Public Relations

Acing the PR agency briefing process

Over the years, several PR briefs have landed on my desk. Hundreds, in fact. As a document that plays an enormously important role in the agency selection process, it’s important to create this document with care. Give it the love and attention it deserves. I’ve often been asked by clients and prospects… how do you create the perfect one?

I wouldn’t say there’s a formula per se, it’s barely a science. But I do believe there are a few factors for success. So, here are my top five considerations before putting pen to paper which will help you kick off the process in the search for the ideal PR partner, for you:

Get the basics right

Information about the make-up of the company, ownership, clients, competitors, route to market and audience profile is super helpful. If you have any additional information around the value propositions, or have developed messaging – it’s prudent to throw it in. This type of insight can be useful in helping an agency develop recommendations and take a strategic approach. However, try not to feel under pressure to create a door step of a document with bells and whistles, endless pages of information, which is already publicly available. Firstly, it’s going to take lots of your time to do that and secondly, the agencies you approach will be doing the hard work when it comes to thorough research into your business, market etc.

State your mission and get buy in from stakeholders

Business goals are crucial. Communications objectives are useful, but you might not know what they are, yet (don’t worry, your agency can help with that). What’s really, important is to think about who the stakeholders are going to be internally when it comes to the selection process. Do they agree with your overall mission? If you don’t get buy in at brief development stage, you’ll have agencies put together proposals in response to your brief – and risk getting it wrong. I recall pitches, in the past, where we’ve presented recommendations which the CEO has kyboshed within five minutes, because she, or he, did not agree with the business goals we were trying to meet. Awkward.

Think hard about your desired outcome

Beyond the measurement criteria such as building brand awareness and generating leads, what else would you like the PR programme to ‘do’? There can be some real nuggets across the business which it can be helpful to draw out. I’ve been given steers in meetings which have really helped us on the right track. ‘We want to make our employees feel proud to work for us’, was said over a new business lunch recently. These individual *wishes* give useful information about the outcomes which the PR programme is in a position to impact – and how we should approach a plan.

Include your budget

While it might be tempting to leave this open and see what the agency comes back with, it’s not the best approach. By providing a budget (this can be a guideline, or figure ‘in the region of’) you’re giving agencies an opportunity to respond with a realistic programme, with supporting creatives. It’s a more tailored approach and can save on lots of time and effort in the long run.

Be open to interaction

Last, but not least… the written brief really is just the starting point. Giving a select group of agencies the opportunity to meet you (face to face, if possible) and interrogate that brief is not only an exercise for them to understand exactly what you’re trying to achieve by drilling into the detail, it also gives you an opportunity to check chemistry and a feel for how they work as a team.

Selecting a PR agency to help move you forward as a business is an incredibly important decision. We’re talking about a long-term partnership, that should be lasting years. Taking that time and consideration at the very early stage of the process will work wonders in making sure the decision is the right one.

Written by Katie De Cozar


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