Sunday, November 22, 2009

How to brief a financial services, or B2B, public relations firm

Brief? What brief?
It’s been seven years since I last briefed a PR firm, and just on 48 hours since I last took a brief from a potential client. In the intervening six years and 363 days, I’ve often wondered how the various suppliers I worked with coped.

A good brief sets up the whole relationship, saves time and makes sure you get value for money. I've got a feeling my partners didn't ever have quite that clarity from me.

Sure I had a set of criteria (sometimes). And a well-written three or four pages about what I wanted from the engagement. Maybe even a vague notion about my ideal outcome.

But not a clue about how to create a “long list” then run a selection process, using criteria to choose a short list then the right firm.

No, I more often used that other time-honored selection process - gut feel. Which is great if you are already working well together.

Not so great if you’re looking to establish a relationship.

So assuming you’re going to apply some logic and order to how you choose a communication partner, here are some of the things I’ve learned from clients, my own consultants and various fantastic staff.

As I said in the beginning, good brief sets up the whole relationship, saves time and makes sure you get value for money. It sets expectations, objectives and boundaries.

It doesn’t have to be onerous, or too long. It can be a one pager if your needs are simple, or less if you have previous experience with the consultancy you’re briefing.

Should include scope, timeline, results you want and the sorts of deliverables you want to see along the way. Headings may include:

1. Summary
2. Objectives (SMART if you can)
3. Desired outcomes (what you really really want – both realistic and, perhaps, not so)
4. Activities (you may or may not know all of these but if there are some you clearly want, best you let your potential partners know)
5. Challenges to overcome/issues (almost all organisations face both opportunities and challenges – the more upfront you can be about these the better the response from the potential partner)


6. Performance criteria (how do you expect to measure the firm? Output, outcome, impact?)
7. Timeline (how long do you want them to work for?)
8. Terms of engagement (fixed or project fee, recurring engagement for a set price and time, or on an hours basis?)


9. More about you and your firm
10. Budget (upper and lower limits are really really helpful and save an immense amount of time & rework)
11. Non-disclosure (we usually ask our clients if we can give them one of these before we get the brief)

Next, how to actually select a B2B or financial PR firm and then, how to get the most from them.

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