Picking a public relations agency that will work best for you and your business can be a bit overwhelming. The Toronto area alone has well over 100 large and boutique firms to choose from – making it incredibly hard to narrow down the right agency for you.
Because you’ve already stumbled upon this post, we’re sure you know the value of integrating PR into your company’s strategy. So, we’ve put together a list of 6 things to consider when selecting a new PR agency or firm to assist your business.
CONSIDER YOUR OBJECTIVES
What are you looking to achieve with your PR efforts? What demographic are you looking to target? Are you looking for local, national or international coverage? Are you interested in short lead (blogs, websites, newspapers, television) or long lead (magazines, features) coverage? Are you looking for assistance in digital efforts (social media, blogging, microsites)? Will you want (or do you have) a spokesperson for your product/service? Do you want to plan any activations or events?
Good PR firms will be able to help guide you through these questions, but it’s important to consider these before reaching out. Having a good sense of your objectives will assist the PR firm in deciphering how they could help you achieve your goals. Remember: good PR firms will get you coverage, great PR firms will get you targeted coverage for the audiences that matter most to you. Be very wary of agencies that promise coverage – it’s often too good to be true, or not catered specifically to your needs.
CONSIDER YOUR BUDGET
Once you’ve laid out your PR goals, it’s helpful to plan out your budget based on those objectives. Although you won’t know exact pricing from firm to firm, it’s good to have an idea of what you’ll be comfortable spending. Typically PR firms will bill in one of two ways: a monthly retainer for a fixed duration of time (ex. three or six months) or pricing by project (for longer term). Be mindful that most PR does take time to strategize, write a release and pitch to reporters/producers – so don’t expect immediate coverage to roll in right after signing with the agency of your choice. Also be sure to decide whether you want to work with a large or smaller agency. Larger agencies will often have more people working on your account (and the price tag will reflect that), but also focus on several clients at one time. Smaller firms tend to have less overhead, with one or two key people focused on your account – sometimes making their services a little more budget friendly.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
You can do a Google search to find agencies in your area, but make sure that’s not your only tactic to find potential agencies. Remember that just because an agency comes up in the first few pages of searches doesn’t mean they’re the best, it sometimes just means that they are spending money on search engine optimization (SEO) and advertising. Ask around your circles to see who other people have worked with, and get recommendations. A PR firm above all else should have good word-of-mouth, right? Once you’ve got a list of potentials narrowed down, spend some time on their websites. Look through their client lists, see what their activity looks like on social media and check out if they’re taking the time to maintain a company voice through a blog/etc. Make sure to keep your eye out for competitors in client lists: a good PR agency will not sign competitors of their current clients. Doing this alone should narrow down your selection to just a few agencies.
Make an informal call, or shoot a quick email to your potential agencies. See how they respond (was it timely?) and get an idea of how they represent themselves through communication. Hiring a PR firm is comparable to hiring a new employee, you want to make sure that they’re the right fit for you and your company. Ask to see some previous work or case studies from the agency, so that you can get a better idea of their abilities. Some firms shy away from putting coverage on their websites due to copyright and infringement issues with publications and media, but can share everything when used for internal purposes.
ASK FOR A PITCH
Some companies like to put together a request for proposal (RFP) outlining the project details and requirements and issue it to the agencies they’re interested in. This practice isn’t mandatory, but can certainly help in keeping communications organized between you and your potential agencies/firms. Once the agency knows what you want to accomplish, they’ll put together a plan of action and present it to you. When you do meet with the agency, make sure you ask them exactly who will be working on your account – a good pitch from a seasoned professional is one thing, but you don’t want to be the victim of a bait and switch. Take a good look at the proposals issued and evaluate if they’re the product of hard work, or a simple cut and paste job. This is a good indicator of the work that’s to come from the agency.
MAKE YOUR SELECTION
By now you’re exhausted, but the hard part is over! You’ve picked the agency that you think will work best for you; congratulations! Now you can enjoy a fruitful (and fun) relationship with a firm that will take the time to understand your business and help catapult you to even greater success!
Thank you for taking the time to read this post, and do let us know how you make out on your hunt! As always, we’re available to chat if you have any questions about selecting an agency, or if you’d like to inquire about working together. Shoot us an email by clicking here, or call us at 416.963.9857