Tag Archive for: when to start public relations

What Should You Really Be Look For In A PR Firm?

We know, hiring a PR firm can be daunting. With increasing frequency, we’re hearing stories from  colleagues who have experienced “bad PR.” What should you ask before hiring a modern PR firm?

We truly believe many of these stories are due to client and agency were a mismatch, rather than a “bad PR firm”. Taking a deeper look at PR before hiring them can save you money, but most importantly, time.  Much of this can be attributed to the vast distinctions with how PR agencies operate and handle their clients. The intention of this piece is to provide you with questions we would be asking OUR PR firm before we hired them, and why those questions are important. Also, consider these “6 great questions you can ask us before hiring Avvans PR”

6 Questions to Ask Before Hiring Your Next PR Firm

Do You Understand Our Product?

Ask yourself how important a baseline understanding of your product or industry is to your overall communications. We’ve heard story after story of people unhappy with their PR firm because their PR firm doesn’t understand an emerging industry’s regulations or a technology. Understanding the industry isn’t just important from a regulatory and technical perspective, it’s also the ability to monitor relevant news, understand what’s relevant (and what isn’t) and move quickly. Now, that’s not to say that a beauty PR can’t handle B2B PR for the industry, but expect to educate your firm.

What tradeshows and conferences has your team attended?
Does your PR firm understand what makes your product distinct within your industry?
What publications are writing about your vertical?

Before Hiring a PR Firm, Establish Clearly Defined Ways of Measuring Success for PR

Most companies today want consistent placement, strategic oversight, and outstanding communication. But what else? In a mature, less regulated industry, a PR firm typically works with multiple other firms from branding to experiential to an ad agency.

PR is THE leading brand trust and awareness tool.

In addition to earned media, companies should be looking at additional metrics for PR such as SEO value. Website traffic, brand mentions, brand name reach, and even share of voice are all KPIs that are relevant, depending on the overall strategy. Your PR firm should be ready and able to provide those kinds of metrics to you on a monthly basis. Changes in public perception or decreased sales cycle are also metrics with which PR can support. If you’re measuring your PR firm against KPIs like this, work with your PR firm to set a baseline and a reasonable timeframe.

Is the Fee Structure Fair & Does It Make Sense?

Most PR firms work on a retainer, so make sure you have an understanding of what’s included in your retainer?

Does the firm charge for wire releases?
Is branded content included, and if so, does that extend to graphic design?
Is there a markup on expenses incurred by the PR agency and if so, what is it?
Are off-site activations included?
How are hours tracked?

There’s no single way to manage a retainer, so asking questions like this upfront will give you a deeper understanding. Be fearless about asking these questions, after all, you’re the client. You should expect a rationale that isn’t arbitrary. While you may view this as a negotiation opportunity, be wary of cutting the budget to the point where your brand isn’t on the radar daily. You want your PR firm engaged with your brand on a daily basis – make sure you’re getting that because the alternative often provides unsatisfactory results. A great PR firm will be transparent about their billing methods.  Financial terms form the foundation of your relationship with your PR firm. Get that right and find a balance that works for you and your PR firm.

Look for Good Personal Chemistry in Your PR Firm

While this one is tough to put on a spreadsheet, asking some tough questions will often reveal the quality of the chemistry. As an engaged client, you should be working with your cannabis PR experts regularly and you REALLY want that process to be enjoyable. Make sure your company culture meshes well with your cannabis PR firm’s value system.  Teams who like one another, work better together. If you’re not gelling with someone in the first call, chances are, that’s not going to change.

Compatability breeds productivity and results.

Before Hiring Your Next PR Firm, Consider: Location, Location, Location

Before you start narrowing down your PR firms, decide how important location is to you. We think having account presence in major journalism markets is priority one, but if you’re the kind of person who needs to meet face-to-face once a week, acknowledge that and find a firm close to your base of operations and hire a PR firm that’s near by.

Flexibility AND Systems

Pay close attention to the systems your PR firm uses and also take notice of their flexibility.

For starters, there should also be a clearly defined exit clause in the contract.

Who owns content?
How will the PR firm handle future press inquires when/if the engagement ends?
What is the cancelation agreement?

Your PR should have systems and processes in place, but those systems and processes should also be nimble enough to manage the PR world. For example, getting a press release right is exceptionally important, but it shouldn’t take your PR firm a week to write it. You should be able to review the first draft within hours on an emergency or breaking news circumstance. On the other hand, there should be a consistent drum beat and strategy behind media relations.  Which bring us to:

A Strategic Approach That Makes Sense

Before hiring, your  PR firm should be able to articulate an approach and strategy that makes sense to you. While credible PR firms won’t reveal details about clients, they should be able to articulate some case studies of  PR strategies and why they worked. For example, provide an experience that required a decision to respond to industry news. When, where and how you respond to breaking industry news is determined by your brand strategy, BUT your PR should be able to articulate a strategy and when/why it worked. Your PR firm should have some strategic storylines and outlines in mind for your brand, which proves they’ve done a little research. Even if they aren’t perfectly on-brand, at least you’re starting with a strategy which is better than starting from zero.

At Avaans,  we offer those services to our clients, but sometimes we find our clients think they need one thing when what they actually need is another. So what’s the difference and when should you use each as a strategy.

In truth, your business probably needs ongoing campaigns for each of those, but breaking it down helps prioritize when choosing an agency, it helps to know which of the three disciplines (branding, PR, and, marketing) you should select the agency for. Many agencies offer services in all three categories, like Avaans, but most lead with one of the primary disciplines.

When Should I Hire a PR Agency vs. a Marketing Agency vs. a Branding Agency?

What’s the difference between marketing, branding and PR?

Branding: Building Loyalty and Affinity

When to do use it: At brand launch, product launch and throughout the brand’s existence to ensure consistency.

Many people think creating a logo is the extent of branding, but nothing could be further from the truth. brand is your company’s personality.

Branding drives the emotional response your audience has to your message and brand. Branding means having a solid understanding of your audience, their emotional triggers. Branding will touch every single thing you do in marketing and PR too. Think about your social media voice – is it sassy or supportive? That’s a branding decision.

B2B firms often think they can skip the branding step, but it’s even more important for B2B brands to invest in clear, concise, industry consistent branding.

A strong brand has a clear voice and gives their customers & clients something they can self-identify with. When your brand fits into their self-story of how they seem themselves you’ll increase affinity and loyalty. The strongest brands have simple identities that rarely change. Think: Coca-Cola (happiness), Apple (innovation) Lady Gaga (acceptance). The strongest brands also always consider their brand when making big decisions (is this consistent with our brand and our customer’s expectations of us?)

All of the below-mentioned tools will support a brand initiative, the biggest key to a branding initiative is to be sure your company has complete clarity on the audience, key messages, and the desired emotional connection. Branding initiatives may include a call to action, but most prominently elicit an emotional reaction or response.

  • Website: with an emphasis design and layout that matches desired emotional response
  • Content: whether 3rd party or branded, designed and selected to enhance brand’s status in the customer’s mind
  • Advertising: with an emphasis on “WHY” the brand is relevant rather than the “how or where”
  • Events: designed with imprint a memorable experience, or attach a brand to a memorable experience, in the customer’s mind, as opposed to a “lead retrieval” strategy

PR: Influence & Social Proof


When to use it: to create awareness, educate consumers, develop trust with stakeholders.
PR is the art of influence and raising awareness. It’s the ultimate in social proof.

In this bucket, we find tactics like:

  • Events: brand-hosted events for customers, community or likely customers
  • Word of Mouth: campaigns that get people talking about your product, brand and key message
  • Media Relations: relationship building with journalists, writers, and bloggers with an emphasis on collaboration
  • Social Media: with an emphasis on key messaging and influencing the market

In PR you may not get editorial control, so don’t count on a strong call to action, although you may get a link or product recommendation, it will rarely come with a heavy sales action. The best PR is earned PR which means it didn’t come with a quid-pro-quo and that’s part of what gives PR enhanced credibility over marketing.

It’s not as if these tactics aren’t supportive of one another (of COURSE you can get leads from PR tactics), but your brand’s maturity, customers, and community will determine your overall mix among other things.

Marketing: Driving Leads

When to use it: after your brand is established and you’ve earned some brand trust.

Acquiring leads is job number 1 for marketing. Depending on your product marketing may also be the science/artform of conversion also.

In this bucket, we find top-of-the-funnel tactics including:

DIGITAL 

  • Website: Landing pages with a strong call to action
  • Content: blogging, lead magnets designed to support the customer’s buying cycle
  • Content: Webinars
  • Social Media: with a link-building and custom content emphasis
  • Email marketing: shopping cart abandonment, new product announcements, customer campaigns and promotions
  • Digital Ads: social ads and banner ads with a strong call to action for potential customers
  • Remarketing: including shopping cart abandonment and past and current customers

IN PERSON

  • Tradeshows/Festivals
  • Seminars

When to use marketing tactics:
Use marketing when your sales people are trained and ready to follow up with leads. Training your sales people to understand the lead source and where the customer is in the decision-making funnel will help increase conversion. Notice one of the key differences between marketing and branding content is the use of a strong call to action.

Have more questions about how and when to use these tactics? Get in touch with us.