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Insider Tips on Hiring the Right PR Firm

In a previous post, we offered ideas for eliminating roadblocks to successfully partnering with the right PR agency, be it B2B, consumer, tech or professional services.

Once that decision is made, the rest is easy, right? Not so fast. The search for the “ideal” PR firm can be time-consuming and even overwhelming. How do you cut through the hype and achieve something like an apples-to-apples comparison? Here are some tips on how to narrow the field and determine the right PR agency partner.

Get recommendations and referrals. Often this is the easiest way to start. There are many PR firms with different areas of concentration, various sizes, and different work styles. Hearing from a trusted colleague or business associate in a related field who has achieved PR success with an outside firm can help narrow things down.

Consult the industry experts. Over 100 leading PR firms belong to The Council of PR Firms (CFPR), the industry trade association and a terrific source for researching your “short list.” There’s also O’Dwyer’s, which organizes listings of PR firms by geography and specialty. There’s also the Holmes Report which publishes many reports on PR agencies.

Visit agency websites and blogs often. Sure, your team gave it a once-over when you were creating a short list, but make sure to revisit. A stagnant website with an outdated blog and nothing new or fresh may not reflect the vibrant, hard-working agency you want on your business.

Ask for more than client references. Since media relations will likely be a key factor in determining your decision, ask your agency suitors to provide some references at relevant outlets and follow up with them to see if their relationships are legit.

Or, ask for references from clients who fired the agency. Even the best agencies have clients, who, due to reasons of chemistry, politics, or budget, have had to end the relationship. It can be enlightening to speak to those ex-clients, or just to learn how prospective agencies respond to your request.

Research enviable PR coverage. If you see a thoughtful piece on a company president, broadcast coverage of a creative special event or a business story touting a new product, find out who represents the lucky company and track them down! You can sometimes find this information by googling for newswire pickup of agency announcements, or sometimes by simply contacting the company directly.

Get to know the contenders. Even the most detailed response to an RFP or the slickest agency presentation isn’t enough to know if your teams will get along in “the real [workday] world.” Go out for a meal or drinks and ask personal questions about their lives outside the office – often the answers to those questions are more revealing than anything in an RFP!

Want to know more? Download our tipsheet.

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