By David Bray
Special to PRBlogNews
In my 16+ years in the PR business I’ve been through hundreds of new business pitches. It’s a strenuous process for all involved. To make the process more productive, and hopefully less stressful, I’ve put together three points to remember when evaluating the right PR partner for your business.
1. Create a list of a handful of prospective partners relevant to your business. Don’t rely on the Internet for your leads. Ask for referrals from people you know and trust. Then do your homework on each of the prospective partners online so you’re comfortable and ready to take the next step.
2. Reach out to people on the list and request a meeting. Prior to confirming the meeting, be sure to give your prospective partners a brief, including information on what you want to accomplish, goals, objectives, etc. Information overload is okay at this point. You want to give them all the information they need in order to best prepare their program recommendations.
During the briefing process, tell the prospect to throw away the PowerPoint deck and insist that the meeting centers on having a candid, non-staged conversation. Tell them to forget about the dog & pony show – a term that describes a highly structured, over-staged performance, presentation or event designed to sway opinion.
3. Most important – focus your attention on the most senior person in the room. Ask them who they know and have relationships with in the industry your company occupies.
See if they can pass the name dropping test. They should be able to clear this hurdle with flying colors as most agencies, even if they don’t have ‘real’ relationships, will do their homework before meeting with a prospect. That way, they can rattle off names so it appears as though they know the players, what they write about, etc.
Then, ask that same person, if you called these influencers would they:
1) know who they are?
2) say good things about them?
I would also request that the most senior person in the room gives you reporters, conference organizers, partners, etc.,, not clients, as references. Why do I recommend this? Employee retention rates in the PR industry are lousy and getting worse.
Jim Delulio, president of the executive recruitment firm PR Talent was quoted in a PRWeek article stating, “The employee turnover rate in the industry is about 15% – 20% – and when you lose that high of a percentage of people every year, you should expect client turnover.”
Therefore, in two year’s time, you can expect that a PR agency’s staff will lose on average nearly half of its staff. The only constant within an agency is the agency’s principals and partners, the executives who have skin in the game. So, if the agency’s leader(s) don’t have the relationships you seek, a long-term partnership with their firm is most likely not in the cards.
The PR agency new business process does not have to be a dreaded endeavor. It would be great if my peers would chime in and offer their advice and insight into what’s worked/hasn’t worked for them. We all want sustainable PR partnerships. And we’re all striving to better serve clients, from the initial meeting, through a long-term engagement.