibly applied by human beings and not machines as the nature of the public relations service means that the operating environment will change and the PR work will need to adapt to these changing circumstances. This can only be done effectively when the relationships between the PR operator and the client is a positive, mutually respectful one.

Honesty and challenging presumptions by Sydney PR agencies

Inherent in the discussion above is the need for total and ongoing transparency and honesty between a client and its agency. The reasons for this are pretty obvious I would have thought.

To get the best from the PR agency clients should welcome their assumptions and perceptions being challenged. One of PR’s core attributes is to argue the point and dig deeper. This can have strategic and issues management outcomes, but so can it enrich the narratives that will form the central part of client public relations activity. It adds rigour.

I’ve seen it occur where a client wants activity and narrative to occur strictly how they perceive it should be. This always leads to lower quality narratives and less than best-possible outcomes. Don’t do it!

Pitches are for cricket, not for PR

One of my pet hates (and I’m not alone in this) is the tendency of potential clients to want full-on pitches made for their business – what an absolute waste of time and insult to the intelligence!

You only have to look at the marketing/advertising industry where agencies can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on pitches only to be knocked back. There might be a cursory payment for the pitch in some cases but this doesn’t come close to recovering costs.

It is an evil system and should be destroyed at the earliest possible opportunity!

A pitch is often undertaken by agencies before they have had a chance to get to know the potential client’s business as well as they need to, leading to pitches which may not be in full alignment with client business and communication needs.

Additionally, I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen the blood, sweat and tears of a winning pitch ultimately end up being ditched. This is because when the agency and the client got down to brass tacks, taking another path to success proved optimal. This means all that time and creativity is wasted. Oh sure, the agency and the client may say we can use it again elsewhere, but that rarely occurs.

Another factor in this process is that the huge amount of effort that is put in a pitch does not necessarily translate into a huge amount of effort put into a client once their business has been secured. Sad but true. You can also be stone cold certain the big agency guns will work on the creative and strategy in the pitch, but that not all of them will be involved in the running of the client’s account in more than a cursory fashion, if at all.

Outcome? To decide on what agency is right:

  • Check credentials for experience and capability that matches client needs
  • Check with past clients asking the right questions relevant to what your specific PR needs
  • Interact with the agency and those who will specifically work on your account – do you get the ‘good vibe’, cultural match and d*#khead-free zone feeling from them?
  • Ascertain precisely who is working on the account and what percentage of their time will be allocated to it.

What are your thoughts on the effectiveness and appropriateness of preparing extensive pitches for new business? What is your experience of them and what instructive tales can you tell us? Do you think agencies need to be active in social media to be credible, or be making a contribution to the PR industry through thought leadership on internet-based platforms?

PS. If you’re wondering why I use the term ‘Sydney PR’ or variations of it in this post, the savvy amongst you will have realised I am doing it mainly for SEO reasons, otherwise I’d have ditched the Sydney bit and made it more generic. I’m telling you this in the interests of transparency and also in case you find it interesting I’ve done this. I don’t agonise too much over keywords for search purposes (content takes precedence), but am always conscious of it, as PR certainly needs to be in its approach to content marketing. It seems to be working so far, so let’s see if it leads to client/work opportunities!! Wish me luck.