BRW’s five questions to ask a PR firm

Last year, BRW wrote an article about some of the top PR firms in Australia, as part of that article it recommended five questions to ask a PR consultancy before considering appointing them. We thought it would be a useful exercise to give you our answers to those questions.

1)      Have any of your staff worked as journalists?

Yes, our senior account manager is trained as a journalist and spent several years working as a journalist and newsreader in FM radio.

Many of our account managers have journalism or communications qualifications, ensuring they know what makes and how to write a good story. And all our staff are tertiary trained in either journalism or public relations writing.

2)      What is your approach to developing a PR strategy?

We sit down with the prospective client and ask why they think PR is a good idea for their business and try to determine what their underlying business objectives are. These questions are critical because if a client is just interested in launching or promoting a particular product, for example, and looking for instant enquiries / sales, then advertising may be a more effective option for them. However, if the client is looking to increase the brand awareness and reputation of their organisation, this is where PR can be most effective.

The most important question is almost always “Why do you feel your business/ organisation needs PR?” the answer to this question often determines the direction of our strategy.

With a clear idea of their business objectives and expectations, we go back to the Ignite team and open the discussion up for ideas generation on the best strategy mix for the client. Given that we specialise in the franchising industry we may, for example, choose to focus our efforts on a number of different parts of the industry depending on the client needs. These might mean we develop a plan that incorporates activity targeting consumer media (for a retail product), business media (for corporate level exposure) and franchising media (for franchise business development).

The strategy mix depends entirely on the client’s industry and their objectives.

3)      Who would be working on my account?

As a rule our clients have at least two people working on them at all times. This usually consists of a senior manager or director, who handles the contact with the client and more complicated content, while an account manager may handle some of the simple content and background work.

However, all staff within the agency are briefed on the details of all new accounts, so are able to step in quickly to work on content if required.

4)      How do you measure results?

As any good agency should: in a variety of ways.

To start with, if we are talking about straight ‘column centimetres’ PR then it is possible to measure what is called Advertising Value Equivalent. This is good for clients as it gives some measurable numbers from a return on investment point of view, but it also only tells about half of the story and should not be used as the only measure of success.

It’s one thing to achieve a large number of clippings, which add weight to an AVE measurement, but if these clips are ‘off message’ then their value is negligible. We also run qualitative analysis on the key message statements of our clients to make sure they are appearing in the coverage they are receiving.

Finally, we run quarterly client satisfaction surveys to ensure our account management staff are performing at the highest possible level. Our aim is for our clients to feel that they have their own in-house PR and marketing manager and these surveys are the best way for us to ensure that this level of service is always being delivered.

5)      How proactive is your team?

In our client surveys, one of questions relates to ’proactive ideas generation’ and this is a key factor on which staff are selected for the agency. As a boutique agency with smaller staff numbers, it’s vitally important that everyone in our team is able to think on their feet and come up with creative, out-of-the-box ideas, not only for addressing client needs, but also to harness opportunities, especially in the media arena, which may not be immediately obvious to the client themselves.