Ready to Choose a PR Agency? Keep These Points in Mind.

February 4, 2013

Choose a PR FirmOne of the questions I’ve been asked most often lately is, “how do you choose a PR agency?” I don’t think there’s any one right answer, but here are some points to consider before you make any decisions:

First Things First: Do You Really Need a PR Firm?

Before you spend another second thinking about choosing a PR agency, make sure that you really need one. The fact of the matter is that they are expensive — typically costing a minimum of $8,000 to $12,000 a month — so you had better be sure that what you hope to achieve justifies the expense.
That’s why it’s important to have a really clear set of goals and objectives. Do you want to see your company featured on the front page of The Wall Street Journal and on the cover of Forbes (good luck if you do), or will coverage in your local business journal and a few industry trade pubs meet your needs? Depending on your answer, it may be that that you don’t need a PR firm at all, at least not on retainer. You might just be better off hiring a PR consultant to come in for a strategy session that you then use as a basis for executing a PR plan on your own.

Let’s Be Honest, Size Matters

Assuming that you do go down the path of working with a PR agency, the size of the firm is one of the most important factors you will have to consider. Do you want to work with a big, well-known agency or a small boutique firm? Both have pros and cons that you’ll need to weigh carefully. Bigger firms, for example, typically have strong brands, top talent, and vast resources — all valuable commodities when working with the media. The downside, however, is that the veteran PR exec who wooed you into choosing his or her firm, most likely won’t be the person actually working on your account. More often than not, at big firms it is the more junior folks who are doing the work.
Conversely, if you choose a small firm, you can get more of a boutique experience where you’re always interacting with the top people. Plus, since these firms have fewer clients, they have more skin in the game. They also can often have more of an industry focus, so they’re just working in tech, finance, science or whatever industry you’re in. The downside is that they have fewer resources and may not have as deep of connections with as many top journalists.

How Important is Face Time to You?

Another point to consider when selecting a PR firm is geography. Just because you’re in Boston, do you need a Boston PR firm? The answer is probably no, and, in fact, there can be advantages to working with a firm that’s not in your backyard. If you have a high tech company and you’re not based in the Silicon Valley, for example, having a PR firm that’s based on the West Coast could be a big help. Not only is your PR agency in the same time zone as the reporters you’re targeting (which can make working with them easier), they may well also have closer relationships thanks to their ability to interact face to face with journalists. In PR, that’s the face time that matters most.

Let’s Get Real About Expectations

The most important piece of advice I can offer about choosing a PR firm is that you need to remember that public relations is a marathon, not a sprint. If you go into hiring a PR firm with the expectation that you will get results in just a matter of weeks or months, chances are that you’re going to be disappointed. Sure, if your engaging a PR firm happens to coincide with some really big news, maybe you will get some traction. Otherwise, however, you have to realize that the first several months of working with a PR agency are all about setting your strategy and building relationships with journalists. Unfortunately, that rarely leads to immediate coverage. However, it does set the stage for good things to happen further down the road. In other words, take a long-term view and make sure that everyone counting on your PR firm is on the same page.

What other factors do you have to consider so that you’re ready to choose a PR agency?

 Related content: Simple Tips for Writing a Press Release.

Content Marketing Director

<strong>Kevin Cain</strong> is the Content Marketing Director for <a href="">BlueChip Communication</a>, Australia's leading financial services communication firm. Before joining BlueChip, Kevin was the Director of Content Strategy for OpenView.