What does a PR agency do?

Most people who work in PR get asked, “What does a PR agency do?” It’s a great question because there is no one right answer. There is the expert response and then there is the answer that we might explain to a family member, perhaps our mum. PR is a vast area that covers a broad range of disciplines. It touches our daily lives in many positive ways, helping build brands and raise awareness of important, often life-saving issues. But PR also has negative associations with “spin” and propaganda.

So, before we can answer what a PR agency does, we really need to understand what PR is. Luckily, as PR Agency One is a multi-award-winning consultancy, we know a thing or two about PR and this post sets out to explain this subject in a quick ten-minute read.

What does a public relations consultancy really do and why?

Helpfully we’ve already answered this question with this useful post, full of definitions and useful information to help you describe what public relations is to everyone from your mum to senior professionals within any business or sector. Click below to read more about what PR is.

What does a PR agency offer its clients?

What a PR company delivers for its clients depends on the brief given to the consultancy.  A company might want to build brand awareness, improve or defend its reputation, or use digital PR to drive increases in search engine visibility. Alternatively, a firm might want to engage local communities, deliver corporate social responsibility, launch a product or improve the corporate profile of its CEO. There are many more services that a PR agency can be used to deliver. In short, most business activities need a PR agency to manage conversations of some form with the public, customers and other stakeholders.  It all starts with a brief.

Taking a PR brief – what does a PR brief look like?

A PR brief helps a PR agency understand what the client wants to achieve. It is a crucial first step in making sure the agency proposes the right strategy. Helpfully, we’ve also answered this question by creating this useful PR Brief Template, if you download it you will see some of the questions a PR agency might ask its clients before providing them with a proposal. Find out more about PR briefs via the link below.

Once the brief is received, then the PR agency spends a lot of time analysing the information before discussing it further with the client. Perhaps the agency will need to present some of its credentials to demonstrate why it has the experience to deliver the campaign.

Writing a PR proposal and presenting a strategy

The agency will look for insights from the brief and use its own data sources to help inform its strategy. A proposal will be developed to outline the PR campaign, detailing any large PR activations, press office, digital services or social media and influencer activity.

This proposal will be presented to the client via a pitch presentation. The pitch might be competitive or uncontested, but either way it is important that the PR agency presents its strategy in a clear and engaging way to win the work. If successful, a PR agency will develop a scope of work document to outline what will be delivered as part of the contract, and a contract is written and signed so there is a clear legal basis on which the PR agency is retained by the client.

Undertaking a PR brainstorm

Ideas don’t appear from fresh air. There is a science and a magic to creating a PR proposal. of course insights are important to inform the creative process but the brainstorm and other creative processes are hugely important. An agency will live or die by its creativity. As this is a well established blog we’ve written an extensive guide on creativity. You can read about it here.

Developing a PR plan

A PR proposal is very top-line and so is the scope of work. This means there is still a lot of detail to plan out: there are audiences and stakeholders that need mapping, journalist media lists that need refining and costs that need calling in (say if the brand wants media training or to work with influencers).

This plan will involve expanding on the proposal and providing a critical path (a timeline of activity in plain English). Once signed off, account directors and account managers will then work out how to spread the workload across the team and schedule weekly activity. At PR Agency One we call it a WIP – a work in progress meeting, where actions are allocated to team members and reported back to the client on a weekly basis.

What might a PR agency deliver within a plan?

Before we get into individual tactics or areas where a PR agency might deliver activity, it is important to look at the many categories of PR in which a PR agency might specialise or in which we might have specialist teams.

A PR agency might do B2B, Consumer, Corporate PR or Tech PR. There are other specialist areas too, such as sport, education, legal and retail. In fact, you name it, there is probably a specialist division of PR in which an agency might have expertise or a specific team.

These teams might deliver media relations, social media and influencer campaigns, corporate social responsibility (CSR), product launches, media relations, digital PR and measurement and evaluation.

Traditionally, when people think of PR they think of media relations, so liaising with journalists to secure media coverage. While this is still a very big part of what PR is, PR has changed dramatically in the last ten years and is as much about content creation and digital marketing as it is media relations.

When people think of PR they often think of the ubiquitous press release which has been the staple of media relations for years. While it has been used for years, the good old press release has also been the subject of many a blog post entitled: “is the press release dead?”. We can report that while the press release is indeed alive and well, there are other ways to engage with journalists and bloggers that are less formulaic. This might involve live interview, briefings, features and opinion-led editorials.

How PR agencies measure PR?

Measurement and PR analytics has also been a major area for development. There are now very sophisticated frameworks for measuring everything from audience planning, reputation through to commercial analytics. This is a huge area to look at but a good place to start is the AMEC framework.

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