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How to brief a PR consultancy – for tech businesses

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Briefing a PR consultant or a PR agency is not the same as briefing other creative suppliers, so I am writing this post to try to fill that knowledge gap. If you are wondering how to brief a PR consultancy, these thoughts should help you prepare, whether you are working with an independent or freelance PR consultant or a larger PR agency.

Often in a first conversation people ask, “what exactly do you do?” I don’t believe anyone would ask this question of an exhibition designer, or a photographer or even a copywriter. A PR consultant is working to promote good stories about their client and help build their brand. Also PR should help people to understand an organisation better. For smaller and medium-sized technology businesses, the PR work is usually part of the marketing communications remit. When clients understand how a PR consultancy works, they can provide a better brief for their PR consultant.

When you meet your PR advisor for the first time they will ask questions so that they can prepare a proposal for you. First they will want to understand your communications goals, constraints and budgets. Then they will want to know what kind of “material” there will be for them to work with.

Briefing a PR consultant

There are certain assets that can help your PR campaign to be huge success. Your PR consultancy will ask you about these during the briefing.

Your PR consultant will be looking for real facts and stories about your company, which can be published. These are not the same as sales material which is often one-sided and unsubstantiated. Case studies, news of contract wins, investments, senior management hires and useful recent research are all real news and good information “assets”. For the technology marketing audience, I would say that “white papers” are not as useful now as they were a few years ago. This is because there is now so much long marketing content, and attention spans are shorter. This means that white papers are not as useful as they used to be.

More PR assets for a successful campaign

Visuals are a surprisingly important asset and are always useful: photos, drawings, technical diagrams or charts.  Publishers are looking for images to enliven their pages so attractive illustrations have a high value. It is not unknown for a story to be published just because it has a good photo. A great photo might make the front cover of a print publication. If an editor has to choose between two equally good news stories where one has lovely photos and the other doesn’t, it’s a no-brainer, they would publish the story with the lovely photography. Therefore, if your senior managers want to raise their profile, they should have professional photos taken. They will be far more comfortable having their image online or in print, if they know they have a flattering, glossy business photo, and the investment in proper photography usually pays off.

PR spokespeople

This leads us to spokespeople. Writing about companies comes down to the art of telling stories and sharing industry information. This means that a company’s spokesman is a key asset. An ideal spokesman is a senior executive who is able to answer questions at relatively short notice, and this should be an individual who has a good grasp of industry trends and sentiment, and is not afraid to give an opinion or criticise the status quo.

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