Once upon a time, I was a corporate communications director. I worked at a large industrial and manufacturing company that had business operations in six different industries with close to 5,000 employees and more than $1.5 billion in annual revenues.
I was multitasking like crazy, trying to keep track of crises popping up in each industry while determining ways to better communicate to our key audiences proactively. In addition to updating websites, writing newsletters and writing news releases, there were mining accidents, protests, and environmental issues that I had to understand and then communicate to the public.
From that experience, I know that corporate communications professionals are always tasked with much more work than they could ever possibly complete. Now, as a principal for a PR agency, I try to make life easier for people in corporate communications jobs like the one I once held.
Here are 10 ways a PR agency can help a corporate communications director or manager succeed. A public relations agency can:
Help you decide where to use internal resources and when to outsource
You will need to decide, for example, whether to ask someone on your team to take on web updates or to instead work with firms that specializes in web content, design or programming. The agency will help you ask key questions: Do we have someone with this skill set? If we hire for this job, will the new staff person have enough work to do? Is the work from our internal team of a high enough quality for our industry?
When a PR agency with significant communications experience comes on board, they will get to know your business, understand your niche and its norms, and be able to advise on where it makes sense to outsource tasks.
Connect you with local media relationships
Corporate communications professionals often have a misconception that the only thing PR agencies do is write news releases and get media coverage. Quality PR agencies do much more than that. Also, most of the time, when an organization is featured in the news, it’s not the result of news releases sent out via the newswire—it’s the result of long-standing relationships with editors and reporters for key news outlets, or positioning the news in a way where it appeals to a targeted audience.
A PR agency should be able to text the local newspaper’s business reporter, and should also have relationships across the media landscape. They should be familiar with your industry’s trade publications, important local web outlets and social accounts, and other elected officials, business leaders, and newsmakers in your area.
Develop communications plans
When you start a corporate communications job, everyone will tell you you’re “hitting the ground running” and “drinking from a firehose.” Immediately, there will be more to do and more to learn than is possible. Out of necessity, you will focus on what’s next, not necessarily what’s most important.
Working with a PR agency can help you set longer-term PR goals and craft a strategy that gets you closer to meeting those goals. Having worked with other clients in your industry or local area, a PR agency will also help you gauge what’s realistic as you set those goals.
Prioritize a crisis communications plan
The worst time to create a communications plan for dealing with a crisis is in the middle of a crisis. Unfortunately, a lot of communications directors don’t have time to work on one until it’s absolutely necessary.
Working with an experienced PR agency can help you brainstorm what types of crises your company could face (a lawsuit with sensational allegations, for example, or an unexpected change in your leadership) and help you draft a game plan for each scenario. This may seem like something your internal team could do alone, but we have found that many clients benefit from our crisis communications experience, along with our ability to help make creating the plan a priority. Ultimately, this approach saves the company time, because if a plan is already in place when a crisis hits, it’s easier to adapt it to the exact circumstances than to draw up something from scratch under pressure.
Verify or support your strategy or approach
You may find that senior leaders at your organization are more apt to listen to “experts” than their internal teams, especially if they are risk-averse and you are advocating for a new approach. A PR agency can not only validate your approach but also back up your estimates for cost and time of deliverables. You may find that, in addition to supporting your ideas, your PR agency is also good at talking your organization out of costly mistakes. Your monotone CEO wants to start a podcast? Your CFO wants to ignore a reporter asking questions about a story the company wishes would not be written?
Your PR team leaders should be trusted advisors who can have tough conversations with key stakeholders.
Train team members or executives
Looking at your communications strategy, your PR agency can help you evaluate your training needs. You may have a great campaign planned, but it won’t be successful unless everyone who creates external messaging or talks to the public is on board. Custom training from your PR agency can help ensure that the same messaging is being shared from every part of your organization, while also advising on ongoing training needs. For example, do you have a new CEO or spokesperson? This person might need help in knowing how to deliver messages in a way that’s authentic to them and in line with the overall communications strategy (and your crisis plan).
Your PR agency can also help when you hire new team members in the marketing or communications department by ensuring a continuity in standards and strategy. And don’t forget that anyone who is going to speak externally--making a sales call, meeting people at a Chamber of Commerce event, or talking to a reporter—should have some level of media training.
Provide referrals to other professionals
Working with many clients in a variety of industries allows PR agencies to get to know local professionals who can help your company, including attorneys, accountants, web designers, graphic designers, event planners, and others. You should be able to rely on your PR agency not only for referrals but also for gut-checks on budgets. Clients often ask us questions like, “is this too much to pay for a website?”
Your PR agency will know professionals who are skilled, good to work with, and fair.
Work as part of your event team
As a corporate communications director, you probably find that you often play an important role in managing events, including facility openings, press conferences, community meetings, and charity fundraisers. A PR agency can advise on successful event strategies, set the run of show and write talking points, hire and manage a photographer, encourage attendance, secure media coverage, and be an additional set of eyes and hands on site. Recently, our agency had the pleasure of helping to raise visibility for the ribbon-cutting for a new bar in a hotel owned by one of our clients.
Most event planning companies will have some PR experience, but when you’ve invested time and money in your event, you want to make sure your PR agency is involved and can help the event be successful.
Help plan an advertorial budget and strategy
Advertorials – news-style stories that run in advertising space - can be effective tools in your communications arsenal. But if you’re unfamiliar with creating advertorials or with the local media market, you probably have a lot of questions on how your company should get started. How much should an advertorial cost? Where should you place them? How sales-y should they be? How do you know whether they’re working? Is it important that they have a digital presence?
Your PR agency will be able to help you craft and place advertorials as well as advise you on how advertorials fit into your advertising budget and your content strategy.
You know you need a website and that your website needs content. But whose job is it to write that content? As an example of what a PR agency can do, we work with an accounting firm that doesn’t have a full-time communications team. They don’t task their CPAs with writing blog posts--their skill set is math, not writing. Instead, they work collaboratively with our team to brainstorm topics for blog posts, then we work with their experts and craft the posts.
A PR agency can help a corporate communications director create content on an ongoing basis, like for website updates, newsletters, or social media, or for special projects, like annual reports.
Essentially, the goal of a good PR agency is to help the organization by making the corporate communications director or manager feel (and look!) like a rock star. If you have questions about how a PR agency can help your corporate team, join us for a free consultation call.
[gravityform id="2" title="true" description="true"]