An SME’s guide to writing a PR agency brief

Building a successful brand is extraordinarily difficult. It requires an exceptional knowledge of your target audience, sensitivity to their needs, confidence in your team and products, and a clear mission statement that you genuinely believe in. 

Furthermore, you need to be able to consistently deliver on the promise inherent in your brand. This can take years of hard work and diligence. Unfortunately, you can ruin all those years of hard work in the time it takes to type 240 characters. One single insensitive tweet, tone-deaf ad, or unclear communication, that’s all it takes to cast a shadow of doubt over your brand’s integrity.

A reliable PR agency is a crucial ally for any SME eager to grow its brand and reputation. Whether you need help getting your message to the masses, or need to rehabilitate your brand after a crisis, they are an invaluable resource and can help your brand to cultivate a good relationship with the public. 

However, while a PR agency has a very different function from a creative or digital marketing agency, there are some commonalities when working with any kind of agency. Chief among them is the importance of a clear, concise, yet specific brief. Here we’ll look at everything you’ll need to include in your PR agency brief.

Use this guide as a free PR agency brief template to maximise your ROI and get your collaboration off to the best possible start.

Step 1: Introduce yourself

Nothing puts people off more than communications that feel insincere or manufactured. In other words, anything that feels like it’s come from a PR agency. The better an agency knows your brand, its tone of voice, and how you want it to be perceived, the more organic and resonant your message will feel.

This is why it’s so important to introduce yourself properly. A good agency will do its homework in getting to know your brand. But it can only be a good thing if you’re able to help them get to know you better.

Provide the agency with an outline of your mission statement, let them see your core activities, and share your mission-critical business objectives with them. It may also be a good idea to provide them with links to your blog and other cornerstone content such as e-books or white papers. This will enable them to better understand your brand’s voice and how it speaks to your target audience. 

Provide the agency of your brand’s positioning within the market at present, and where you would like it to be in the future. This may include certain competitors that you hope to one day supplant. 

Step 2: Establish your audience

An agency will want to get to know you. But they’ll also want to better understand who you want to communicate with. This means establishing your target audience with them. The more specific and granular your focus, the better equipped a PR team will be in helping you manage your communications. The better they know your audience’s needs, concerns and anxieties, the better they’re able to shape your message to be more palatable and resonant for your audience. 

The more information you can share about your target audience the better. No PR agency has the time or resources to cater to absolutely everyone. 

Outline specific demographic groups, referring to:

  • age
  • gender
  • income bracket
  • education 
  • or job role

If you can share your buyer personas with the agency, so much better!

Step 3: Identify your aims

What specifically do you want to achieve by hiring a PR agency? The more specific you can make your aims and objectives, the better you know whether or not you’re getting the results you’re paying for. 

  • Do you want to build brand awareness? 
  • Are you trying to repair damage to your brand following a mishap? 
  • Have you lost consumer trust and want to get it back? 
  • Or are you simply excited to share your new product line with your existing and prospective customers? 

Each aim will need to be broken down into a series of discrete goals to be tracked across an established timeframe. Establishing your aims early on will be valuable in helping the agency develop its strategy.

If there are any important events or milestones (e.g. trade conventions, product launches, or other important dates for your company or industry), be sure to share these with the agency.

Step 4: Establish your deliverables

Deliverables are the tangible assets that the agency will provide you with. These will be the vehicles that will deliver your message to its intended audience. They may be types of content, communications strategies, or a combination of both. Perhaps the most common example of a PR deliverable is a press release. This provides members of the press with a summary of key information upon which they can build their editorial. 

However, while press releases may be the bread and butter of a PR agency, they are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to deliverables. Others include:

  • Interviews and expert comments to position you as an expert authority
  • Case studies to help qualify the claims your brand makes
  • Bylines or guest blog posts for thought leadership
  • Business profiles to provide an overview of your business for prospective stakeholders
  • Broadcast and reactive opportunities that enable you to take control of media narratives
  • Social media posts on a range of platforms
  • Crisis and issues management to smooth over crises and mitigate their damage to your reputation
  • Investor relations and internal communications to maintain investor and stakeholder confidence
  • Transformation management to help you maintain the integrity of your brand in the face of operational transformation

Step 5: Agree on success criteria

Your agency now has a working understanding of your business and its audience. It understands your broader operational aims, the discrete goals that it needs to meet to achieve them, and the deliverables you expect from them. 

But before work can begin in earnest, it’s important to ensure that you and your agency are on the same page when it comes to KPIs. You need to agree on discrete and measurable criteria for success. How will you know that your communications achieve the aims you expect them to? What does success look like? 

Agree on clear and measurable KPIs for each of your aims and establish a budget and time frame within which to achieve them. This will ensure that both parties understand one another’s expectations and that the project will not spiral out of control or become a money pit. 

Step 6: Touching base and feedback

You’ve now given your PR agency everything they need to get the job done. But whatever strategy you decide upon, it’s important to keep in touch. Before work starts, it’s advisable to set out a timetable for regular meetings and reviews. So you can be sure that all is going to plan, and react quickly and decisively to any industry changes that may require amendments to your strategy. 

It’s also a good idea to agree on a communications channel that will be mutually easy to use to keep in touch between meetings. In the age of remote and hybrid working, there are a wealth of platforms to choose from including Slack, Asana,, Google Drive, etc. This way you can check off task lists in real-time and see what the agency is doing no matter where you are.  Check out our blog: choosing your CRM, for further advice.

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