How to hire a PR Firm?
Are you shopping around for a PR firm? If so then you are at the right place. This article condenses feedback from several leading PR gurus and marketing pundits on what to look for when choosing a PR agency.
Formulate your PR Goals
Before seeking a PR firm, think about your PR goals – what exactly are you trying to achieve? Make sure your goals are aligned with your overall business strategy. Sarah Lafferty from The Hoffman Agency explains, “Before even considering a PR agency, clients should first identify some specific outcomes that they want the PR to deliver. These outcomes should cascade down from the company’s high-level business objectives.” So your goals should help a PR agency formulate a media relations tactics and strategy plan.
Shortlist PR Firms
The next step is to shortlist a few potential firms to evaluate. Think about the PR agency that will give you the best value for money. Should the firm be vertical specific or medium centric? Should the PR firm be global or regional? Bela Patkai, CEO at Finnovatec shares, “I often ask my business contacts for recommendations whenever I hire a new vendor. I also look at who my competition is using.” Do your homework and come up with a shortlist of agencies to approach.
Share PR Story
Explain your story to the PR firms before you ask for a proposal. Marketing technology is hard, because each company wants a compelling but simple story. Whatever your story, make sure your potential PR firms know of it. You don’t want them to focus on the wrong messages as they try to earn your business. Emily Long, VP Marketing from Net-Results states “For technology companies, a PR agency must have a strong ability to fully understand exactly what you do, and they need to understand it from the start or else they may muddle your message.”
Work the Public Relations experience
Sharing your story with the potentials also utilizes their expertise in tweaking your claim-to-fame. So, don’t be shy to ask for a creative game plan to evaluate their PR experience in your vertical. Debby Penton of Wildfire PR, extends this point further, “The agency you choose should have experience of the industry that you operate in. Using their knowledge of the issues that affect your sector, the agency is better armed to position you correctly to your target audience.”
Big PR firm or Small PR agency?
Depending on your market you may prefer to go with a global PR agency or a smaller PR shop. There is merit in selecting a larger (and often more pricey) PR firm, but there’s money to be saved with the smaller guys. Joakim Ditlev, Head of Communications at Zmags often works with the single-person PR firms. Joakim states, “What I consider most important is if the PR firm has an aggressive or laid-back attitude and how well-known is the agency in the market.” A point to note since the single-person PR firm can do real damage if they have a strong enough foothold in your niche.
Service Sells in Public Relations
What other factors should you consider when evaluating a PR firm? Veteran PR guru, Victor Cruz of MediaPR.net answers, “In selecting a PR agency, companies ought to look for 3 things: service, service, service.” His point is simple – since a PR firm is selling a service, make sure you get it. What happens when you call or email them? How responsive and creative are they to your requests? Victor expands this further, “Ask who will be servicing the account on a daily basis. Fat chance that you’ll get a VP-level person working hands-on. VPs are tasked with the chore of managing their minions, not your business.”
Measure Public Relations
This brings up the next point – how can you measure the service performance? PR is as much an art as a business. Ask your potential firms what tools they use to monitor media coverage? Brad Riss from Meltwater explains, “Sometimes tech/non marketing people in the management team do not see the intrinsic value in PR. It’s therefore important that PR firms and companies alike are able to measure their effectiveness.” So make sure your PR firm has accountability and the means to measure their success.
Choose PR Agency
These are just some reference points to get you started as you choose a PR firm. Remember, good PR is a partnership between you, the agency and the media. It takes time to develop and nurture. As Nir Ben Levy, CEO of Pagealizer comments, “It takes more than one mention in the newspaper to get people to look for your site.” So be prepared to roll up your sleeves and work with your firm to get the goal you want.