Melissa Duren Conner, partner and managing director at communications agency Jennifer Bett Communications, answers some key questions companies will face when they start looking at external PR.

At what point in the journey should business owners consider an external agency?

‘For brands with big ambitions to disrupt their space, we recommend that they bring on an agency in a consulting capacity as early as they can afford. Having their eye on the final stages of pre-launch work will prove invaluable when it’s their turn to get press. If budget is a concern, having an agency lined up at least eight weeks from launch is optimal.’

Are there any cost-effective hacks?

‘Tap into your respective networks: ask colleagues, friends and even friends of friends if they have relationships in the media. Set out to work with freelancers, who are great options for when budget is limited. Make sure to vet them by asking for case studies of recent or relevant work, as well as recent client references. If all goes well, your freelancer should have the connections to bring awareness to your brand.’

What are the basics you want to hear when business owners first approach you?

‘We always make sure to ask the following: 

• What is the vision for the coming year? How about five years from now? 

• What do you want every reporter to know about your brand? 

• What are your key differentiators? 

• What companies or CEOs do you admire?

The brands we love working with most have set goals to disrupt and reinvent major categories.’

How have shifts in the consumer landscape affected your campaign execution for 2021?

‘We realised the PR model we’ve spent years building wasn’t going to cut it – this wasn’t the time for brands to be pitching light-hearted campaigns and activations. We’ve revised our launch plans to incorporate how to engage with media around significant cultural moments, emphasising that brands find meaningful ways to give back to their communities and implement diversity, inclusion and equity initiatives.’

This article was first published in How to Start a Business 2021. To become a subscriber or purchase our newest guide, head to our webshop.

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