You might be meeting with public relations agencies to source the one that’s right for your brand. It’s at this time – not after you’ve hired an agency – that you should understand how you can get the most out of them.

While it’s important to look at the range of PR services that your prospective agencies offer, it’s easy to overlook equally important factors such as whether they create strong PR strategies, strong content strategies to ensure media coverage, and detailed PR plans – and do they deliver regular communication, a reporting structure and KPIs. These will make your PR agency responsible for their deliverables and accountable for their results. The last thing any brand wants is for an agency to wait to receive news that they can simply draft into a media release and pitch to media – and if there is no news within the company, they do nothing. Agencies should also find ways to create news.

At the start of any public relations program, a PR agency should develop a detailed month on month PR plan – which clearly shows the scope of work against your PR budget, and exactly what media coverage they will secure, how, and with what message. The PR plan should show how it will meet your brand’s PR and marketing aims, be aligned with your marketing plan, be relevant to your target markets, and be aligned with your positioning and be newsworthy for media.

Having a plan in place provides everyone in your organisation – from investors, to the board, to the marketing team – with an overview of planned PR activity. At the same time, a PR plan should be ‘fluid’ – it should be able to be regularly revised and updated to keep it relevant as your brand grows.

Organising weekly WIP calls with your agency, particularly at the beginning of the program, allows for open communication to discuss the previous and upcoming week’s activity, feedback on what is happening with the PR, what’s working well, and allow for any concerns to be addressed. Once the PR plan has been implemented for some time and the agency is working fairly autonomously on the PR, moving to a fortnightly WIP is beneficial to keep everyone across everything.

Monthly accountability reports and a media results analyses allow you to see the work delivered by your PR agency, and to see the results you’re achieving through PR. It’s important for your PR agency to have a reporting structure as this makes them accountable for their work and provides a measure on activity. It allows everyone to assess the PR and see what is working for the company. By reviewing monthly reports, realistic KPIs can be developed and set, such as securing TV coverage every quarter or getting major news coverage every month.

When you hire a PR agency, your inhouse people should not be busier because you have taken on a PR function. Your agency should not be asking you to deliver news to them every month or asking you to write articles for them. Instead, your agency should be developing newsworthy and relevant stories to come to you with. It’s also a good idea to choose an agency that doesn’t lock you into a fixed-term contract – by having, for instance, a PR service agreement with a 30-day notice period, a PR agency needs to work hard to deliver results every month to keep you on.

As one of Sydney’s most reputable PR agencies, The Ideas Suite doesn’t offer clients fixed contracts and we are transparent in the work we do, and how we secure results. At the start of any PR program, we create a PR plan that our clients approve before we go any further. The plan includes media angles we’ve developed and outlines target audiences for each activity. We have a monthly and quarterly reporting structure that allows both the client and our agency to review our outputs and results each month. Regular WIP calls are also organised for the same time each week or fortnight, to allow both parties to discuss relevant activity.