It’s hard to forget the story of Float Factory, a pool float startup company that disrupted the pool float industry seemingly overnight with the help of a dedicated public relations agency. Though the startup had some initial success without PR, it struggled to garner attention and distinguish itself in the monopolized pool float industry — that is, until it partnered with a PR firm that understood its vision and funneled resources into helping the company gain momentum in a highly-competitive market.
By leveraging media relationships and crafting strategic messaging, the agency secured the startup several major features in prominent publications. Practically overnight, the once-unknown startup became a household name.
The moral of this story? Having an open, communicative, and trusting relationship with your PR agency is key to achieving your public relations goals.
When you treat your PR partner like a true extension of your internal team — keeping them closely looped in and relying on their expertise — you foster an environment where PR success can thrive. Approaching your next agency partnership with a commitment to transparency, organization, and mutual respect can mean the difference between lackluster results and a public relations home run.
Treat your agency like an internal team member
You wouldn’t hire a new marketing manager or communications director without thoroughly vetting their qualifications and ensuring they mesh well with your company culture. The same careful consideration must be taken when recruiting a PR agency. Don’t rush into partnerships or make hasty hiring decisions that you’ll later come to regret.
Take the time to extensively interview multiple agencies, check their references and portfolios, and make sure they have proven experience executing campaigns similar to what you’ll require. Be sure to examine their company culture as well — do they share your values and work style? A strong agency fit will lead to better collaboration down the road.
Once you’ve found the right partner, onboard them thoughtfully, as you would a new internal employee. Give them access to your full arsenal of spokespeople and subject matter experts. Additionally, provide ample information and history about your business, brand, and goals.
Context is key for agencies to quickly get up to speed. Treat them as integrated members of your team from day one, and they’ll be equipped to hit the ground running.
Trust your agency’s counsel
Once you’ve established a partnership with a PR agency, it’s crucial to let them do their job. You hired them for a reason — they have the skills, experience, and expertise to guide your public relations strategy — so now is the time to have faith in their capabilities.
Too often, the agency-client relationship devolves into a manager-subordinate dynamic, with the client micromanaging every detail of the agency’s work. This not only breeds frustration, but also stifles creativity.
Your PR partner likely has a breadth of experience developing breakthrough campaigns for clients across various industries. Trust their instincts, and rely on their counsel when they make strategic recommendations. They have your best interest in mind.
Believing in your agency also means giving them the freedom to take calculated risks because in PR, playing it safe rarely leads to big results. The most successful public relations campaigns often push boundaries. Your agency may suggest bold ideas that feel uncertain, but could have a game-changing impact if given the chance, so have confidence in their vision.
Invest time in your agency team
One of the most common grievances from clients is that their PR agency doesn’t adequately understand their business and market landscape. Often, however, the client hasn’t invested the necessary effort to bring the agency up to speed.
Onboarding is a crucial process that can’t be rushed, so make sure your agency has ample face time with your executive team and key spokespeople. Give them access to historical archives of past campaigns, press releases, and media coverage, so they can immerse themselves in your brand DNA. Provide organizational context by giving a comprehensive overview of your internal processes, decision-makers, and approval protocols.
Ongoing education is also key, so keep your PR agency looped into important company announcements, product launches, and priorities as they evolve. Have them sit in on relevant meetings to stay immersed in strategy, and dedicate time for regular check-ins to keep communication flowing. The more deeply embedded your agency is, the better equipped they’ll be to do their job.
Commit to decisions
Once a strategic PR plan is in place, avoid the temptation to constantly shift gears and change direction. While some pivoting is expected as you evaluate results and trends, flipping goals and messaging too frequently can mean never giving your strategy a chance to succeed.
Impactful PR campaigns often take time to build momentum. Pitching stories, developing relationships with media, and shifting consumer perceptions of your brand can’t happen overnight. Commit to the strategy you’ve developed with your agency, stick to the messaging you’ve aligned on, and give it time to unfold.
Of course, if something is clearly not working, it’s important to re-evaluate, but changing goals at every turn out of restlessness will only ensure muddled results. Trust the counsel of your agency, commit to a strategic direction, and allow the seeds planted to take root. With consistent messaging and proper timing, you’ll start to see your public perception shift.
At the end of the day, choosing the right PR agency comes down to one key ingredient: trust. After interviewing, vetting, and reassuring that you hired the right PR agency, you need to trust that they know what they’re doing, and that their strategy is the best for you and your brand. You need to trust that they will bring your vision to life, and that they have your best interests at heart.
Approach your next PR relationship with an open heart by leading with trust first, and strategy second. Give your agency wings to soar to new possibilities, and you may just find yourself becoming the next overnight success story.
Chan Desai graduated with a Master’s degree in Management Communication with a focus on Marketing Communication, and an undergraduate degree in Communication Studies with a focus on Media Studies. She has been with Otter since 2021 and has earned her clients successes in The American Reporter, Forbes Business Council, NY Weekly, and more.
Chan Desai is an account strategist at Otter PR.
Photo courtesy: Float Factory