How to prepare a brief for a PR agency

I’ve delivered over 100 ‘pitches’ to potential new clients in the last decade and I can honestly say that the content of those pitches has been a surprise to many of the recipients. In some cases this is because the scope of services I was offering was wider than other the other agencies presented. But in other instances it was simply because the prospect didn’t know too much about technical PR in the first instance.

There’s nothing wrong with that; if you were a PR expert you would probably be working in the industry. But you do need to know enough about the subject to properly brief a potential agent.
If I’m brutally honest most companies looking for technical PR or engineering PR agencies don’t put together a written brief to send to potential agencies at all. Most rely on a verbal brief, which is why I always insist on a first meeting before the pitch. I treat this meeting as a ‘requirements capture’ in the same way that a Web or graphic design agency would.

However, for those of you in the technical sectors who are planning to put together a written brief, the following guidelines established by Technology PR Services for the IT and telecoms sector would be a good place to start.

• Ensure that the PR Brief reflects your true needs – i.e. the strategy and objectives of the business
• Throughout the pitch process, engage with agencies and be as open and accessible as possible
• Screen agencies to ensure you proceed with only those agencies that are aligned to your needs; and keep short-lists short!
• Be clear and realistic with regards to budgets
• Set a realistic timeline: give agencies time to develop meaningful proposals as it will benefit the business in the long run
• Aim to have all stakeholders reach a consensus about the PR needs and goals; and to have all decision makers involved in the pitch process
• Be clear about evaluation criteria: both in terms of the agency selection process and measuring the success of your PR
• Be honest about the review process: don’t use it to pressure an incumbent; don’t use it to harvest free ideas

I think that if you stick to these basic ideas, you may well find that the written brief you end up with is substantial enough to help you make the right choice first time. You might not get as many nice surprises, but you will certainly avoid the nasty ones.

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Richard Stone

Stone Junction is a cool technical PR agency based in Stafford. We work for all sorts of businesses, with a particular focus on technology, technical and engineering companies. We like being sent cake and biscuits by clients, journalists and prospects.

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