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How to select the right PR partner

The implementation of good public relations strategy for your construction business can take your company to new heights, but it also requires thorough preparation from your organisation.

By investing a little time into your search for a PR partner, you can save yourself a lot of headaches at a later stage.

Create a brief and set objectives

It is crucial at the outset that you and your board and management team have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve from PR. 

Many firms hire a PR agency without being clear internally as to what they want to achieve from it. 

Managing expectations at every level from the start is vital. It is important that all parties understand the objectives, including timescales and outputs. 

“Define the deliverables, set a benchmark and establish and agree how you will track measure and monitor progress and results”

Which do you need more: specialist PR skills for profile-raising, crisis communications, repositioning, product or service launch or specific knowledge of the construction industry?

Understanding your organisation’s needs will help you to create a shortlist of agencies, or freelance individuals. Create a PR brief and outline in it what you expect to achieve from the PR activity.

Establish specific SMART objectives for PR. This will translate directly into requirements for the agency. 

This might be to increase visits to the website, establish reach and coverage for PR campaign messages, to increase new business enquiries, to secure industry awards or speaking opportunities. 

Define the deliverables, set a benchmark and establish and agree how you will track measure and monitor progress and results.

Understand the new media landscape

New technologies and social media have had a major impact on the way we communicate. New media has completely transformed the way the construction industry gathers news and information.

While it has created lots of new opportunities and quick wins for PR, it has also brought about significant challenges for traditional forms. 

“What are the key messages that you want to get out? Who are they relevant to and who are you trying to reach?”

Some traditional media channels have embraced new media with great success. Others, sadly, have not. 

Organisations don’t have to wait for their news and content to get ‘picked up’ by trade journals and publications; many have become reporters and publishers themselves.

It is important that the agency you choose has an established ‘reach’ within your key media channels and also within your target audience groups.

Define target audiences and then develop key messages

What are the key messages that you want to get out? Who are they relevant to and who are you trying to reach? 

The best PR agency for the job will be able to interpret your brief and develop your key messages into tangible, relevant PR content that will reach these target audiences. 

They should be able to demonstrate through their own case studies and references how they will engage your target audiences at each level and which channels they will leverage for your messages.

Do your own research

Twitter/LinkedIn and Google will provide a good insight into the industry and who has the biggest voice.

If you have a shortlist of PR agencies, follow the company and the key people. You can see what they are doing for their existing clients, who they are talking to and what they are sharing. 

“Ask your network and your peers and your contacts for recommendations”

You can view their communications, the level of engagement they have and how they are using each platform. 

Of course, it’s up to you how you leverage such information, but it can help you shortlist potential PR partners or evaluate your existing provision. 

Ask your network and your peers and your contacts for recommendations. 

The successful PR partner should be the one who can demonstrate their capability and knowledge of your sector, with proof of results and a list of happy clients willing to provide recommendations.

Kirstie Colledge is managing director of Online Construction PR Agency Simply Marcomms She is also a committee member of CIMCIG, the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Construction Industry Group You can follow Kirstie on Twitter @KirstieColledge You can follow CIMCIG on Twitter (@CIMCIG) and you can join CIMCIG’s LinkedIn Group for more information and interesting debate

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