A private equity company recently asked our public relations firm 18 questions as they seek a strategic PR partner. We thought their questions were relevant and sharing it might benefit a broader audience like you in better understanding what PR agencies do, what to look for when hiring a PR firm, and how to work well with them.
1. How much experience does your firm have working in the construction space, specifically for general contractors?
In 18 years, some of America’s fastest-growing and most admired brands have turned to Axia Public Relations. Construction is our top niche industry and within construction, we have the most experience working with general contractors. Our first program client was a mechanical engineering firm in 2003 and since then, we’ve continued to actively work with construction companies, including architects, engineers, contractors, suppliers, and technology providers.
We also have experience working with companies owned by private equity firms including Arsenal Capital Partners, Comvest Partners, FirstService Corporation, Oak Hill Capital Partners, and more.
2. Is your firm equipped to and has experience dealing with municipalities and other bodies of government?
We’ve helped our clients interface with municipalities and other government bodies and agencies. For example, we’ve helped manage public perception when residents opposed proposed developments (“not in my backyard”) by gaining necessary planning and zoning committee recommendations and board approvals. We do not work with government entities as our clients. We’d absolutely be a good partner for you for public relations, external communications, public involvement, presentations, and community relations.
3. What is the average ROI for your clients?
Every client has a different methodology for measuring return on investment. Most clients are unable or unwilling to share their private corporation’s financials nor their profit margins with us. We are often working with a marketing leader who does not have knowledge of or access to their employer’s (a private corporation) profit margins. Therefore, we cannot truly document their full ROI, nor can they. So instead, we always attempt to measure by return on value. And sometimes, we can’t even get this type of information from the client. So each program is uniquely measured and reported. Although past results do not guarantee a similar outcome, you are welcome to explore our construction PR case studies as well as our general PR case studies.
We have never attempted to compile an average ROI for our clients. That said, there’s never been a better time to work with our PR agency as we’re leading our industry in the best measurement practices of public relations and strategic communications. And with modern analytics and attribution technology, it’s easier to measure meaningful PR results.
Traditionally, PR has struggled to measure beyond vanity metrics to calculate return on investment. But it’s a new era for PR measurement, and our firm is leading the way, especially among small, independent, and non-global PR agencies.
To not measure communications is lazy and shows a lack of pride in your work, yet most PR firms and professionals don’t know how to measure their communications and don’t want to. Pride in your work comes from desiring constant improvement and challenging yourself and your team.
In today’s competitive landscape, you can’t just rely on the number of media clips, media impressions, and advertising value equivalency when there are so many more ways to measure PR. Planning ahead and then measuring your progress proves your PR efforts are on the right track.
The more we challenge our industry and our peers to measure the impact of strategic communications properly, the more we can ensure our profession is ethical, impactful, and credible.
4. What has been the average time it has taken your clients to realize results from your services?
Since every client has different communications goals and objectives, we have not measured this. For example, there are some clients who we’ve been able to accomplish their first years’ program objectives within weeks and even hours. And there are some clients who come to us with extremely lofty goals and objectives that require years to accomplish.
Without knowing more about your unique needs, your desired results, and your profit margin to calculate true ROI, we can only share that good PR takes time. It’s not instant nor overnight, but long-term PR is the most effective use of your marketing dollars.
As Warren Buffett says, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation,” and the clients who get the best results are those that understand PR is a long-term, ongoing initiative. Anything else leads to superficial and short-term outcomes. In fact, in our experience, the longer a company actively participates in an ongoing PR program, the more PR results they enjoy as their results increase year after year.
5. PR/marketing is a rapidly evolving industry. How do you see it changing over the next 5-10 years?
Yes, PR and marketing is a rapidly evolving industry. We have a track record for being on the cutting edge of PR innovation and conceptualizing the future of PR.
Our team’s grasp of technological demands on companies provides our clients a unique advantage in reaching their audiences. Our founder, Jason Mudd, taught himself HTML in 1994, helped pioneer internet marketing strategies as an early adopter of e-commerce and SEO in 1998, inspired tech giants like Yahoo, and conceptualized Web 2.0 and social media in 2000.
It’s in our founder’s DNA to leverage technology, constantly improve, and invest in our team’s professional development. That’s why improvement is one of our core values.
This is also one reason our agency went 63 months with zero employee turnover. We know our employees, clients, and results benefit from professional development. We demonstrate that through our regular thought leadership content, including our vodcast, podcast, active blogging, webinars, and submitted articles. We seek to improve by 1% every day – individually and corporately.
In addition, we’re leading the way on more strategic and meaningful measurement in the PR industry. For the next five years, we are highly focused on improving our measurement methodologies, including technology that analyzes data through company goal collaboration. We are also leveraging technology platforms to track attribution from leads to closed deals. This isn’t easy. It requires leadership support, a strategic PR partner to guide the process, and a willingness to collaborate and share data among departments and divisions. It also includes a dedicated budget for measurement, access to company data, IT support, data scientist(s), system and department sharing, collaboration, documentation, and compilation.
We’d love to walk you through our seven step measurement process, which requires a dedicated budget and resources.
Most companies prioritize measurement during their initial agency search processes and conversations. Unfortunately, their interest fades once they hire a strategic PR partner due to required resources, other priorities, and urgent distractions.
6. Who will be on our team, and how often will we have access to senior leadership?
Depending on the scope of work and investment, Axia will assign 3-12 experts with one primary contact to your program for much less than hiring employees.
By hiring Axia PR, you're getting an expert PR team:
media bookers/media pitchers
social media community manager(s)
plus our agency team’s collective ideas, relationships, and experiences.
One unique aspect of our PR agency is we have three copy editors on our team as a back-up resource. Most PR agencies don’t have professional copy editors.
Our managing partner and CEO, Jason Mudd, directs client strategy and mentors account leads. At least monthly — and perhaps weekly depending on engagement levels — Mudd attends client calls, the quarterly strategy, and 360º quarterly review sessions. Some of our packages offer client executives ongoing access to Mudd for coaching and consultations.
7. What is your process? (Diagnose, prescribe, apply, reapply)
We have more than 100 documented proven processes at our agency. These are valuable assets for our agency. Our team loves having document-proven processes because it gives agencies the confidence, autonomy, and support they need to confidently and consistently implement our various processes and services. And yes, our initial process is diagnose, prescribe, apply, and reapply.
Here’s a link to some of our proprietary visual process and proposal graphics. Let me know what processes you would specifically like us to explore with you by phone or presentation.
8. What are the firm’s weaknesses? How are you addressing them?
Our firm’s greatest weakness is we currently have excess capacity (staff underutilization) due to our clients’ pausing our services via corporate mandated COVID-19 pandemic recession budget cuts. This is only a temporary weakness impacting our temporary profit margins. To solve this, we’re actively engaged in conversations with prospective clients who are looking to invest in outside PR counsel and services. We are also staying in close contact with clients who are currently on pause to help them reinstate services and projects. We expect to be operating at ideal staff utilization rates within 60-90 days. We have not had to layoff any staff members due to the pandemic recession.
Our biggest long-term weakness right now is we often compete with larger agencies with international capabilities. We sense that if we were a larger agency with hundreds of employees, we would also attract significantly larger brands based on our reputation, thought leadership, and the results we earn for our clients. We intend to focus on providing services within the United States, and we do not have any immediate plans to expand our services to other countries. Instead, we’re forming strategic partnerships with qualified PR agencies in those countries.
9. What are the markets your firm is most familiar with? Least familiar with?
Regional and national companies – especially those offering products and services in multiple geographic locations and vertical industries – hire our specialized PR agency.
Our firm has the most geographic experience working in Florida, Texas, and throughout the Southeast, including those major metropolitan markets. Most of our team and clients are in the Southeast, along the East Coast, or in Texas. We typically have more clients in Dallas than any other U.S. city and more clients in Florida than any other state.
In addition, we have significant experience working in the top U.S. metropolitan markets: New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, etc.
As for our vertical market experience, we are most experienced in four niches: construction, professional services, home and consumer services, and franchisors.
And more specifically, we’ve developed a speciality of working with companies operating in multiple geographic and industry verticals.
The markets we have the least familiarity with are outside of the United States and in industries that are not strategic to our niche. For example, we actively do not seek work for local nonprofit organizations. We prefer to work with corporations and support their philanthropic initiatives as well as give back a portion of our agency’s proceeds to charitable causes that are important to our team and clients.
10. Have you worked on campaigns in our industry?
Yes, we have significant experience working within your construction industry, especially among general contractors, and we can demonstrate it in several construction case studies. However, past results do not guarantee a similar outcome.
11. Can you provide case studies with quantified success?
12. Can you provide references?
Yes, we will gladly furnish you with as many reasonable references as you’d like. When we‘ve presented our proposal and we’d like to mutually proceed to the next stage, we’ll gladly share specific references within your industry as well as references where we solved similar business issues and challenges. At this stage, it’s too soon to ask our busy clients to share custom references with you. In the interim, you may find much of what you need from these video testimonials, additional testimonials, and case studies. Thank you for understanding that we don’t want to frequently inconvenience our clients with reference requests until we’re mutually ready to enter a working relationship.
13. What is the breakdown of services offered?
Companies leverage our news, social media, and web strategies and programs to increase visibility, consideration, and sales for their experts, products, and services.
Our clients invest in our custom PR solutions:
NewsBureau – media relations for earned media coverage
KeyNote – booking speaking engagements
PodcastValet – earned podcast interviews and marketing
AwardAbility – award entry writing and submissions
CrisisPoint – crisis communications and crisis PR management
MediaMaster – spokesperson training
ReputationRestoration – online reputation management
ReviewMaxer – online review management platform
SocialNetwork – social media publishing and community engagement
InfluencerInsights – connect with brand influencers
WebDesDev – modern, content-focused, mobile-friendly website design
Growth-Driven Design – effective, data-driven website development
Inbound – online content that attracts more leads
BlogoSphere – expert blogging
14. What is the best way to reach our industry's target audience?
The best way to reach any industry’s target audience is to build visibility that leads to trust, consideration, and ultimately, a decision. That may sound overly simplified, but that’s part of our measurement funnel and the way we track our success. If the industry influencers and buyers don't know you exist, how can they consider and purchase from you? A great niche we created for ourselves is working with companies who are relatively unknown or obscure in their marketplace, yet they still have the size and capability to serve and grow that market. We immediately increase their visibility in the industries and communities they serve with credible brand and reputation-building activities. This might include winning awards, gaining earned media coverage in the news, speaking on panels or keynoting in virtual and in-person events, engaging on social media, and lead-attracting optimized website content.
15. How much do you charge? Can you give a breakdown of the pricing structure?
Our largest clients invest up to $360,000 annually in our custom PR solutions. Our smallest program clients invest $45,000 per year. In addition, we also work with our clients on a project basis, and those investments vary from up to $50,000 one-time, depending on the scope of work.
We charge based on scope of work by quoting a flat rate for the engagement. We believe billing hourly is unethical as quick results benefit the client, and we should be working in accord with aligned objectives. If our clients pay us more the longer we take and the slower the results are, then our interests are not aligned. In our experience, clients want, deserve, and pay us for quick results.
Clients hire us on either a project basis, which has a clear start and end date as well as a corresponding scope of work, or more commonly for an ongoing program, which has a defined start date, clear scope, and an ongoing program that does not stop until a party provides 90 days termination notice.
As for a breakdown of the pricing structure, it varies significantly based on the scope of work we are providing. Specifically, it depends on our three practice areas, the 12 services within those practice areas, and the number of geographic markets and vertical markets our public relations program is active in. Typically, our clients budget for services year after year, pre-paying monthly, quarterly, and sometimes annually with a corresponding prepayment discount.
16. What do you need from our team to make this relationship work?
To successfully engage with your company, we need access to your team through weekly emails, a monthly telephone or video meeting, timely approval of the materials you provide, quick responses to news interview opportunities, and access to thought leaders, spokespersons, and senior leadership as needed.
A frequent challenge for our agency is getting necessary input and timely approvals from our busy clients. To remedy this, we often develop a corporate communications style guide documenting the brand’s tone, messaging, and preferred wording for marketing communications materials. Then, we can more efficiently guide communications to these standards, making it easy for everyone to review and approve our materials. After we demonstrate we’ve become familiar with their company, culture, values, vision, and voice, we’re often empowered to publish and distribute our content directly based on such standards, often without their advance review. This is especially true for smaller deliverables, such as blog posts, media pitches, etc.
17. Can you provide real results from your clients?
Although past results do not guarantee a similar outcome, you are welcome to explore our construction PR case studies as well as our general PR case studies. In some cases, we are unable to disclose all the details regarding results and, especially, regarding their return on investment as most of our clients are privately held corporations or we are under a strict confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement.
18. Can you please provide a sample timeline?
A sample timeline at a high-level works very much like this:
Research & Planning
We’ll invest the first days developing a collaborative strategic plan with your team.
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” – Anonymous Woodsman
We will then begin consistent and ongoing implementation of such approved programs with an emphasis on measurement and reporting. As new opportunities come up, we’ll update the plan as a living document.
We recommend quarterly 360° review sessions where we revisit our communications goals, SMARTER objectives, and KPIs. From there, we tweak the program as needed to align with your leadership’s quarterly priorities.
888-PR-FIRM-8 | www.axiapr.com