Hiring a PR agency is a cost, so it pays to choose the right one for your business.
Not only should the right agency understand your market, be experienced and professional, they should also be able to demonstrate their suitability for your business, your culture and of course your ambition. Here’s some of our suggestions of what to look out for when choosing a PR agency for your business …
Experience and suitability
Try to see beyond a PR agency’s website, did a bit deeper and work out if an agency is really suitable for your business. Think about:
- Beyond the obvious experience of delivering a range of relevant PR services, how much experience does the PR agency have working with similar clients to your business? Think in terms of size, industry sectors, specialisms such as B2B and the stage of growth your business is at?
- How well connected is the PR agency within your ‘world’? Being able to introduce you to likeminded leaders, pitch to relevant journalists and influencers and showcase your brand to worthwhile connections that they already know could save you a lot of time and money and create new opportunities for your business and brand
- Ability and performance matters much more than size, but you may want to understand more about how a PR agency would handle the size of your business
- Can they show any personal commitment or interest in your business? If they care about it beyond the pay cheque, they are more likely to go the extra mile for you. Look out for evidence of how the PR agency collaborates with its clients, other partners and wider network. A PR agency’s social media channels are a good place to start
This is very much a people business so chemistry, mutual respect and shared values will play a big part in forging a strong, successful client agency relationship. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about who you will be working with day-to-day. A PR agency will also expect you to do the same to ensure a relationship is well matched.
Try to get a clear picture of the team structure; who will be handling account management, who will be delivering the work on a daily basis and who have overall responsibility for your business.
If you want more information about a PR agency beyond a website, then you may want to ask for their credentials.
Don’t be surprised if an agency wants a phone call or a meeting to understand more about what you’re looking to achieve for your business so they can present the most relevant credentials. Also, be sure to find out about:
- Awards – has the PR agency won any awards, and how recent were they and what were they for? If they have nothing to show in the past five years, question why. Look for things like client service and awards for specific campaigns in your sector or a service such as social media strategy, creative campaigns or crisis management.
- Accreditation – if staff are members of bodies like the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) or the Institute of Directors shows a commitment to professional practice and quality standards
After reviewing credentials, if a PR agency isn’t the right fit for your business after then do take time to feedback.
References and testimonials
Look on the agency website and social channels for testimonials from previous clients. These will give you a brief overview of what other clients think about the agency, but they won’t go into any depth, so consider digging deeper to get the real picture.
If the agency has worked on a particular project or had a specific client that interests you, ask for a client contact and schedule a quick call to question them directly. This will give you a much better understanding of whether the agency is suited to your needs, and whether they can really deliver what you want.
For example, AMBITIOUS was awarded Best PR Agency at The Drum’s RAR Awards, a national award based only on client ratings. A full report is available featuring client ratings a comments.
Systems and solutions
When it comes down to the nitty-gritty of delivering work for you, how will they go about running your business? For example:
- What software do they use for measuring, analysing and reporting? Can they demonstrate how they use this for other clients, and why it would also work for you?
- What tools and experience do they have for content creation? If video is a key output, do they have access to suitable videographers; are graphic designers on hand for reports etc?
- Do they have the right PR tools, such as media databases and newswire subscriptions? These can help to save precious time when building media contacts and gathering press cuttings.
- Do they understand social and digital analytics? Even if they aren’t managing your social media accounts, they should understand its importance and how the two can go hand-in-hand. What other social accounts do they manage, and what examples can they show you of how they integrate social and PR?
Give a good PR brief and you’ll get a good response
If you like what you’ve seen and heard, then you will probably move onto the next step to help your selection process.
More and more businesses are choosing not to hold beauty parade style pitch process because they are time consuming and costly for all parties involved. Instead, consider working on co-creating a brief together so that the PR agency can develop a bespoke response for your business.
Be sure to give thought to defining your goals, giving an indication of budget and give the PR agency a clear idea of what’s required including how you will be want to measuring success.
What do you think is important when choosing a PR agency? Tell us in the comments below, or tweet us at @Ambitiouspr.