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Choosing a PR agency is like choosing a canoe

The same as before – a trusted reliable Explorer made by Mad River Canoes.  I know how it paddles, I know how it reacts in most water types, I know how versatile and well built it is.  Above all, it was a delight to use before and we worked well together as a team.

A We-no-nah Prospector – something new and different for me.  Livelier handling and better turning abilities – a particularly strong contender for white water paddling.  But reputed to be harder to track in a straight line on long lake (or loch) trip.  From a brand point of view I know it well having paddled and raced a whole bunch of their other boats.

An Old Town Charles River – a century old design with a modern twist.  It falls somewhere between the others on the white water and can be tough for the unwary in a high wind.  However, it is a little lower at my preferred paddling position – not a big issue for many, but for someone of a shorter stature such as me… major bonus.

(by the way if you are a paddler who has stumbled across this page looking for advice on the differences between the above, there are far more in depth reviews on the Song of the Paddle forum!!!)

Three different boats, all in many ways quite similar (particularly to non paddles or beginners).  However, to the more experienced there are a wealth of differences and nuances to consider.   If you were comparing them to cars they would all fit the 4×4 bracket but that is a huge market with lots on offer.  Most importantly the question does have to be asked.  Which is right for me?  And this is where the comparison to agency selection comes in.  Before making a final decision I need to acknowledge what the boat will be most used for – just as companies looking for a PR need to decide what is most appropriate to them.  What sort of paddling will I be doing, what sort of communication and in which markets are you seeking to raise your profile.

Do you choose:

  1. the well known, comfortable workhorse

  2. the exciting brand that is great for the unusual but harder to handle on the day to day

  3. the option that is not right for many but works for you because it is more personalised

There are definitely right and wrong reasons for going with all the above but it must start with honest acknowledgement of what a company needs when it comes to improved brand awareness and reputation management.  Is it the global scattergun approach, the creative one off projects, the tireless simple approach, the personalised fit????  Only when you have decided what you are seeking and why should you start to identify which agencies are relevant and why.

And then you need to test the waters (quite literally in the canoe).  Seek advice from others who have been down this road ahead of you.  Ask for feedback from experts and have a go, see how it feels.  Using a communications agency should be an intensely personal experience.  Your are trusting your reputation to these individuals so you need to feel comfortable with them both professionally and personally.  In fact one suggestion I would have above all others is to talk to the press.  If you are looking to achieve coverage / reach a certain audience ask the journalists working in that field what they think of the various PRs hounding them.  There is a fair chance that they are likely to work less effectively with people they find difficult than the PRs they like and communicate with in a regular and positive way.

As for my canoe decision.  When I was honest with myself it was clear that the white-water benefits of the prospector are secondary.  For the rare times and level of white water I paddle the others are fine.  And I just can’t get over the benefit and comfort I felt in the slightly shallower Old Town – it just felt right.

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