Turning a PR fling into a long-term thing
What do David and Victoria Beckham, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, and Jay Z and Beyonce have in common? They’ve all been in a relationship for over a decade, in some cases much longer. On the other end of the spectrum, Sex and the City fans will know that Carrie Bradshaw prided herself on being a successful single lady – when she wasn’t halfway through her latest fling or falling in love with Mr. Big, of course. When it comes to relationships, some people are in it for the long-haul, and others just aren’t ready to settle down.
The same can be said when thinking about engaging with a PR agency. Project-based engagements – the flings of the agency world – are great for a quick-fix, a short term gain when only a small pocket of budget is available. But for those ready for a long-term relationship, retainer engagements enable you to build up credibility with the media and the industry, integrate PR into the wider business strategy and keep the spark going by adding value to other areas of the organisation too.
First date anxiety
We’ve all been there: you’re walking towards the restaurant with absolutely no idea how the next few hours (or minutes, if it’s disastrous) will go. First there’s the introductions, the small talk, the discussion of similar interests. Then, you decide it won’t be a long-term thing, and you have to introduce yourself to your next date – the media and market – all over again the next time.
When you choose to settle down, and as your relationship grows, the introductions will no longer be necessary. The steady stream of content pushed out to the market in various forms through a structured PR campaign will mean that not only your market, but the media will start to know your name.
Calling all commitment-phobes
If you’ve been burned by a bad relationship in the past, it can understandably take a while to get over the heartache. Despite people telling you that Mr. or Mrs. Right is waiting for you right around the corner, it’s hard to move on and tell yourself that it will be better next time.
But really, you can’t be scared forever. Project-based engagements are great for dipping your toe in the water – isn’t everyone secretly up for a project? – but there will come a time when you’ll need to commit and start planning for the future. After all, a project might help you to quickly launch a new product or build a lot of noise in a short amount of time, but a retained PR engagement will enable you to consider the longer-term needs of your business and think about which areas you’ll be focusing on in the coming months. Planning can be daunting, but a committed relationship is also very rewarding; whether it’s months travelling around Europe (a quarter-long plan for PR leading up to an event) or a weekend away to the countryside (getting a blog series planned, drafted and posted to help the sales and digital team), plans are a good way of being able to justify your future spending to the Board.
Stop playing hard-to-get
The foundation for any successful relationship is honesty, transparency and good communication. A retained PR engagement lets you build your relationship – both client/agency side and with the media – ensuring both parties know what is expected of them. Another important part of any relationship is that both sides are equal, and the same extends to a relationship with your PR agency. No one likes a game-player, and being in a relationship will make sure that you’re both on the same page, with no hidden secrets or agendas.
Meet the parents
When the time comes, you’ll have to meet the parents (Directors), the grandparents (the Board), the siblings (sales team), cousins (Heads of Department)… the list could be endless. It might seem overwhelming, but actually, meeting the whole family is the best way to really get stuck into the business and make the relationship mutually beneficial. Whilst not necessarily appropriate for a single project, for a retained PR engagement however, this really helps to align messaging across the organisation and make sure everyone is working together towards the collaborative end goal. Whether that might be sales, raising brand awareness, launching a new product or getting ahead of the competition, you can work it out together.
Keeping the spark alive
If you find that your long-term relationship has taken a turn down an unimaginative road, then it’s time to put some spark back in. But, long-term doesn’t have to mean boring. Creativity is essential for finding new ways of delivering an organisation’s message to the market, and for finding innovative ways to speak to the press about the different issues your company can help to solve.
Things change and people evolve. It’s important to stay up to date with the latest trends (have you tried alphabet dating?) and tools so that you’re always able to keep things fresh. Try new things, get new people involved with the campaign and reach out to new publications to keep the campaign moving along and make sure the market stays interested in what you have to say.
Finding the one
If you aren’t ready to commit or you fancy trying something new, a project is a great way to get news out and focus attention on a certain area for a short amount of time. But for a long-lasting relationship, credibility within the industry and a strong reputation that will last, a retained PR engagement is the way forward. If you’ve tried it before and it didn’t work out, it could just mean that you haven’t yet found the one.