Why Hire an Agency… When You Already Know What to Do?

Errant Musings
Whyhire

During one of several recent potential new client meetings, as I listened to a successful business owner tell me over and over again, “Yes, yes we already know what to do, we just don’t have the bandwidth to do it” I wanted to smile, but of course I didn’t.

It is true that bandwidth is always an issue, especially for start-ups or solo entrepreneurs feeding and fueling their vision. However I will argue that selecting an outside agency should amount to more than hiring “arms and legs.” If aligned, you are embarking on a relationship with a key stakeholder and business partner that will help you define and grow your business.

First of all let me dispel the notion that (the good) agencies or solo PR practitioners are in business to simply bill hours. This is not the case among successful people in our field.

We are vested in your growth and success. Your wins are a reflection and proof point of our success and our skill as PR professionals. In the consulting space, we cannot push a button; we cannot “increase production” of our services without increasing our hard costs and our investment into our business by hiring additional talented people. When the client falls short of success for whatever reasons, the agency partner is almost always the first to feel the bottom line impact.

So, agencies and practitioners cannot afford to make investments and enter into service for clients with whom we cannot envision succeeding.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, following are some tips for managing your relationship with your PR agency for maximum return on investment:

  1. Communicate + Be Honest

We know your days move at lightning speed. For most young companies, this is the norm. Take the time to share what’s happening with us. Knowledge is powerful in our hands. We know some things are not going to stick but be sure to tell us what’s confirmed and what’s in your pipeline going forward. We can continue our focused execution on what you have today but we can also start laying the groundwork for tomorrow’s success.

  1. Understand Roles

As our client contact, your day-to-day looks very different from ours. We know you need to focus on your business and continue making it happen. You have internal business partners that need you. Know that we are 100 percent focused on making sure that your most important influencers and customers know what you are doing and how your company is making an impact in your market space.

  1. Objectivity + Focus Are Your Friends

As an outside voice, we are by definition objective. This is key to achieving your business goals. Objectivity enables us to remain relentless and focused on results-based execution. Our job is to make you look good. We don’t know how to rest on our proverbial laurels of past success. We are always focused and looking at next.

  1. Knowing ≠ Execution

We know that you know what your business needs. Trust that we know how to execute a public relations strategy that compliments your company’s goals. We’ve done this before. We offer value in our ability to leverage our credibility, to craft your story, to deliver it to the right audience and to adjust as needed in order to continue to drive results.

  1. Relationships + Industry Expertise Matter

Beyond picking up the phone and pitching your story, we look at the industry and market space and we know how to make the connections for you. We have seen many of the situational challenges you face before with other clients in your space. Let us bring our relationships and our industry expertise into play to help you.

Helpful, interesting or entertaining? Feel free to comment or to share your experiences as either a client or service professional. In the end, remaining aligned on goals, defining success and most importantly, honest communication will inevitably translate into success for all.

Maximize Trade Shows for Media Success

Projects + Events

We recently attended 2014 Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim (see my story, Where the Brands Are the Stars from the 2013 show) and International Housewares in Chicago. Both shows were incredibly successful in terms of brand story telling to media, conversion into placement wins and overall relationship building for our client. After many years of attending trade shows such as Fancy Foods, Gourmet Housewares, Expo and now Housewares, we have developed a go-to trade show strategy that has proven to be successful time and time again.

From a branding and PR POV, every show offers very different opportunities, but following are some tips to maximize industry trade shows for PR success.

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Think Ahead. A three-month lead-time from the date of the show is ideal. This gives you enough time to research, plan, develop materials and conduct outreach and follow-ups.

Develop a Plan. What are you hoping to achieve from a PR perspective? Help your client define the show objectives and integrate PR planning into their overall trade show thinking. I present a creative brief for clients that drive the execution of all tactics. The brief begins with the objective(s) – what are we hoping to accomplish? This is not about # of impressions or placements, this is a bigger vision statement of what success looks like. What is the story we are telling, how does this particular trade show help to tell the story, what do we want to accomplish by telling the story to this audience and of course what does a media coverage win look like?

Be Creative. Don’t simply re-hash what worked last year. It’s about more than a press list and massive email campaign. It’s critical to come up with new and targeted strategies to win. How does the booth presence help us to tell the story? How can we use the assets created by the marketing team to engage with a media audience? What are the key materials needed to garner the right audience, engage, romance and win? The brief also contains a week-to-week timeline of PR action items and deliverables. This timeline keeps everyone on track and ensures that the big pieces are not forgotten in the race to get everything done. Details matter.

Stay Focused and Drive. For companies, trade shows are about driving sales, winning PO’s and if the company has been around a few years, shows also become a great way to engage with former and new business partners. The PR plan often becomes a last minute after thought. This has always seemed so crazy to me. The amount of cost and resources put into a trade show, from entry fee, booth production, signage, product displays etc., creates the PERFECT platform to tell the company brand and product story to a qualified media audience. As the PR partner, it is our responsibility to drive this vision and make sure the PR plan is in place and executed.

Everyone is a Spokesperson. Hopefully your client values PR enough to send you to the show. Even assuming you have a prepped and ready media spokesperson at the show, you still need to have everyone from the company trained and ready to engage with media attendees and key influencers. I like to hold a pre-show all hands meeting. Have your client walk through the product features and benefits one last time as well as the sales PO process. This grounds everyone on the sales priority. This is also the perfect time to share the key messages PR has been sharing with the media. Anyone walking into your client booth is important – a retailer, partner, or media prospect. Everyone from your company should be enthusiastic and ready to speak with the same voice.

Follow this as a guide to get you or your client started when thinking and planning for your next trade show. Trade shows are a perfect platform, especially for retail brands that are not multi-channel (i.e. do not have stores, catalogs or other channels for media to engage and to “see” the brand and product story in a meaningful and memorable way). A trade show booth can become the platform for communicating the best piece of the brand story. Plus, you get to see and to meet all the other wonderful products and brands that play in the same space! And, don’t forget to have FUN.

Tips for Managing Exceptional Employees

Errant Musings

During my corporate career at big name retail brands as well as start-ups, I had the opportunity to build my own teams and to manage some very talented people. I assumed that I was a good manager. Why not? My employees seemed happy, they were focused and they were productive.

After I left my last in house manager role, I was speaking to one of my former staffers, one that I had hired. I asked her how things were going at work and she enthusiastically recounted how great things were now and how her new manager did such a great job helping her to succeed. Ouch.

Some serious reflection ensued.

I had just launched my namesake PR firm and I was thinking about the culture and the environment I wanted to create. I knew that I only wanted to work with companies with passionate leadership and companies with products and services I personally believed in. Oh, and no ass holes, but that’s for another rant, I mean post.

Dial forward six years and I can say that I have learned through countless experiences, bad hires, good hires, and unexpected great hires how to somehow become a good manager. How do I know this? My former employees still reach out to me and tell me how much they learned, how much they appreciate the time with me. Oh and they are all successful, go getters in the PR field making it happen in NYC to Los Angeles and great cities in between.

How did I get from average and over confident to inspirational leader spawning and incubating PR superstars? Following are some tips gleaned from six years of managing young talent in the PR field:

Set the Bar High. When I was single (many years ago) I had very specific expectations about how I wanted to be treated. I really loved the experience of dating mainly because I was in charge and I set expectations right from the start. People I dated either met my expectations or I simply didn’t date them. Work relationships are similar – when you set clear expectations, employees (like potential boyfriends) will meet your high bar more often than not.

Don’t Over Praise. In the beginning I caught myself often over praising young staffers for doing good work. My thinking was that I was helping junior workers feel good and that I was helping them to build confidence. Wrong. I quickly learned that the folks that were praised for doing expected work actually did less. The confidence was adorned and the low bar of expectation had been set.

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Compliment and Move On. By the same token, when someone performs above and beyond in execution, creativity and exceptional thinking, do acknowledge with specificity and when truly exceptional, a bonus, gift, or special lunch is always a welcome expression of appreciation.

Inspire and Teach. I absolutely love what I do. Every day I get to be creative, to develop strategy and at the same time be hands on with the tactical execution. This passion and enthusiasm has helped to launch and to grow exceptional young brands. It is this genuine love for “building things” that has become a natural source of inspiration for my employees. PR is a tough profession. It is not for everyone. The highs, the lows, the rejections, the big wins that none of us get to savor and enjoy because we are already moving toward the next, next. But I would not change a thing. And it is this natural love for what I do that my employees see each and every day.

I did not set out to be a manager that leads by inspiration. I was focused on creating a business with a culture and an environment that I wanted to work in. It is in this genuine effort that a management style of inspiring employees to exceed their expectations was born.

Want more tips and anecdotes from a life lived in PR? Check out some of our clients at kimberlystrenkpr.com or Facebook.com/kimberlystrenkpr for the latest musings and rants.