Onboarding a PR Agency: 6 Effective Steps for Businesses

by | Feb 22, 2024 | Communication, Media Strategy, Strategy

Did you just sign a contract with a new PR agency? Congratulations! Finding the right partner takes significant work, but the real work has just begun once you’ve signed the dotted line.

After a choice has been made on an agency, it’s crucial for everyone involved to understand how both parties will need to work together to meet the desired goals. You don’t just push a button on PR with guaranteed, instant media coverage. Various steps need to be implemented, and a flow of information must come first before your desired results can be achieved.

This starts with an effective onboarding process with your new agency. If conducted smoothly, onboarding can set the tone for a successful partnership and engage all stakeholders in the plan. Without it, the client-agency partnership will become challenging.

Use these six tips as a guide to effectively onboard a new PR agency:

1. Kick-off Meetings

Internal kick-off: First, schedule an internal meeting with everyone who will be involved with the PR agency, such as the marketing/communications team and key executives at your business or organization. Explain what agency you are partnering with and why you chose to partner with them, and review the agreed-upon scope of work. This will make sure everyone involved on your team has all of the information and clarity on initial priorities.

Agency kick-off: Another common initial step to any new client onboarding is for your new agency to schedule a kick-off meeting. 

  • What to expect: During an extensive meeting, they will walk through a list of questions to discover your business and goals and understand your expectations. These questions will focus on what they need to know to build a foundation for PR success and the initial strategy.
  • Your role: Ask your new PR team to send the onboarding agenda well in advance so you can prepare feedback and questions of your own. Be sure to invite your core stakeholders to this meeting and spend time reflecting and aligning on your priorities beforehand. Then, come ready to communicate your specific PR objectives, whether it be increasing brand awareness, promoting product launches, supporting content drafting, growing your social media following or managing potential crises. Tell the agency more about yourself, the structure of your communications department and where you can see them being most helpful.

2. Ask Questions

Investing and onboarding the right PR agency can be scary. Overcome these worries by asking direct questions. No question is a silly one at the onset of a partnership! Get curious by asking questions such as: 

  • Who will be my main point of contact? How will communications work – frequency, medium, by whom? What if I need to reach someone after regular business hours?
  • Can you explain your process for securing and coordinating media opportunities? 
  • Can you explain your process for drafting content pieces? How does it differ for a press release, blog, social media posts, etc.?
  • How do you plan to immerse yourself in our industry and brand?
  • What is your approach to creating a PR strategy that aligns with our goals?
  • Can you describe a time when you had to pivot a strategy for a client?
  • Can you share examples of your work with similar businesses or industries?
  • How do you measure and report on success?
  • What can I expect from you in the coming days, weeks and months?
  • When will you deliver our initial PR strategy? 
  • When can we host recurring calls to check in on PR efforts?

3. Goal-setting

Be transparent with your sales and marketing goals and where you see PR fitting in that picture. Walk away knowing you have shared everything possible to help your new agency start to cultivate a deep understanding of your goals and a shared vision of success. It’s essential that your new agency partner understands where you’re coming from and your expectations. 

  • As part of this, share what key publications, newsletters, journalists, analysts and influencers are essential to your business.
  • If you have worked with another PR agency in the past, explain what you did and didn’t like about that relationship.
  • Also, be ready to name 3-5 competitors to your organization and explain what you do better or differently.

4. Funnel Information

Prepare materials and subject matter experts to help the agency understand your organization. This will include key messaging, marketing/communications calendars, campaign decks, leadership bios, organizing meet-and-greets to inform other stakeholders, and putting the right processes in place to capitalize on media opportunities. You should also create a shared folder with headshots, logos, photos/videos, brand guidelines, etc.

5. Review and Adjust

Talk about establishing a system for regular review meetings with your PR team to assess the effectiveness of current strategies and adapt. If an initial PR strategy isn’t going as expected, or if internal priorities have changed, you need a flow of communication to ensure your PR partner is aware and can pivot to meet your changing objectives and priorities.

6. True Partnership

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, you must think of your agency as an extension of your team. Parry Headrick, founder of Crackle PR, put it this way: “You can’t hire a PR agency, throw them the keys, and expect them to drive a thriving program without putting skin in the game yourself.” Your investment in PR has to come at a time when not only the marketing/communications team but also the executive team will prioritize it and devote internal resources to communications as a critical business function.

All of this is possible with a collaborative onboarding process where both parties come to the conversation ready to engage fully, share openly and commit to achieving shared goals. Dittoe PR’s onboarding process is one of the reasons why our clients have trusted us for 25 years. Contact us if you’re ready to engage with a PR agency with proven, comprehensive onboarding.

Dittoe PR

Dittoe PR is a nationally recognized public relations and social media management agency.

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