How to Write a PR Brief

Looking for a new Public Relations agency? A PR brief is key to finding a good match.

In my time at the PR coalface, I’ve managed numerous PR agencies and been on the receiving end of countless PR briefs – the good, the bad and the downright shameless i.e. expecting a marathon hoop-jumping exercise and the most over-ambitious of requirements in return for the tiniest of budgets. I’ve also written my fair share of briefs and what follows is my handy checklist – whether you are appointing your first-ever PR agency or freelancer or seeking a new agency to replace your incumbent.

Choosing a PR agency is always nerve-racking experience – mainly due to your fears of appointing the wrong one. That’s why getting your PR brief in order is so important – it reduces that ‘poor choice’ risk and means that you are more likely to find a good match for you and your business.

A good PR brief should challenge and inspire people to want to work with you and do a great job. It should also act as a deterrent, putting off the wrong people for the job.

In terms of the basics, try and limit your brief to a maximum of three pages, invite responses from at least five agencies and select three of the best to come meet you and present their recommendations. Always give feedback and enjoy a great relationship with the people you choose. People always work at their best and their hardest for the people and businesses they like.

Checklist – What to Include in your PR Brief:

Your Brief

A summary of your brief and requirements – you’ll go into more detail later in your brief, but don’t be afraid to sell yourself, especially if you are a start-up or an unknown name. If you are passionate about your business and what you want to achieve, your brief should illustrate that and help encourage the passion and talent of the best PR people to take up the challenge of responding to your brief. You want them to want to work with you.

Background

In this section, you should provide some background information about your company, team, target audiences, key products or service, and your core focus. It is also useful to note some of your competitors and whether, for example, you’ve used a PR agency before. You can refer people to website links for more information.

Objectives

List what you want to achieve – your overall objective and aims.

Don’t be afraid to say what is on your ultimate wish list or what success would look like to you. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Or, in the words of Nora Roberts: “If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.”

Requirements & Measurement

Actual specifics in terms of deliverables – the measurable outcomes you want to achieve. You can also use this section to include the remit i.e. UK-only focus, 12-month campaign, tactics you want including such as social media management.

How the PR agency will be able to demonstrate return of investment will be core moving forward, so outline how the success of the campaign will be measured, and list your key performance indicators (KPIs) such as specifics on deliverables and outcomes i.e. on share of voice, number of leads generated etc.

Budget

Always include details of your maximum budget. Even if it’s a ballpark or sliding scale, the inclusion of a budget will ensure that the responses to your brief are on target. The inclusion of a budget will also help exclude those agencies that ‘don’t get out of bed for less.’

The Process and Timetable

It is always useful to include a timetable of what happens when. For example, when the pitch interview and presentation will take place, and the end date for receiving initial responses. Let the agency know how many agencies you will be inviting to pitch and limit this to a maximum of three. Any more than this – a lot of agencies won’t be willing to take part.

Expectations

Be very clear on your expectations for pitch the process and the next steps.

For example, confirm that you require the presentation to be carried out by the people/person who would be working on the account. Some agencies, unfortunately, bring out their best people to wow you at the presentation stage, only to leave the business lumbered with an inexperienced junior.

I always also recommend that you ask for testimonials and contact details for their clients you can speak to.

Confidentiality and Any Other Business

In this section you can add in important clauses such as confidentiality.

In order to understand your business better, some agencies will want to talk to some of your customers and key media and to ensure they get a better feel for your business and what you need to achieve. Be very clear if you DON’T want this to happen.

Contact Details

Stating the obvious here, but include your details so the PR agency has a point of contact to get further information and knows who they can speak to as part of their research.

Need to Know More?

Hope you’ve found my checklist on how to write a PR brief useful. If you want to know more, or require a little extra help, please give me a shout. If it’s writing a marketing brief you want help with, check out this blog post on how to write a marketing brief by our friends at Watertight Marketing.

Finally, some tips from those in the know on what you should include in your PR brief:

Daljit Bhurji from Diffusion: “Be crystal clear on your maximum budget and set very clear measurable KPIs for your prospective agency.”

Patrick Smith at Joshua PR: “Be honest about your real requirements.”

Bryony Thomas, Watertight Marketing: “Why people would be interested.”

FINAL CREDITS 

Photo by Dustin Lee at Unsplash

 

Ellen Carroll

Ellen Carroll is a strategic PR and communication consultant. I provide PR training, mentoring and consultancy to help people and businesses to step out of the shadows with #PRthatPAYS

Find me on: Web | Twitter

National Business News and Journalist Job Changes

We never like to miss out on a great media opportunity here at Nellie PR.   That’s why keeping up to date with the media movers and shakers is so important, helping us to maintain and build great relationships with journalists, producers and many more.

Keeping track of these changes can be time consuming, so to help, we’ve launched a new blog series with a round up of some of the changes that have caught our eye recently.

This week we bring you the latest from the national and business media.

The Times

The Times has recently launched a daily politics focused email newsletter called Red Box.  Set up in partnership with YouGov, Red Box is a free daily political briefing written by Philip Webster of The Times and Tim Shipman of The Sunday Times.  The newsletter will also feature YouGov poll results.

You can sign-up to receive Red Box here: http://redbox.thetimes.co.uk/signup/ and get the latest via Twitter @timesredbox.

The Telegraph

Peter Spence, previously senior online writer for City A.M, is the new economics correspondent at The Daily Telegraph.  He’ll also be looking after economics stories for The Sunday Telegraph and telegraph.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter @Pete_Spence.

City A.M

Catherine Neilan has joined City A.M as social media editor, having been news editor at Drapers, whilst Emma Haslett is the new City A.M web editor, joining from Management Today.

Catch-up with them on Twitter @CatNeilan and @EmmaHaslett.

Sky News

Sky News kicked-off a brand new evening show ‘Sky News Tonight’ on 1 September, hosted by Adam Boulton and Sarah Hewson.  From 7-9pm on weekdays, the show will feature high-profile guests, social media, analysis and much more.

Follow the programme on Twitter via @SkyNewsTonight

London Live

London Live, the first 24 hour TV channel dedicated to the capital and launched in March 2014, has announced it is looking to focus on news and current affairs and will not be commissioning entertainment shows in the future.  The commissioning and programming team will be reassigned into the news and current affairs team.

Follow the channel @LondonLive

Watch this space for our next media update, coming soon!

Ellen Carroll

Ellen Carroll is a strategic PR and communication consultant. I provide PR training, mentoring and consultancy to help people and businesses to step out of the shadows with #PRthatPAYS

Find me on: Web | Twitter

The Changing Face of the Western Morning News

If you believe the headlines, the traditional newspaper is on its way out. The rise of digital news platforms and social media has changed the way find and read the news.  As a result, newspaper circulations have dwindled, newsrooms have shrunk and many of our daily papers have switched to weeklies.

But the Western Morning News (WMN), our region’s flagship daily covering the news from Penzance to Taunton, seems to be bucking this trend, having launched a brand new Sunday print edition in June this year – making them one of the only daily papers to publish an additional, paid for print title in recent years.

Last week, we were invited to meet with Bill Martin editor of the WMN at a PR event hosted by Astley Media.  This was a great opportunity to find out exactly how the paper is adapting to the new age of publishing, get an insight into its new Sunday edition, and how the paper is looking to working with PR’s and businesses in the region moving forward.

Bill, who moved from The Herald in Plymouth to become WMN editor in 2012, started off explaining the big changes that have taken place at the paper, and the wider South West Media Group.  Previously owned by Northcliffe Media, the paper was acquired by Local World in 2012 and has undergone a major restructure, from the inside out.

Long gone are the traditional newspaper structures, with separate editors for business, farming, property etc.  Responsibilities at the WMN are now spread across a team of ‘content editors’, working on a range of stories at any one time.  These content editors are now not only looking after written content, but also, video, photography and more.

So what do these changes mean for PRs, clients and businesses in the South West?   Bill explained, that like most papers, the WMN is hungry for content and always on the lookout for interesting news and topical features.  They want great stories, delivered in a high quality content package to include interviews, images, infographics, and even short video.  But crucially, this shift means that quality of content from PR people has never been more important.

Content needs to be carefully thought-out, with a clear purpose and of value to the reader. And if it’s not, then don’t be surprised when it doesn’t appear in the paper or online!

The WMN is also making big investments to improve its website.  As 70% of all its web traffic now comes from mobile devices and with nearly 40,000 Twitter followers, the paper is also carefully planning the future of its mobile offering.  Something else to keep in mind when pitching ideas or send through stories.

Bill then went on to talk about the launch of the new WMN Sunday edition, which has clearly been a big, but hugely exciting project for the whole team. The WMN on Sunday aims to offer something totally different – a newspaper that people both want to, and have time to read on the weekend.  Looking at the new edition, it certainly has a very different look and feel to the weekday paper, and will focus on Westcountry living, health, education and travel.  There’s also a chunky business section, with features, opinion and discussion pieces.

But perhaps the most exciting development is the launch of West magazine, edited by Becky Sheaves – and very much like a Sunday lifestyle supplement.  Female-focused, West offers fashion and family features, real life stories, health and lifestyle all with a Westcountry backdrop. In fact, Bill suggested that the supplement has gone down so well with readers, they are now planning to add more pages, by moving the all important TV listings into the main paper.

All in all, the new WMN on Sunday means lots of new opportunities, to get our clients seen and heard in the region.  Here’s some top tips we want to share with you on securing coverage for you and your business in the WMN:

–       Stories are almost always published on the web first now, taking more precedence over print, so think about timing carefully

–       Get to know the sections (and who is writing them) before pitching your idea forward.  We’ve put together a helpful media profile below

–       Bespoke content is the way forward – so its always worth planning a great quality content package

–       Don’t forget to think about where content will be read, make sure it works for mobile too

–       There is still a place for the press release, but make sure it’s covering a proper announcement, event or achievement.

Many thanks Bill Martin to taking the time to come and talk to us, and to Astley Media for organising the event. 

Western Morning News media profile:

Founded: 1860
Geographical coverage: Devon, Cornwall, and parts of Somerset and Dorset
Political alignment: Liberal
Supplement sections:
Monday – Sport
Tues – Living Cornwall
Weds – Westcountry farming, WoMaN
Thurs – Business
Fri – Introduction to the weekend, what’s on, sport,
Saturday – Property, arts and antiques, Westcountry life
Sunday – Living, health, education, travel, business, West magazine supplement

Additional supplements:
WMN Annual Business Guide in July, Fast Growth 75 supplement, and the WMN Business Awards.

Ellen Carroll

Ellen Carroll is a strategic PR and communication consultant. I provide PR training, mentoring and consultancy to help people and businesses to step out of the shadows with #PRthatPAYS

Find me on: Web | Twitter

Are B2B and B2C communications different animals?

If you are looking at undertaking a PR campaign, the very first thing you need to consider is who your target audience is.

This might sound like stating the obvious, but if you want to communicate with a business audience, you will need to take a different approach than if you are aiming at consumers.

People who make buying decisions for businesses usually have to justify their purchase in terms of how it will improve a process, address issues, save time and of course, money. For these buyers, hard facts and figures about the features and performance of the product or service, and the pain points they address, are vitally important.

For consumers, the buying decision is a more emotional one. How many times have we all bought things on impulse, because we just liked the look of it, or because we wanted a particular brand of clothing, mobile phone, car or whatever it might be.

The easiest way to think about it is that business buyers want to know how the product will help to ultimately improve the bottom line, whereas consumers want to know how it will benefit them personally. How does the product make them feel better about themselves and how other people view them?

This has an impact on how you promote yourself and what media you use. If you are looking to get your message across to business buyers, you need to know what magazines and blogs they are likely to be reading and make sure that you target those publications and sites with articles and press releases that will be of interest to the readers.  You need to know how best to reach them directly and indirectly through key influencers such as the media.

Anything you write needs to be full of relevant facts and figures, and should focus on the benefits of your product to the business. The cost of the purchase in a B2B context is usually more expensive, so it is also important to get across the credentials of your business.

Potential customers will want to know how long you’ve been trading, what other clients you have and how financially stable you are. In the B2B sector, it can sometimes take several years before a decision is taken to buy, so you also need to take a long term approach, having one hit in the media is unlikely to be of much benefit to you.

It is also important to build strong relationships with journalists in key trade publications and build up your reputation with them, so that they will potentially turn to you if they want someone from your industry to comment on a particular issue, or to find out what is the latest news from your sector.

At Nellie, we have years of experience in B2B communications in many different industries. If you would like to find out how we could help your business, please drop us a line at hello@nelliepr.co.uk

 

Ellen Carroll

Ellen Carroll is a strategic PR and communication consultant. I provide PR training, mentoring and consultancy to help people and businesses to step out of the shadows with #PRthatPAYS

Find me on: Web | Twitter