How to choose a PR agency

Not all public relations companies are created equal, therefore it is important to have a checklist when choosing an agency. After all, this team will be the public face of your business.

Here are the top 10 tips to help you make the right decision [click to tweet].

1. Calibrate your expectations. PR agencies are not miracle workers, so be reasonable. A good agency should be able to help you craft your story, secure placement in key media outlets, and strengthen the reputation and profile of your business. No-one can guarantee you the front-page profile in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, or Financial Times that you dream of. If they do, they’re lying.

2. Be clear as to who will work on your account. Many PR firms deploy a team of senior executives simply to win business. A showy presentation is just that. Insist on meeting and interviewing the actual team or account manager that will represent your interests. And make sure they have a strong understanding of the industry. If they don’t understand the business, how will they effectively tell your story?

3. Experience matters. PR managers with experience tend to have a better knowledge of media relations, but they also need to understand the marketplace. Your agency will represent you – they are a mirror of your brand, so you need to be comfortable that they are representing you, much like you would for a sales executive.

4. Results matter. Ask a prospective PR firm for case studies, and if you feel the need, check references.

5. Choose value over price – or set a budget. Putting PR firms in competition over price is only likely to lead to one result: a lower quality of service and ultimately often disappointment. Choose the team that bests suits your business needs and then negotiate a fair deal. Alternatively, if budgets are tight, set a fixed fee and ask the agencies what and who they can provide for the price.

6. Define success. Depending on the client, 10 mentions in focused trade publications may be more important than being written about in the WSJ. Dictate to the agency what you expect, not vice-versa, so there is up-front agreement [click to tweet].

7. Communicate clearly and regularly. If you hire an agency, and then neglect to interact with them, they cannot carry out their job effectively. A weekly call is a good idea, but this is not a substitute for ongoing dialogue and agenda-setting.

8. Ask about their content strategy. Insightful commentary is becoming increasingly important to differentiating brands. Ask for who will write any op-eds, articles? Is this included in the price you were quoted? If firms don’t have the capacity to write these drafts in-house, it should raise some questions about their level of industry experience.

9. Ongoing strategy. Discuss what steps the PR firm will take after the initial actions have been completed. Do they have a roadmap for the future? Where can they take your company in a year? A PR firm that has a forward action plan shows initiative and creative thinking.

10. Availability. Although modern technology makes lightning speed communication possible, choosing a PR firm that is located close to your office increases availability and strengthens the relationship between agency and company. The value of face-to face interaction shouldn’t be underestimated.

Choosing which PR firm to represent your company can be a difficult decision but one with a significant payout. Ultimately, your PR agency should listen to what you want, provide insight and advice, and then creatively run with your ideas, elevating your firm’s success.

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