How to Tell if Your PR Agency is Legit in 3 Easy Steps

Grayson Lafrenz
By Grayson Lafrenz

So, you have been investing in PR for some time and have an agency owning the majority of the efforts and you start to question, is this PR stuff really working out?

Ever ask yourself any of these questions?

  • What are my PR efforts really accomplishing for my brand?
  • Is my PR agency worth what I pay them?
  • What would happen if I stopped investing in my current PR efforts?
  • What do these media hits do for my bottom line?
  • How can I get better reporting and attribution to see that impact?

If you have ever asked yourself any of these questions you are not alone.  Companies are finding that existing traditional PR tactics and forms of measurement are becoming outdated and often times ineffective. Because things have drastically changed over the years in the media landscape, it’s imperative you are working with an agency that is ahead of the game and forward thinking.

Here are three things you should look into and ask your PR agency about to help you better understand if your current PR efforts and PR agency are legit!

#1 Is Your PR Strategy Outdated?

Are Press Releases still a core component of your PR strategy?  

If so, you should really look long and hard at who you are working with.  In our opinion Press Releases are often worthless. I know that might sound dramatic and to be fair there are times they serve a purpose and that we still leverage press releases, but they should not be the core part of the strategy or even close to the core.

Anyone can distribute a press release, it requires little strategy or creativity.  Instead, hours and funds allocated to the press releases should be redistributed to more time reaching out to media one-to-one, leveraging already established relationships to get your brand featured.

Is your firm using outdated tactics like online product reviews?

You may be thinking, we have done this for many years and it is almost a centerpiece of traditional PR… Well, it often times can violate Google’s guidelines and can even cause your brand to be penalized by Google leading to a loss of organic traffic and rankings.  I know it sounds crazy, but I have seen it happen many times in the last 12 months.  Here is an article that will educate you more on this subject.  Be sure to run this by your PR agency and make sure you are aligned.

The Dangers of Online Product Reviews – an innocent tactic you may be doing that can cost you millions.

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Is your PR firm playing the role of consultant and helping you come up with innovative new ways to become newsworthy?  

This should be a core part of what your PR agency does for you.  Most brands are not just born newsworthy and don’t just pop out newsworthy stuff every month. If your PR firm is not helping you come up with ways to make your brand relevant with the media and holding strategy meetings with your team to uncover these opportunities, they are not doing you justice. Here are some insights into why the media is not covering your brand at the level you would like them to.

Does your PR team fully understand your goals and customer base?

How can you position your brand in the right way or with the right media outlets if you don’t understand your customer base, identify what makes them tick and where they hang out to digest content?  To really test their understanding, give them a quick quiz.  On your next call with your PR agency ask them to tell you about your key customer personas, preferences, and why these people are the target for your product or service.  This simple quiz will answer this one.

Is your PR agency guiding you on how to tie your PR strategy in with your other marketing efforts such as Social Media, SEO, Paid Advertising and more?

This one is so often missed.  I see very few scenarios in which traditional PR firms have any clue of the impact they can have on the other digital channels.  The truth is that PR is absolutely critical and valuable to a successful SEO strategy, content marketing strategy, and social media strategy.

It can also play a core role in your paid media campaigns as it can be a great top of the funnel touch point. Ask your PR agency how they are tying their efforts in with these other channels.  If they are not, take action because your efforts are not being fully utilized and this is a major waste.

Here is one example of how these channels can help each other.  This article shows theconnection between PR, Content and SEO.

If the answer is NO to any of these questions, your PR firm may be either outdated, clueless, or too comfortable (this can happen with agencies when they have been in a groove with a client for a very long time) and you might want to take a look around and consider other options.

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#2 Does My PR Firm Really Measure Their Work?

This is one of the areas I see traditional PR agencies score the lowest.  They have no problem asking for tens of thousands of dollars in investment, but do a really poor job of measuring and assuring those dollars are netting tens of thousands of dollars in growth on your brand and business.

The easiest way to evaluate this is to take a look at the last few reports from your PR agency. What do you see?  What is being reported or measured other than the media outlets they are targeting, media outlets that are in conversations with and media placements they have already secured?  I bet for most of you, that is it….

Are they showing you anything like:

Conversions or assisted conversion from PR hits?

Website Traffic driven from individual placements?

Brand lift that is coming from the PR hits across other channels such as referral, direct and organic?

Social engagement or improved brand sentiment or engagement from the placements?

The impact on your website authority, content visibility and keyword rankings?

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If you have none of these other metrics in your PR reports and never even knew this was something that PR can impact or measure, you might want to take a look around and see what other PR agencies may have to offer.

#3 Is My PR Agency’s Pricing Model Vested In My Success?

Looking at pricing is a key part of evaluating the value you are getting from your current PR agency and how confident they are in their efforts, ability and your brand’s newsworthiness.

It should not be the first thing to evaluate because the difference between great PR and media coverage and bad PR and media coverage is often worth paying for but here are some things to consider when looking at the pricing model of your PR firm.

Is your PR firm guaranteeing you a certain number of media placements?  

I would make this a must if I was hiring a PR firm.  Being on the other side of the table, and a firm that brands hire, I believe in guaranteeing a minimum number of media hits and committing to not stopping until I hit that number.  I can’t typically guarantee the exact timeline to hit those commitments (in a specific month) but I can guarantee that I won’t stop and will not have fulfilled my contract until I get them.  This is the only fair model to the brand I am working with and how it should work.

Does your firm have clear goals when it comes to media coverage and is their compensation tied to those goals?  

I think if your PR firm will not guarantee you a certain number of media placements and certain quality levels that they surely should at least have a low base and performance kicker built in for when they do great work.  PR has so many similarities to a sales position and what sales position is not structured this way?  It is just what makes the most sense for both the PR team and brand and should be something you discuss with them.

Closing Thoughts on Evaluating your PR Agency

Your PR agency might have been really good, but things are changing and if properly utilized your PR team and strategy can have a much bigger impact on your brand and overall digital marketing than they probably even know.  The biggest issue is that most PR firms are clueless when it comes to any other digital channels.

It has always surprised me that PR agencies and professionals haven’t realized the value of integrating their efforts across channels because SEOs, PPCs, CROs and content marketers have always loved PR and seen how impactful it can be on their channels but it has never been reciprocal.  This has caused many brands to squander opportunities that can mean so much more to their business.  You need your PR agency to “get digital” and be integrated with the other channels.

At Power Digital, our PR Team is surrounded by digital marketers and this has enabled us to have a highly integrated PR Offering that our clients love and checks all the boxes mentioned above. If you think that is lacking, you need to look around!

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Grayson is one of the Co-founders at Power Digital and the CEO. He is born and raised in San Diego and has a wealth of knowledge in Digital Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Team Building and Business.