How to Get the Most Out of Your PR Firm – Part 2

26 03 2013

In our previous post (, we offered the first five of 10 things you, as a client-side PR professional, can do get the most from your PR agency.

My contention, based on more than 30 years in the PR profession on both the client and the agency side – is that the best way to get the most out of your company’s relationship with its PR agency is to invest more thought and time into the actual relationshiplock

Nurture it. Feed it. Grow it.

If you want to get more satisfaction, better ideas, better service and ultimately better results from your PR firm, here are tips six through 10 for building a better relationship:

6)      Make a sincere effort to show your appreciation. When the agency provides exceptional service, meets a crazy deadline or scores a major media hit, make the time and the effort to recognize it with a call, a text or an email.

7)      Be honest. If your boss doesn’t need that release draft until next week, don’t ask the agency to have it done today. If your account team suspects you are crying “wolf” too often, they may not take you seriously when you really do need something today.

8)      Provide the agency with feedback on projects promptly.  Even if it’s just to say “Thanks for the draft. Looks good. I’ll run it by the product team and will get back to you,” close the loop so they know the project has been received and is moving along. A good agency will ask, but an agency with a good client won’t have to ask.

9)      Trust the agency enough to really listen. If you chose the right firm, the account team is on your side and wants you to succeed. You may not always agree with them, but you hired them for their expertise and their outside perspective. At least hear it out. And if you don’t agree, give them insight as to why you are may be taking a different path.

10)      Make sure the housekeeping issues are being handled. Ensure that the agency is being paid fairly and on time for its work. Be the agency’s advocate with your Accounts Payable Department if there are payment issues. Cash flow is critical to every agency’s success. And if you help ensure that cash flow is steady, the agency can better focus on generating ideas, opportunities and results for you.

To have the best PR partner, you have to BE the best PR partner … and most times, all it takes is a little more focus on the relationship you create.

Clients: What else are you doing that helps make your company your PR firm’s preferred client?

How to Get the Most Out of Your PR Firm – Part 1

20 03 2013

We are all trying to maximize value these days. Get more for our money. Squeeze more results from a smaller budget. Focus more effort on higher return activities and less effort on low-return projects.

PR is no different.

But in an era marked by hammering vendors, squeezing suppliers and conducting auctions to drive costs down, oddly enough, the best way to unlock the hidden extra value  and get the most out of your company’s relationship with its PR agency is … to invest a little more thought and time into the relationshipunlock PR firm value

It costs very little, and can have huge returns.

After all, PR is a relationship business, and human beings, not machines, do the work within the framework of a relationship.

The key point is: the difference between what individuals on an account team are capable of doing and what they are willing to do is determined by how much they value that relationship.

Having worked on both the corporate and agency sides of the PR business, I have noticed that the most effective relationships were those where the client treated the agency like a true partner, rather than just another vendor, and treated the account people with respect, dignity and kindness.

And the agency, in turn, gave the client preferential treatment – the first priority, the brightest account people, the most innovative ideas and the best service … because the agency personnel felt they were personally vested in a relationship.

If you want to be your PR agency’s preferred client, here are the first five of 10 simple things you can do:

  1. Give the account team the information, perspective and access to executives they need to do a great job for you. Help bring them into your organization and keep them informed.
  2. Treat the account team with the same grace, care and compassion you offer your teammates and customers. It’s a fact of human nature: people will do a better job for people who treat them well.
  3. Respect their opinions and their time. They hate being ignored or wasting time as much as you do. Maybe more, because the agency folks have to account for every ¼ of an hour.
  4. Be realistic in terms of your expectations for results, deadlines and cost. Stretch goals can encourage people, but impossible goals will only discourage them.
  5. Be organized, plan ahead when possible and offer a heads-up if a “hot” job is coming. This reduces stress and allows the PR firm to marshal the necessary resources to meet your needs. If every job you give them requires a panicked rush, you’re likely to pay extra in the long run.

See next week’s post for tips six through 10.

Business Best Practices: High 5 – Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

12 03 2013

(Post by Jessica Killenberg Muzik, APR, Vice President – Account Services)

As communicators it’s easy to get wrapped up in the chaos that is often our day-to-day work life. In these times, I find it is more important than ever to acknowledge those that are making it just a bit easier to do what you do.

JK FB colorSuch acknowledgment is what I’d consider a key business best practice that will help motivate your team to continue to do well for your organization and its customers or clients.

Years ago, our firm implemented a program called “High 5.” Adapted from a similar program our president, Jim Bianchi, had heard about, it is a simple recognition program for all employees.

When someone within our organization goes above and beyond the “call of duty” … or just plain does a “rock star” job on a project, a colleague will send a bit of a “shout out” email to Jim and cc: the individual that is being acknowledged for their stellar work.

The email includes the following info in brief form: who is getting the High 5; for what client; and why.

Jim prints these emails, folds them in half and puts them in a manila envelope. About every six or eight weeks — or whenever there are 20 or more emails in the folder — we hold a drawing at one of our weekly staff meetings. Two of the recognition emails are drawn, the emails are read aloud to the entire team, and winners are awarded a gift card. The rest of the emails are filed away, and a new envelope for the next drawing is started.

It’s a small gesture, but one that our team has come to enjoy. And it’s not just about getting a gift card (although I’m sure the prizes are appreciated); it’s about receiving recognition — in the form of a virtual High 5 from a co-worker.

It’s the simple things in life that can sometimes have the most positive impact. And we have found if you acknowledge the good work of others, more good work is bound to follow.

What best business practices have you implemented within your organization to help motivate your team to excellence?

New Tools, Old Rules: Social Media Policy

5 03 2013

(Post by Jessica Killenberg Muzik, APR, Vice President – Account Services)

When asked about social media policy, I once heard a PR executive sum it up in this way: “It’s just new tools, old rules.

Social media has indeed given professionals a new set of tools in our collective toolbox and with that comes the need for proper use guidelines. The key is developing a social media policy that will help regulate, but won’t smother, the personal and open nature of new media within your company.JK FB color

Here are five key points to keep in mind when establishing a social media policy:

  1. A policy with a purpose. Your social media policy should have a positive purpose behind it, focusing on the things that employees can do, rather than what they can’t do when it comes to posting.
  2. Identify roles for consistency. In any organization, certain individuals are responsible for certain tasks. Pick an administrator (or more than one depending on the size of your company) for your social media sites. The administrator will be responsible for making significant, consistent announcements on behalf of the organization, responding to questions or complaints, and resolving issues.
  3. Encourage good judgment. Social media sites provide a place to be professional and helpful, not an open forum to complain or insult. Employees should be encouraged to post, but to use common sense when doing so. And, if questionable, they can always run a potential post by the social media administrator for approval before posting.
  4. Respect copyrights. Giving proper credit where credit due is a must. Employees should be made aware that they must have permission to use others’ material (with attribution, if necessary) before it is posted.
  5. Prepare for problems. Just as with any policy, there should be basic steps to follow in order to recognize and fix problems to your social media sites in a timely fashion. Again, this is where having an administrator comes in handy.

Bonus tip: Make your policy a living document. Changes and additions should be made as more is learned and experienced. When updating or revising your guidelines, keep communication open between your administrator and employees to leverage feedback. See feedback as an opportunity for continuous improvement.

For some examples of social media guidelines from various companies, see the Social Media Governance website, which has an online database of more than 200 social media policies.


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