You’ve got questions … we have answers. Here are the Bianchi PR agency FAQs.
Why should I hire a PR firm? Can’t we do it ourselves?
Sure, you can do PR yourself. And many organizations do. But the real question is: Is your time better spent trying to do PR or focused on your own area of expertise in driving the business? Doing PR well takes consistent time and effort. Many clients find that hiring an outside PR firm can help them by providing:
The right PR firm knows the ins and outs of PR of your sector, has the right relationships, and has likely faced the issues you’re facing multiple times, so often it can help you save time and avoid the pitfalls. Many clients find the most effective option is to combine the power of their internal PR/communications team with the expertise, focus and connections of an outside PR firm.
What’s the most important consideration in selecting a PR agency? There are three key considerations: chemistry, culture and experience.
Chemistry – Do you like the people, trust them, would you enjoy working with them? Do they show empathy for your situation and understand how they can help you be more effective? Will they strive to make you look better? Ultimately, when you hire a PR agency, you are hiring people, so make sure you are hiring the right people.
Culture – Does the agency work to be a business partner that adds value for you? The length of the agency’s relationships with its clients can be a reliable indicator. If many of its client relationships are longer than five or 10 years (like ours are), that’s evidence that they take good care of their clients. Are the staff and owner accessible, responsive and pro-active? Do they demonstrate they are always thinking about their clients? Do you get the feeling that your account people will go the extra mile for you?
Experience – Do the people who will work your account really know your sector, the trends and issues, the reporters and key media outlets, the top venues and the industry influencers? Are they focused on your sector or do they divide their time dabbling among numerous industries and types of client companies – trying to be jacks- (or jills-) of-all-trades? In PR, as in most disciplines, there is no substitute for experience.
Do I need a firm that specializes in my sector?
While many PR firms have the necessary skills and creativity, they lack the experience that can make them cost-effective. Do you really want to pay for all the time it takes for the agency to get up to speed on your sector? Generally, PR programs are billed on an hourly basis, so hiring an agency that already knows your industry, the trends and issues affecting your sector, and the media and venues that are most important to carry your messages, can save you a lot of time and thousands of dollars in cost. In fact, a firm that specializes in your sector often has deep, long-standing relationships with media and influencers that can generate big results quickly.
What’s the right size agency for my business?
Traditional wisdom holds that you don’t want to be your agency’s largest or smallest client, in terms of budget. Largest because you may strain the agency’s bandwidth at times, or smallest because you may not get the attention you want. You’ll want to pick an agency that is the right size for your budget – where you’ll command senior attention, but not be the whale in the pond, and where you will benefit from the crossover opportunities and the economies of scale offered by the other clients in the agency’s stable. At our firm, we don’t take on an account unless we can give them the attention that they deserve.
What’s the best fit for your agency?
Bianchi PR is NOT the right agency for every organization. But we may be the perfect fit for your organization if:
And if you’re not sure if we’re a good fit, give us a call. We know many firms both here and abroad, and we would be glad to help you connect with one that is right for you.
What are your hourly rates?
It really depends on your specific needs, the level of experience/expertise you need, and your annual budget. We offer volume discounts to larger ongoing accounts. But don’t be mislead by a low hourly rate – the hourly rate is not nearly as important as value received. Often, an agency with an “expensive” hourly rate can accomplish more in one hour than an agency with a “cheaper” rate can hope to accomplish in two weeks. Consider value as well as overall cost.
What does a PR program or project cost?
Again, it depends on your needs. Generally, most of our ongoing automotive supplier clients’ programs fall within the $7,000 – $15,000 per month range. Individual projects typically fall within the $10,000 – $25,000 range, depending on duration and complexity. Sometimes, we will take on clients with smaller budgets, such as start-ups and consultancies, IF they are a strategic fit with our existing clients and align well with our skillset.
If I hire your firm, who will work on my account?
One difference about our firm is that our five account professionals are senior staffers who have a combined total of more than 115 years of automotive supplier PR experience. So no matter who is assigned to your account, you’re ensured of experience and expertise. Typically, we staff each account with one lead professional who handles strategy, newswriting and media relations for your account, and is assisted and supported by at least one other professional … more when needed for special events and activities.
This team approach, along with our standardized processes and systems enable anyone to assist you in the event that your account rep is out. And because his name is on the door, our president Jim Bianchi (known as the “dean of automotive supplier PR”) oversees every account and adds extra value drawn from his 40+ years of PR experience, if/when he can.
Do you guarantee results?
We would love to guarantee results, but there are too many factors we do not control that can affect the program’s outcomes. For this reason, guaranteeing results may violate the Public Relations Society of America’s Code of Ethics (https://www.prsa.org/ethics/code-of-ethics/). We DO work with you to set realistic targets and expectations at the onset, and we DO guarantee that we will do our best to leverage our expertise to generate the results you seek.
How long do your PR contracts run?
Most of our clients collaborate with us on an annual or multi-year basis because most PR programs are long-term efforts. We occasionally will do standalone projects for clients, such as media relations support around a specific trade show or event (such as CES or NAIAS), if the fit is appropriate and if we have the needed capacity available. And while some started off as project clients, several of our clients have chosen to remain our partners for more than 20 years.
If I hire your firm, how long will it take until we start to see results?
For most clients, effective PR is a long-term process. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. And while we start working right away, it may take several weeks to conduct the necessary research and develop the correct messaging, before we can start media relations activity. Digital media coverage can come quickly; coverage in print publications generally takes longer because of their 2-3 month production lead times. Generating solid speaking opportunities for your executives at the best industry venues typically require a 6-12 month lead time. Ultimately, the sooner we can start, the sooner you will start seeing results.
Do you assure your clients category exclusivity?
For ongoing long-term clients making the appropriate commitment, we will agree not to work with the direct competitors that are specified in our contract, to assure you confidentiality and category exclusivity. We assure strict confidentiality to all clients, as per the PRSA Code of Ethics (https://www.prsa.org/ethics/code-of-ethics/) to safeguard private or proprietary information. And to provide the peace of mind that project clients seek, we establish different account teams and firewalls to assure that the strictest separation and confidentiality are upheld.
Does your firm participate in RFIs and RFPs?
We often respond to RFIs (Requests for Information) from prospective clients that are a good fit to our specialty: B2B automotive and mobility tech suppliers. Occasionally, we respond to RFPs (Requests for Proposal) IF we feel like we would be a good fit and the client:
1) Provides specific budget and deliverables information,
2) Is transparent about the selection process and what and how many firms are participating, and
3) Establishes a fair and level playing field for the agencies.
If an RFP doesn’t provide this information, fairness and mutual respect, we find it’s often an expensive and unfruitful exercise.
For more info on PR agency RFPs, see: 10 Best Practices for PR Agency RFPs (https://www.bianchipr.com/10-best-practices-pr-firm-rfps/) and The Best PR Agency RFP is No RFP (https://www.bianchipr.com/best-pr-agency-rfp-no-rfp/ .
What if the Purchasing Department is driving our agency search process?
That’s great. They are professionals at finding the best partners for the best value. You can help them do an even better job by:
Will you provide a complete PR program proposal for us to help us decide what firm to hire?
The best agencies, those with strong ideas and deep experience, want to deliver a plan that offers real value. And it’s often difficult to provide you with a detailed plan based on the little bit of information offered in an RFP. We believe you want and deserve more than just another “cookie-cutter” program pulled off the shelf.
You deserve our best effort, insight, intellectual property and creativity. And most clients agree that it’s fair and equitable to compensate a firm for that kind of effort. So we take an alternative approach: You commission our firm to do a deep dive with you and then develop a detailed, customized action plan for you to use as you see fit, with no further obligation to us. Upon delivery of the plan, you have the option to hire us to implement the program, in which case we would credit the cost of the program toward implementation – so essentially the program is free – or to hire another agency to execute the plan … or to implement the program yourself. This approach is fair, it mitigates your risk and limits your commitment, and it yields the best results.
Or, if you prefer, we can provide you with an outline of the systematic approach we use to build a program, detailing potential components and activities, as well as offering some initial ideas and some examples of successful work for other similar clients. This approach will provide you with a deeper understanding of how we think and work.
Does your firm handle social media programs?
Yes, we’ve been working in social media since 2008, and we assist clients with strategy, messaging, content and social media management across various channels. We also conducted the only social media study focused solely on the North American automotive supplier community – the Social Media and Auto Supplier Habits (SMaASH) study – which benchmarked this sector’s practices and offered counsel on improvements (https://www.bianchipr.com/second-smaash-study-shows-social-media-opportunities-north-american-automotive-suppliers/ ).
One way to gauge a PR firm’s social media capabilities is to check out the firm’s own channels and see how active, engaged and engaging they are. Do they use the channels that will reach your audience? Do they post and respond regularly and consistently? Do they blog useful, helpful content that builds a community of followers, or is all their content outright self-promotion? In short, do they walk the social media talk?
What if we need a full-service marketing communications agency?
Many clients find that bringing together a few specialty firms that have both automotive expertise and special skills in other marcom disciplines often generates better results than hiring one generalist marcom firm. So, we work with a number of partners to create a powerful synergy between our specialized PR and social media work and agencies that have automotive expertise and skill in other marketing communications disciplines, such as advertising, collateral materials, marketing communications, video, website, trade show displays, etc. And if desired, we can coordinate those efforts for your convenience.
How will I know if your firm is the best fit for us?
Do your homework. Talk to our clients. Talk to the reporters we work with. Then, take us for a test drive with a PR project. This way, you limit risk, cost and commitment. It allows us to get to know each other, check the chemistry and compatibility, and confirm the feasibility of a future together. This approach works well for both parties and was the foundation for several of our long-term (10, 20, even 25-year-long) client relationships.
What if we need help in overseas markets? Can you help us?
Definitely. Since 2014, our firm has actively participated in the Public Relations Global Network (www.prgn.com), which brings together the top independent PR firms from 50 key markets around the world. Through intensive twice-a-year meetings, PRGN agency owners globally have forged strong relationships, share experience and develop best practices to provide clients superior service combined with local, boots-on-the-ground expertise almost anywhere in the world.
How do we get started?
Give us a call at +1.248.269.1122