When is the right time to hire a public relations agency?
Timing is everything.
We speak to many startups at various stages in their business cycles. Some are ready to take their brand and message public, some are not. Here are some things to consider when deciding whether to engage with a public relations and branding agency.
A firm can only be launched once. It's important to get that message right, and even more important to make sure that it will not be a short burst followed by months of silence.
Many firms are eager to share their vision with a wider audience but fail to take into account when they actually should be doing this. Most credible agencies can garner good to excellent coverage for a product or firm launch, but the challenge comes in sustaining that momentum for a prolonged campaign of thought leadership and news cycle-driven coverage.
Without putting together a detailed plan that aligns with corporate announcements, product updates or launches and other efforts that generate news, founder run the risk of burning bright at the beginning and then fading out of the spotlight under the weight of actually bringing a product or company to market.
A solid engagement starts with building a firm foundation. To achieve sustainable success, a company must be able to commit people and time to the program.
Most agencies work with founders and other executives that are very busy, often on the go and being pulled in many different directions. One of the first questions we ask is if these stakeholders (program managers, spokespersons, analysts, etc) all can spare the necessary time to make the project work. Without this commitment, just about everything else is moot.
Companies we work with also tend to have a sales/marketing team in place to leverage media results into sales channels to maximize exposure and also bolster their standing among current and potential clients, industry peers and investors.
Additionally, firms should be capitalized enough to the point that they have a reasonable runway to pay for operating expenses, marketing and other activities that drive the communications program.
Most agencies prefer to work with one or two people that act as the main point of contact at a client. This is done for a number of reasons that boil down to one thing: being organized.
Many deliverables are often not ready for a wide audience when first shared and need a round or two of feedback to get to a point where the greater organization can review them. Having a point person to distill the group's message into a cohesive narrative is crucial to the success of any outside partner.
Additionally, having a single person to present suitable media opportunities enables an agency to focus on their main mandate and allow the point person to follow up with however many internal contacts might need to approve an opportunity or simply join the interview.
Is the time right for you?
Ask yourself the following questions when looking to hire a communications and branding agency:
Is now the right time in our business cycle?
Do we have the necessary resources to execute?
Do we have the right organization?