So you’ve chosen a PR agency.
The tender process is complete. Contracts have been exchanged, agreed upon and signed. And now all that’s left to do is to get to work.
But what will that look like? How will this newfound partnership help your institution realise its media-based hopes and dreams? And what can be done to make this newfound relationship a marriage made in heaven, ensuring that it doesn’t end abruptly in divorce?
Here are a few things to think about in order to get the best out of your new PR agency:
It’s understandable (inevitable) that as an institution your business school will have long-term, wide-reaching marketing and communications goals prior to hiring external PR support. But, while it’s to be expected that your school will come to any new partnership with some pre-existing strategic targets, when it comes to day-to-day goal-setting this requires expert guidance, not only in ascertaining what’s actually achievable, but also what’ll be most beneficial for your organisation.
Now, this may sound condescending, it’s not meant to be – rest assured, no one is questioning the competence or depth of understanding of in-house comms staff – but in achieving the best results from your school’s PR and media relations efforts, having an impartial, external and well-informed voice to offer guidance, as well as assistance, in realising those goals on a day-to-day basis is a must-have.
That’s because these professionals, having worked with the outlets your business school wants to engage with, are able to act as conduits and, in some ways, as gatekeepers. Its like having the editors of the beats you’re looking to feature in in the room with you, increasing the likelihood of pitching success thereby bringing you closer to achieving your PR goals.
Time-keeping and meeting deadlines
It goes without saying that in any professional relationship, time-keeping is key to success. Meeting agreed-upon deadlines and fulfilling commitments where possible is not only common curtesy, its fundamental to a healthy working partnership – particularly when that relationship is one that includes a PR/Media Relations agency, and when the purpose behind this union is to effectively engage with the media. Now, the reasoning behind such a bold statement in favour of the importance of time-keeping is two-fold:
If PRs routinely miss deadlines, or don’t deliver on what they have promised, journalists won’t work with them.
If business schools renege on commitments, journalists and outlets alike won’t work with them… all the while continuing to rely on content provided by rival schools.
Time-keeping seems basic, but be under no illusion: the implications of committing to but ultimately not meeting deadlines can be pretty catastrophic. So, if you want the best results out of your PR agency, be sure to come to some kind of agreement in what is and isn’t doable in terms of time management and faculty/staff bandwidth.
Prioritising what’s truly important
Building on some of the comments made within the goal-setting section, the importance of prioritising what’s truly important to your organisation in achieving its goals cannot be overstated. Looking beyond media targets, this statement also extends to the tasks and projects that your organisation assigns to your external PR support. It must not be forgotten that these professionals are not just here to make the working lives of individual in-house colleagues easier, but also to advise, guide and support in such a way that actively bolsters the often already-impressive productivity levels of comms teams.
So the allocation of specific tasks to external PRs must only come after genuine consideration has been given to where these individuals and their skillsets will be of most use to your business school in achieving its media goals. Media engagement is a PR’s bread and butter. It’s within this arena that these professionals often hold most value.
From setting out day-to-day success markers and agreed-upon deadlines, to allocating tasks to external PRs based upon strategic priorities, there are a number of things that business schools need to give thought to when hiring external PR support. This is because, in the same way that simply having a gym membership isn’t a sure-thing guarantee for health-related results, working (incorrectly) with a PR agency, doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll climb the rankings and secure those column inches. But, if utilised effectively, a specialist PR/Media Relations agency (like BlueSky Education, for example) can make all the difference between being drowned out in what feels like an ever-growing crowd, and shining through as the go-to provider of business education.