Choosing the right PR agency for your company can be a daunting challenge, but fortunately there’s plenty of knowledge to be shared on the subject. Whether you’re seeking a firm that excels in B2B technology PR, or an agency with international capabilities for consumer brands, consider these tips to help find the right agency for your needs.
Look for relevant experience. This is an obvious first step, but it’s worth repeating. Look for an agency with no conflicts but recent experience in your industry. However, don’t be tempted to simply pick the firm that worked with the biggest player in your category; a successful PR campaign isn’t a cookie-cutter process, and what worked for a competitor might not fly with other companies that are different in size or culture.
Spend time with the shortlisted firms. It’s fine to start with an exhaustive list, but you will have a better outcome by spending more time with fewer candidates. So whittle the list to a select few, and have in-person meetings to ask all your questions and get a sense for how well their team might mesh with yours, how they get along with one another, and how they view the opportunity (including challenges.) A good PR relationship is collaborative, and the right agency should have a point of view, not just a sales spiel.
Include a decision-maker at your company in the search and vetting process. To work successfully for your company’s needs, a PR agency needs to know up front all about your PR needs, your expectations and definition of success, and, importantly, budget. To avoid a mismatch and save precious time during your search, include someone from leadership – a top decision maker – early in the vetting process.
Use a simple RFP. When requesting proposals, would you rather hear from firms who are good at filling out lots of paperwork, or agencies that spend valuable time and energy on creative ideas and effective strategies? A long, arduous RFP process only proves a PR firm is good at administrative tasks. While administrative organization is important, it does little to prove whether a firm is right for you.
Don’t neglect references. As with hiring employees, an agency can look good on paper or in presentations, but have some fatal flaws that go unseen until deeper in the relationship. Speaking to references isn’t a surefire solution, but it helps to raise red flags, if there are any.
Ask a few unconventional questions. Go beyond the basic questions about experience, the team, and budgets, and see how the PR team thinks on their feet. As we wrote about here, asking questions like “Why do you want to work with us?” might not have a right answer, but it can reveal important traits (or lack thereof), like authenticity and motivation to succeed.