If your company or brand is ready to create a Request for Proposal to bring on a PR agency, it’s an exciting time. It means the business is growing, or is on the cusp of a new direction. While some relish the prospect of an agency search, it’s always time-consuming and can have pitfalls. Make the experience a bit more smooth by considering our Dos and Don’ts.
Do consider the agency’s experience. Make sure the PR firm you’re considering has significant experience with businesses similar to yours and is familiar with your industry. If you’re a tech startup that develops B2B technology, for example, a PR agency specializing in fashion PR that happens to have a wearable tech client probably won’t be a fit. However…
Don’t pick a PR firm simply because they’ve worked with your biggest competitor. Too often, the first things companies do when beginning their search is to find the firm that worked with their arch rival or a company they aspire to be like. It’s a tempting line of thought (they worked magic for them, why not for me, too?) but this can be a double-edged sword. Why did the relationship end, for example? Was success due to the agency, or because the company was already a household name? tactics were used? Your competitor could have a vastly different internal structure, philosophy, or approach, so a duplicate PR strategy probably won’t work.
Do make a shortlist and have face-to-face team meetings. Your relationship with a PR team should be a partnership, and partnerships depend on human interaction. Chemistry does matter. Some of our clients like to say they consider us an extension of their own team, and that’s a valuable asset. Take the time to narrow the field, then meet face to face with no more than five agencies.
Do provide access to decision-makers during the search. Allow PR agencies to speak with key decision-makers and top-level staff at your company. This is time-consuming, yes, but it will help you in the long run because it levels the playing field but also offers quality insights and access to agencies on your short list. Also, it’s surprising how often agencies will present their best stuff, only to find out later that the top guy was expecting something different.
Don’t make the RFP too complicated. RFPs are notorious for being long, difficult, and hard to navigate. We’ve seen RFPs that go on for pages and pages, requiring PR firms to include vast amounts of information that, frankly, doesn’t offer insight into the firm’s quality of work. Brevity and simplicity can be deceptively difficult, but a tighter and more focused RFP will elicit better responses. More on the RFP below!