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.

Zaki Usman

Hello, I'm the founder and CEO at ShoutEx. I like to blog about marketing, mobile and web topics. Feel free to connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Comments (10)

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    A. Dahl

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    Useful when looking for PR firms. And you can use a similar checklist when hiring a design agency or an advertising consultant. Thanks for this!

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    Arti Singh

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    I have been trying to find research for evaluating PR companies for performance. This is a very good effort, but it misses out on the most important factor – human factor. PR is all about connecting and developing your strategy in harmony with market.

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    Roxanne

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    In selecting PR company. We must chose the reliable site and those that have experience in this career.

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    Christina

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    I enjoyed this post, and think many of these tips are helpful for those looking for a PR firm. I will argue; however, that some firms will actually have their VP’s or CEO’s produce client work. In fact I believe (from CEO to entry level) that those firms who are truly dedicated to their client’s success will work directly for you. I work for a boutique PR firm in Sacramento, and our partner and CEO are in the weeds everyday for our clients. I will also agree with Arti – the human factor is key. As PR professionals definitely make sure we are personable!

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    Zaki Usman

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    @A. Dahl: Yes you can use this for any form of marketing consultant. The key point is to see what industry experience they have and how its applicable to your brand.

    @Arti: I do mention the “chemistry” between your team and agency being very important. After all, the agency becomes an extension to your team so they must get along with everyone.

    @Roxanne: Experience sells.. I hear you!

    @Christina: Your agency (http://www.randlecommunications.com/) must be a few from the exception were VP levels also work at the hands on level. Great stuff!

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    bonnie harris

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    good post but you must measure a lot more things than just placements, particularly in the short term. quality of placements, digital footprint, relationships built with media, there are a lot of things that lead up to good placements in the long run

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    Altamash

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    Hiring a PR agency is never easy and it takes months to get ROI. You provide a good checklist to steer clients in the right direction.

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    Tomoko Wasabi

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    Excellent download, thanks!

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    Mike Bosher

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    PR firms need a bit more accountability in my point of view. Too many times I’ve have paid for public/press relations with very little ROI. And I dont mean reports on how many tweets my post had, but more tangible results that I can measure in sales or something.

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    David

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    Your idea for having a Press Release checklist is great. But it could be improved by taking into account various other factors, including Press Agency history – what clients have they worked with in the past and how that relationship went. I often find working with Agencies is a two-sided approach. One is to make sure they work for you, and then to see how they spend time on your efforts, and not just string you along — with many other clients. So thats why keeping tabs on their past record is very useful.

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