The days of traditional ‘public relations’ with parties, promotions and the ‘spray and pray” approach for media exposure is long gone. In today’s fast paced world of competing for exposure for your product or service, in convincing stakeholders why your company is better than the competition, or to encourage a specific call to action, organisations are realising the importance of strategically managing their communications.
However, as more businesses realise the importance of managing their communication, so more and more ‘public relations’ companies are also popping up; they are a dime a dozen promising heaven and earth, but ultimately have little skill or a limited data base to maximise opportunities for your hard earned investment, which in the long run negatively impacts on the reputation of the industry.
There are some guidelines for organisations to think about when they do decide to invest in a communication management company. There are many areas to consider, but ultimately it boils down to three Rs: Roadmap, Resources and Results.
Firstly, the roadmap – does the communication agency make an effort to understand your organisation and do they ask about your business goals? If the agency does not have an integral understanding of your organisation they will not be able to put a comprehensive communication roadmap i.e. strategy and goals into place to help you achieve your business goals. It is also important to understand what services the agency offers; will they be able to provide you with a comprehensive communication solution that will help you to reach your business goals?
In order for the agency to implement the communication strategy, it is important that you know which resources will be assigned to work with you. You need to know whether it is a one-man-show or whether there is a team who will be assigned to you. There are pros and cons for both scenarios. The main concern to take into consideration with a one-person entity, is to know what the contingency plan is if something happens to the person managing your communication; when it comes to a team, very often senior members close the deal and then the work gets assigned to a junior or intern. You need to make sure that you have a rapport with the person or team that you will be working with and that they resonate with your organisation’s core values.
Finally, ask about results – how will your return on investment be measured? How will you know whether your communication initiative was truly successful? Clear measurable goals are therefore key at the beginning of every campaign. It is also important to know how often there will be communication to discuss progress and issues to ensure that the results will be achieved or to put contingency plans in place. It is also recommended that you get references and feedback from current and previous clients about the agency, so that you know what to expect.
Regine le Roux is managing director at Reputation Matters (PRISA PRISM Award Winners and Number 1 Reputation Management Company in South Africa 2012 and January 2013*