When asked, public relations professionals assure clients that we ‘play nice in the sandbox’ with marketing agencies. But, in practice, what does that really mean? As our industry changes and prospective clients expect more from their vendors, PR professionals must adapt in order to stay ahead, win bigger accounts and brand ourselves as more than just a media relations shop.
A snapshot of today’s biggest trends in consumer engagement underscores the need for public relations and marketing agencies to work together to serve clients more effectively:
• Content marketing: A quarter (25%) of marketing budgets are now spent on content development, delivery and promotion (CMO Council).
• Data analytics: Companies that put Big Data at the center of marketing and sales improve marketing ROI by 15% to 20% (McKinsey).
• Real-time marketing: This is the intersection of social, mobile, location and Big Data. Brands must be proactive publishers of content. Engagement is a proxy to sales and brand health.
Because none of the tactics above can be executed by one agency silo alone, PR and marketing professionals must work with each other to achieve our client’s desired brand metrics and measurement objectives. By providing senior executives with data demonstrating our ability to move the needle, we prove our value and retain our clients.
Here are a few tips for working with agency partners:
▶ Plan regular calls. I have reoccurring scheduled calls set up with my client’s agency partners. This helps us stay on the same page and sometimes we’ll provide an update our direct client contact was not yet aware of. This helps move campaigns along quicker; reduces time spent spinning our wheels on something that has already been decided and eliminates the possibility of us both going down the same research rabbit hole.
▶ Coordinate in-person meetings. Just like our colleagues and clients, meeting face-to-face only enhances a successful working relationship. This could be meeting outside the office for a cup of coffee when you are in town, or a working session where you roll up your sleeves and work together on a big campaign coming down the pike.
▶ Be nice. We are all working towards the same goal: a happy client. Be nice to each other. Get to know each other on a personal level, congratulate each other on achieved milestones (running a marathon, having a baby, getting married, winning a new account). And check in on each other should something make news headlines in their neck of the woods.
▶ Know your client’s agency partners. This will show that you’re thinking bigger picture, outside of just PR. It will help you understand all parties involved in the decision process, and make for clearer communications down the road when you are under pressure to deliver.
▶ Demand (politely) a seat at the table. With all clients—Fortune 500 or startup—the PR team needs to be involved in small and large decisions, and announcements, from the start. This creates synergies among all respective parties both internally and externally. Additionally, it can save agencies a lot of backtracking and headaches in the long run. Having the PR team involved, even silently, from the beginning eliminates the need to shoehorn key messages into an almost fully baked idea, rather than building a campaign around our message.
Take, for example, a company that needs a branding campaign. There are many different elements of this and different players involved. However, why should a client pay two or three times to get messages developed? Why not have all agencies in the same room and hammer it out together? This saves time and money on the client side—only one meeting, one set of documents to review—and creates a more collaborative process on the agency side.
The media landscape is continually evolving. RFPs are asking for more than just one service, such as PR, digital/social media, advertising, consumer engagement and marketing.
The solid relationships we build with our marketing peers now will strengthen the network of qualified vendors we can draw on when responding to new business requests. Similarly, marketing agencies that are being asked for PR capabilities will need a strong, strategic PR partner they can trust, and are far more likely to stick with what (or who) works, rather than shop around. PRN
This article originally appeared in the Jan. 6, 2014 issue of PR News.