After last week’s post titled “5 Lies Most PR Agencies Tell“, I received a lot of feedback, telling me that it’s helpful to know what lies PR agencies might tell, however how do you spot a good PR agency? In the spirit of supplying where there’s demand, I’ve put together this post, which outlines what good PR agencies should say and things to look out for, to give you an equal idea of positive and negative aspects of PR. Here I go…
“You’re not getting in Vogue next month…”
Unless you’re paying a large lump sum every month, it’s worth knowing that it’s unlikely your brand is going to be in Vogue just a few weeks after you’ve started working with a PR agency. Companies should be honest about this. Yes, they may strike gold and get you a briliant feature just weeks into the process, but the truth is that it does take time. A PR agency has to introduce you to their contacts and start building a foundation before the ball really gets rolling, especially if you’ve never worked with a PR agency before. What you should be hearing from the agency when you first meet with them is something along the lines of, “You’re not going to get Vogue next week, but we’re going to work hard and try to make this happen, but with time. We’d hope to achieve this level of coverage eventually.”
“You’re not quite the right fit for our agency…”
There’s a lot of companies out there that just want your money, regardless of whether they feel they could do a great job in working with you. A good PR agency should be able to say no. If your brand isn’t right for them and their client portfolio and contacts, they should give you a polite, “It was lovely to meet you and we like your brand, but we don’t feel it fits with our company. Other agencies you could consider that might be more suitable are…” – after all, if they’re not working with you, they shouldn’t hesitate in trying to help point you in the right direction with the knowledge they have of the industry.
“We specialise in PR, not sales…”
Believe it or not, there are countless companies that try and fob brands off by telling them they could provide a sales service for them, which usually involves the agency contacting buyers (who they should know already if they’re offering the service) and trying to get the brand stocked in a particular store. Some companies do offer this as an extra service and they do it well, but there are also lots of agencies that will jump on the phone and try to find buyers AFTER you’ve signed the contract, because they simply don’t have the relationships with buyers already established. A good PR agency should be honest and simply say, “No, we don’t work in sales but it is something we could look at in the future, however for the time being we’re solely PR focused”. There’s no point in offering a service if you can’t do it well.
“We hope the press we secure you will lead to an increase in sales, however we can’t guarantee anything…”
Obviously every brand and PR agency hope that press coverage will boost sales, however sometimes that isn’t the case. It pays to understand that press is presss and is, in most cases, more about building brand image than anything else. Click-through rates that then lead to sales from press coverage alone is very, very low, so it’s not something any agency should guarantee or enforce. They should simply say, “I can’t guarantee that the coverage we get you will generate sales, however we’ll target media that’s right for your brand and will help to build the brand’s image. Eventually, you should begin to see a boost in sales, along with a boost in brand engagement and support, but it takes time.”
“We’re happy to work with and around you and what you can afford…”
This might just be my personal opinion, however I strongly believe that a company who wants to work with you should be willing to adapt their prices and services to suit what you as a brand can afford. I regularly get approached by brands with just £100 or so to spend each month, and if I like them I’m always happy to work with them and provide them with a slightly reduced service – e.g. they will receive less press coverage than brands spending more. No agency should have 100% fixed prices that they’re not willing to budge on. If an agency isn’t willing to budge on their prices (within reason), they’re not that crazy to work with you. Fact.
Although, with this point, do note that agencies do have certain costs to cover and therefore when I say “within reason”, I do mean it. You can’t expect an agency to half their prices and still offer the same service they offer higher paying clients. It’s not fair. Start small and grow – the main focus is getting your brand out there, even in a small capacity.
I hope this gives you even more insight into what to look out for if you’re a brand seeking to work with an agency or if you’re someone working or wanting to work in PR.
If you have any questions or comments based on your own experiences, please do share them with me!