Public relations agencies actually come in a multitude of flavors and areas of expertise. Some of them are great at media relations, promotion and writing press releases. Others are more suited to event planning and organizing.
Still others are great at “PR 2.0” and do blogger/new media outreach, and identify online influencers as a way to guide conversations within social media. If you work with a PR agency, find the right one to do the part you need.
Don’t work with an event planner when you need traditional media relations, and so on.
We do like some PR agencies for content creation. Depending on the shop, many PR pros are former journalists and news writers who left the newspaper business and went to work for the other side, going from “hack to flak.”
If anyone is suited to writing long-form copy, it’s the former journalists. If they’ve been doing it long enough, their muscle memory kicks in, and you can see the old reporter instincts flare up.
They’ll hammer out a top-notch story as quickly as you need it. The problem is, that’s only one kind of content; most PR firms do not have the multimedia production chops or structure to make effective use of most owned-media channels.
The one thing to be wary of is that while many PR agencies are well-suited to writing press releases, or ghost writing articles, that’s not necessarily the kind of content you’re going to be looking for.
Many press releases look like they were written by someone from the “hyperbolic adjective” school of journalism. This is not the kind of writing you need. You want real-sounding stories, not something that sounds phony.
Public relations firms are typically more agile than agencies, but it is rare to find PR firms that understand how to leverage real-time audience insights to create real-time content. Also, many PR agencies are way short on understanding how audiences use the web. Some firms are getting there, but most are not quite there yet when it comes to building audience in the digital space.