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7 ways to win with your PR agency

By Erica Cottrill

41337753_sCommunicating properly results in a successful, winning team

I read one of John Maxwell’s iconic quotes the other day: “The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate.”

The creative process is a journey with its own ups and downs, victories and failures, and everything depends on the way we as PR professionals communicate with our clients. The more prepared we are to take that creative journey, the more we become true partners with the ability to successfully meet the goals we set out during an initial planning phase.

PR Week recently covered a survey by the Public Relations Consultants Association which found that 51 percent of agency respondents considered personal chemistry the most important element of the client-agency relationship, but only 19 percent of clients agreed. That’s quite a difference. The report explains that agencies think they have a relationship, while clients think they’re executing a transaction. In point of fact, it’s the way PR practitioners work and interact with you that will determine the success of your campaign.

Communication is key to any successful relationship, whether it’s personal or professional. The same goes for your relationship with your PR agency. Think of it as dating: The relationship is complicated; it takes commitment, chemistry, honesty and passion. Once you start interacting with your new partner on a serious level, challenges abound. However, there are ways to alleviate those challenges.

1. Cultivate  your relationship.

In the PR agency and client world, a good relationship takes some work. There are bound to be different personalities, agendas and goals, and nobody can predict the future. The PR team should be assertive (the magic word when it comes to how your team addresses your concerns), and we as communicators must find the courage to ask questions and express what we really need to help you jump-start your campaign.

2. Make sure you have a team leader.

That’s where the team leader comes in. We need to ensure we have a proactive “point” person who sets the tone, coordinates the projects, provides updates and leads the agenda. The team leader should have the ability to assess each team member’s particular style at the beginning of the relationship, which can help with conflict management later.

3. Establish specific, measurable goals.

While you’re in the honeymoon stage, you may have unrealistic expectations if you don’t understand what we do and why we do it. Even after we’ve already established goals, our responsibility as the PR pros is to continue to bring you back to the team’s core objectives and move on with the agreed-upon plan.

4. Communicate and collaborate.

Yes, we are communicators, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be any misunderstandings, PR staff with way too many things going on or overworked clients who don’t have the time to review and sign off on a project. It can be as simple as bi-weekly calls and a specific call to action for the next meeting. Even better, schedule a team meeting for in-depth client updates, deadlines and clear goals for the month. (Someone should bring the pastries if it’s breakfast time.)

5. Show off your creativity.

As your creative consultants, your PR team should be able to craft a vision that captures your imagination and incorporates your unique ideas. The result is to solidify the partnership so that both the PR pros and the client go on their journey together harmoniously through both the traditional PR efforts and the special projects – which will, of course, get us all closer to getting our goals accomplished.

6. Keep social outreach consistent.

The lines between PR, marketing and social media have blurred so much that social media is now an organic part of any thorough PR program. These days, PR staff of every level have to be able to write press releases, pitch them, work with bloggers, interact on social sites and more. Oh, and one more thing: We must include the client in this complicated process.

Inclusion isn’t the same as handing over the wheel, though. One of the most difficult professional challenges I have experienced is when a client insisted he wanted to write his own Facebook posts. This caused the social media campaign we designed to become a confused jumble of information that left the audience out in the cold. As public relations experts, we must always communicate the importance of a consistent, creative social media plan designed to elevate the client’s brand above all else.

7. We had better understand you – and well.

It is essential for your PR partner to know your industry inside and out. We need to dive into everything there is to know by perusing blogs, white papers, books, newspapers and vertical/consumer magazines. As communicators, we need to get acquainted with the experts in the field and connect with them on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter, as well as every other platform that’s still on its way. What’s more, we need to keep doing it, since every industry constantly evolves. Taking a look at how other related companies have ventured into uncharted or unexpected territories – and how they communicated with their audiences while doing it – can be good food for thought.

Axia Public Relations is the expert PR firm that’s built a sterling reputation on a long string of very happy customers. Give us a minute and we’ll give you the tools to grow your business. Call today or register for Axia’s 60-Second Impact, which comes packed with tools and tips for using PR to promote and grow your company.

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Erica Cottrill has 20 years’ experience in writing blogs, press releases, industry bylines and more. She designs and implements strategic marketing plans including publicity and social media programs for a wide spectrum of industries from technology to home and garden.

Featured image credit: 123rf.com

Topics: public relations, shared media

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