Public Relations

Five Questions to Stop Asking PR Agencies

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We speak with companies everyday that are looking to expand their presence in the market through PR. We’ve realized along the way that the questions they ask don’t always get to the heart of what they want to know.

So, we’ve paired some of those common questions with our recommendations for what to ask instead to truly understand not only an agency’s potential, but their ability to strategically guide you toward the outcome you’re after.

Can you get me into the NYTimes?

You want to be in the New York Times, and we want to help you get there — as well as into other Tier 1 media. But bigger isn’t always better: you also need to speak to your direct buying audience — the people who can make a decision about your product or service. This means a well‑rounded approach with longer‑form coverage in all the media outlets they’re going to for deeper knowledge about their trade, competitors and best practices. While your PR agency should be able to promise Tier 1 coverage, the right agency will also make sure you’re covered across the media.

Who are your contacts?

Twenty years ago, media was a one‑horse town. There were a handful of outlets that owned the market and getting into them was easier if you knew them. Then the internet happened and there are now 400k+ reporters in the U.S. alone, writing about every topic you can imagine. Rather than relying on someone knowing thousands of reporters, you want an agency who knows how to find the ones that are right for you, and get through to them with a story that fits their coverage area — even if they’ve never worked with or spoken to them before.

How many impressions can we expect?

This question is important for a number of reasons — the first being that you want to be aligned with your PR agency on what success looks like. Success to most companies isn’t impressions; it’s generating leads, shifting perception of the company in the market, attracting investors, and increasing adoption, among other tangible business goals that PR can significantly influence. You want to make sure the agency you’re speaking to has processes in place for driving these types of results, and can go beyond impressions when it comes to reporting on them.

Can we have press realizes, contributed articles and award submissions?

Instead of asking for or assigning an agency specific tactics, consider asking open‑ended questions like the above. This approach works because it gives you insight into how an agency thinks, and whether they will structure your PR program around goals rather than a checklist of tasks. In general, we recommend prioritizing agencies that naturally speak from a goal perspective — they’re more likely to get you where you need to go.

What clients do you work with that are exactly like us?

One of the best ways to get a sense of an agency’s ability is to see their past work and success for other clients who had similar challenges and objectives as you. Sometimes these clients will be directly in your industry; sometimes they won’t. For instance, if you need to attract the financial market’s attention in advance of an impending IPO, it’s important to see examples of times your agency has influenced perception in the financial market — whether or not it was for a company just like yours. For companies in emerging industries with few direct competitors (yet), this approach is particularly valuable. And of course, seeing tangible results in your specific industry is good because it gives you a sense of the agency’s command over related subject matter.

Other questions to consider asking:

  1. How will you transform who we are and what we do into stories that will get us into the media?
  2. How do you develop PR strategies for clients?
  3. How will you get us into the news even when we don’t have news?
  4. How many people will be on my account and what’s their experience?
  5. How will you guide us?

To know more about what you should be — and shouldn’t be — asking in more details, read our article: Questions to Ask – and Not to Ask – When Interviewing a PR Agency.

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