Working With a PR Agency

Avoiding the PR Firm Black Box Problem

How much do you know about what your PR firm is doing for your business? PR firms didn't used to tell their clients much about the internal workings of their PR engine. Those days are over. Here are a few things you should know about your PR firm's activities.

More and more small and medium-sized business owners are seeing the value of effective PR.

As PR plays an increasingly important role in their company's marketing strategies, business leaders are becoming more informed about the internal workings of PR.

In the past, PR firms operated like a black box. You gave them information which they put into their black box and magically generated publicity for your business. These days, informed business leaders want to be more involved in the PR process. Even if you don't find PR to be the most fascinating aspect of your business, you can't afford to be ignorant about the actions your PR firm is taking on your behalf.

  • Who are they pitching? PR firms work with their clients to strategically identify targeted media contacts for pitches. You should expect your PR firm to tell you who they are pitching as well as media contacts they have identified and targeted for pitches in the near future.
  • What pitches have gone out? Identifying media contacts is one thing. But real results are based on the number of pitches that have actually been sent. If your PR firm has only sent out a handful of pitches, they should either explain their rationale or be prepared to step up their game.
  • How have journalists responded? Presumably, your PR firm will let you know when a journalist agrees to do a story on a pitch. But you also need to understand the feedback your PR firm receives when journalists reject a pitch because journalist feedback provides fodder for PR planning conversations between you and your PR professional.
  • Who is working on your account? Don't assume that the person you meet with will be the one who is working on your account. It's fairly common for less experienced staff to do PR grunt work. If your PR firm isn't delivering results it could be because the firm's experienced professionals aren't as involved as they should be.
  • How much time is being spent on your account? If you're a small business working with a large PR firm, your account is not going to be a major priority. Nonetheless, you should know how much time is being dedicated to your account and exactly what you're paying for. If your account is completely off their radar, switch to a smaller PR firm that may be willing to give your account a higher priority.

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