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.

Getting a Head Start on a New Year

Projects + Events
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Don’t get me wrong, I love, love each and every moment of the holiday season. Extra time with family and friends, festive parties, and the demonstrated expressions of giving and gratitude are especially sweet. But as the Thanksgiving turkey and pumpkin pie buzz begins to lift, it feels like we are suddenly ringing in the New Year. The year’s end signals the time to prepare for the year to come. As we celebrate another great year at KSPR, here are just some of the key mantras buzzing in our heads as we plan for an even better 2014.

Don’t hit repeat. Data is your friend. Look at the initiatives and key programs that were successful and, more importantly, take a look at those that did not meet expectations. Define the metrics that matter. It’s tempting to stick with what you’ve done before but that’s a mistake. We are so busy and so focused on next, next, next that often we forget all that we accomplished. The year’s end is an opportunity to look at the big wins once again (this part is fun) and record best practices for next year. Just as critical, it is a chance to take a good, unemotional look at the efforts that did not yield the desired results. Best lessons to carry forward are often learned when things did not execute perfectly.

Reinvent. Learn from wins and losses but always keep space for something new and brilliant. We are not about plugging into existing templates and calling it done. This is not strategic and will not garner the big, shiny wins. One of my favorite anecdotes occurred early on in building my company; a prospective client asked within 10 minutes of our very first meeting, “Well, what will you do for me?” Sorry, but if what you do is so generic that I can plug it into a PR playbook, than you need more than PR, you need a really big, really robust marketing and advertising budget. The intersection of fresh ideas and focused execution is what differentiates us from the rest.

Focus on the product. Our clients are firmly in the consumer products and services space. We meet with them to understand where they want to go next. What are the key investments planned? What products and services did their customers buy and what was left on the shelf?  Why? What products and services continue into next year? What are the new introductions and when? What is marketing and sales planning to do to support? In the course of these discussions, we plan accordingly for seasonal, launch and event initiatives around core and new products and services. Deep in the trenches of metrics and planning, we never lose sight of the product.

New metrics. Once key product manufacturing and deliveries are confirmed, we put ourselves in the planning stages of these marketing and sales discussions so that PR initiatives are aligned with the business. If we can influence and align at the planning stages, we are doing all that we can to ensure that efforts and resources are aligned with the important metrics for business success. This is how we ensure our relevancy and seriously, this makes what we do much more interesting. No one here likes execution for the sake of execution. Results tied to metrics of business success are where we live to work.

In our world, Christmas in July is a reality as the consumer magazines search for the best of the best for their holiday gift guides. By the time the holidays are under way, feeling a little ‘been there done that.’ But the planning and strategy for what’s next has always been the fun part. Thinking about next year won’t take my enjoyment away from the actual holiday festivities. In fact, they will be that much sweeter with the knowledge that we are prepped and ready for what’s on the horizon. Here’s to a wonderful holiday season and anticipation for more to come in the New Year.

One Year One Video

Projects + Events

We put this video recap together for our awesome client, bambeco. Last year (2010) was our first full year working with this emerging, powerhouse eco-retailer.  It is always a challenge summarizing your work in any format, but I think we did a good job capturing bambeco’s story in this short video.  Let us know what you think!

Call out to Vance Spicer, a NY based music and video producer for creating this with us.  Surrounding ourselves with smart + creative people always makes us look good.

Best,

Kimberly

RISE Logo

RISE Austin, PR for Small Business

Errant Musings, Projects + Events

Very often I am asked to share PR insights and best practices.  PR is such a misunderstood profession that I relish these opportunities to share, educate and inspire.  My goal is to break down PR myths, one presentation at a time.   Just this past week for example I had the chance to host a RISE (Relationship and Information Series for Entrepreneurs) session, “PR for Small Business.”

Although, PR should be such an integral part of any business, most business owners don’t approach PR with an understanding of how it fits into their overall business strategy.   My focus for the session was to provide a solid framework for thinking about a business-aligned communication strategy.  That is to say, to create guidelines for all external communications. Businesses need to have a proactive approach to PR as opposed to a reactive approach, i.e. they should actively seek PR opportunities that will move the needle on their business, not just respond to whatever might come their way. In order to create a true business communications strategy, PR should have a seat at the table when business goals are being mapped out.  If not, a true business aligned communications strategy is not a realistic goal.

When I launched my namesake firm almost 3 years ago, I began with a simple premise that has guided my business; I stick to what I know and love and the business will grow.  I was fortunate to have learned the craft and honed my skills while working with some of the most respected and beloved consumer brands, from Williams Sonoma to Nordstrom and many companies in between. An insider perspective is what is needed to create and sustain a brand that evokes a positive, loyal consumer response.  There is no magic bullet.  Understanding smart PR and being able to execute consistently in partnership with marketing is a powerful business driver.

Kimberly Strenk PR is a boutique lifestyle PR agency.  We focus on promising young companies in the premium brand space.  Premium is not about a price point.  In our lexicon, it means that a company delivers on their consumer promise.   Sound simple?  Companies have to do what they say they will do and offer up products and services that delights the consumer.   That is why we are successful delivering consistent and sometimes spectacular results; the story is real. That is when PR can be realized as a truly powerful and strategic asset.

With that, let’s jump right in:  Common (PR) Myths

Common Myths

  • You need a big budget. Social media and proliferation of specialized boutique agencies makes it easier to do PR on a smaller budget.
  • Editorial = Advertising. Editorial is not the same as advertising. Editorial is earned. Advertising is paid.  Talk about ROI!.
  • If I could just get on Oprah. A press hit like this is a gift, say thank you and move onto a sustainable + strategic plan.
  • It’s all about spin. Authenticity is the benchmark. Consumers have a voice because of social media.  Be real, be consistent and deliver on the consumer promise.  A company that relies on their PR agency to “spin” the story will not be sustainable in today’s environment of instant publication and connectivity.
  • Just do it. There is no short cut.Competitive analysis and smart planning BEFORE execution will always pay dividends.

Simple Truths

  • Be real. Avoid hyperbole.  Are you really the only, the fastest, the first and the best?
  • Keep it simple. No jargon or trendy catchphrases, please.
  • Focus is your friend. Prioritize.  None of us can do it all, all of the time.
  • Let the story unfold. As your business grows and captures important milestones, always communicate the vision and let the facts speak for themselves.
  • Share. So busy moving forward and executing day to day, don’t forget to communicate your successes.

Now that we have some basic ground rules, how do we get started?

Getting Started: Internal

  • Who are you. What’s your story.  How did you get here?
  • What makes you special. Understand what makes you stand out from the crowd.  Be able to articulate this.
  • Identify key influencers.  Who are the people in your industry, in your marketplace and in your social circle who can impact your business?  Identify these influencers and prepare to reach out to these folks.
  • Build your network.  You can’t do this alone.  From employees, to vendors and contractors, surround yourself with talented and smart people that can become trusted advisers beyond their individual contributor role.

You’ve done your homework, let’s start communicating.

Getting Started: External

  • Feedback. AKA “friendly bullet proofing” is the first stop.  Ask people in your network to listen to your story and have them tell you what they think.  Do people outside your industry understand your story?  Are you compelling?  If not, why not?
  • Prioritize your battles. Again, remember to focus and prioritize.  Don’t get discouraged and feel overwhelmed.  There’s a lot you could do.   What can you do today? And what can be pushed out?
  • Be consistent across all touch points. Your brand should look and feel the same everywhere. Think about how adults process and learn, as espoused by “Consciousness of Competence” theory.  Basically, an adult has to see a message/new idea four different times to really process and learn it.   This theory of adult learning can be applied to branding as well. Logos, business cards, web sites, FB, twitter and messages all need the same look and feel.  Create an identity kit and share it with all your contractors and business partners who work on your behalf.  Everyone should speak with the same voice.
  • Low hanging fruit. Long-term goals are essential to your business, but short-term goals will serve to give you momentum and open up immediate opportunities. Local based business?  Reach out to your local editor who covers your industry and book a meeting.  These folks are tasked to cover their beat in their local market.  They are always looking for great new products and services to share with their readers. Don’t make all your wins long term: you need some achievable wins in the short term, too.

The participants generated some great dialogue and discussion points.  I encourage them and you to post questions on our FB wall facebook.com/kimberlystrenkpr.

Here’s link to the PPT preso I used:  Austin RISE 2011, PR for Small Business.  Was this helpful?  Do you have other tips or best practices that worked for your business?

Best,

Kimberly