Brief encounters: How to write a PR brief

Brief encounters: How to write a PR brief

Claire Walker

Claire Walker

Your PR brief is essentially your key to finding the right partner for your business and you should be thinking about it that way. Every employee in your business needs to play a part in achieving the company’s business goals, be it sales figures, profit, or website hits. This applies to the PR agency you’re going to hire as well.

It shouldn’t be a case of ‘I have some budget, let’s do a bit of PR stuff’. A thoughtful, strategic approach is needed to generate a brief that focuses on business needs, and includes ‘proposal expectations’ which must link to those needs. This will get PR agencies thinking about what your business really needs, and will cut out any superficial fluff and nonsense! A PR brief base tailored to business needs allows you to check if the agencies in the pitch process are demonstrating an ability to understand and support your desired business goals.

This brief and pitch stage of the PR process is the first step towards getting business critical PR right. Similar to how we suss out suitable friends or partners from a first meeting, the pitch process is a first stage to seeing how agencies might approach PR. Getting business expectations into the brief gets the PR agencies' line of thinking ingrained with the business strategy of the company, and not an activity that’s simply running alongside the business, or worse at a tangent. This is also a chance for you to see which agency is ‘a keeper’, with the potential to become a long term business partner.

Here are four tips for you as communications professionals to keep in mind while creating a PR brief:

  1. It starts at the very beginning - Know what you are looking for

Much like on a first date, you need to be clear on what you want in a partner. Part of that involves knowing how you want them to fit into your life, the goals you want to achieve, and also communicating this clearly to your potential partner so they know what you want.

As communications professionals, you need to be clear on the business objectives of your company and convey this to the PR agency you’re intending to work with. Whether this is a specific sales target, sign-ups to a service or attendance at a particular event, be sure to pick out at least three clear business objectives for your company that will determine the communication objectives, and ultimately PR activities for your agency.

  1. Straight talking - Know your PR and communication objectives

Once you’ve clearly laid out your business objectives, you need to overlay your communications objectives – what your agency will need to work towards and be measured by.

A suggestion here is to always include in the brief at least three key messages that a PR campaign should aim to cover (linking these to business objectives). This helps the PR agencies streamline their pitches around the key messages. Read more here for tips and a checklist on writing some great PR objectives.

  1. What does success look like to you? - Measures of success (KPIs)

Much like we have a mental checklist on who’s likely to become a suitable and rewarding partner, we need to know what we would look for to determine if a particular PR campaign or project is a success. As communications professionals, you need to know what you want your money to achieve.

Outlining clear and measurable key point indicators (KPIs) in the brief lets the agencies pitching know what they need to be achieving with this particular brief, and lets them decide if this is something they can work towards or not. Every agency has different areas of expertise and skill sets. Should your measure of success be something an agency might not feel comfortable working towards, like video production, or SEO traction, this helps them to make a conscious decision to not take part in the brief, saving you time as well!

  1. Compare apples with apples - Be upfront about your budget

It’s easy for communications professionals to fall into the trap of setting an ‘open budget’ and looking to see what agencies are capable of in the pitch process. While this strategy has its merits and doesn’t limit the scope of what agencies might present, setting a budget range, with perhaps an additional ‘project scope’ to test the boundaries of an agency’s creativity is more advisable, and builds a better foundation for the relationship. Going into a brief with full understanding of the resources available allows agencies to create a campaign plan and match resources according to the budget given. This gives you a much clearer idea of what each agency can deliver with the resources that you have to spare, and reduces the risk of falling into the trap of hiring an agency that wows you with their ideas in the brief process, only to realise that none of what they propose can be achieved with the actual budget that you have to spare.

Setting and being clear with the budget you have for PR also gets both you and the PR agencies pitching for your brief to be thinking realistically about the best way forward to achieve your goals.

The bottom line

Investing the time to create a thoughtful, business-oriented brief that provides transparency about what your business is really looking for in a communications partner is key. This process ensures that you receive quality proposals and pitches that are directly aligned with the business strategy of the organisation, allowing you to handpick the most suitable PR partner going forward, whose strategies will complement and drive your communications programme forward to achieve your desired business outcomes.

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