It’s a sad fact of life that not every business relationship is meant to be. Luckily, you can learn to screen potential associates before your relationship takes off, saving yourself a lot of time and hassle — not to mention money. Earlier we analyzed the problem of choosing between an outsourcing PR agency and an in-house PR specialist and the right time for each of these options. As a PR agency, we also can advise how to choose the perfect one – not us (or maybe, us) – but just the ideal option for your business goals.
Let’s recap what types of PR agencies exist.
Choosing an agency, make sure that its profile meets your goals, PR objectives, and requirements. You can read the business goals you can accomplish using media here. If you don’t understand your goals, you will get a service that you don’t need.
Multinational or local PR firms are good enough for huge companies and leaders of their sphere like Samsung, Boeing, or Tesla. Small specialized PR agencies don’t have the resources to provide the appropriate amount of media activities. Journalists already know the big names of such companies, so large agencies will meet the requests even though some specialists there are not so deep in a particular topic.
Niche PR agencies can provide your more expert approach for any challenge you face as they have dedicated all their professional development to overcome precisely the same challenges. As they work with companies from your field, they can help you boost your media activity and introduce you to potential contributors to ensure performance at specialized events and build strong relationships with journalists.
Unfortunately, there is no single up-to-date register of all agencies, so you have to find them yourself. Firstly, look at the unusual and large-scale stories of companies similar to yours appearing in the media and determine if these companies worked with any PR firms. Connect with them, get references
Find all available professional ratings, themed media, or communities where others discuss the most successful campaigns. Read any forums and articles you can find about specialists who represented the company in the public field and how they achieved this success level.
Pay attention to the events: many PR agencies organize their online and offline stands and platforms at various conferences, exhibitions, forums, festivals. Also, you can find some PR courses (for instance, online on Coursera, Udemy, etc., which became extremely popular during Covid-2019) to estimate what PR specialists or campaigns they refer to.
Ask your friends and colleagues for testimonials — what agencies they have already worked with and how it was. Word-of-mouth marketing is still one of the most vital instruments to find the perfect team. However, PR is difficult to measure and understand how useful it was objectively; it depends a lot on the client's goals. So, personal references and work experience mean the most.
Ask an agency to send you all the publications they ensured for their clients during the last few months. Scrutinize all of them: what media these publications were published in, what image of the company they created, what problems they solved. Ask all the questions you have about how they prepared these articles, why they chose these media outlets, and what other PR activities the company could offer.
Remember the financial underside: explosive results in someone else's case can mean a huge budget that you do not have. Accept that the team will not perform better with your case; otherwise, they would have shown better results.
If you have a small or medium-sized business, then in most cases, 3-5 specialists of a small PR agency are quite enough for your PR support. However, it’s essential to discuss who exactly will lead your project immediately. It’s a pretty common practice in all kinds of agencies for their founders and VPs to sell their services to potential customers, but as soon as you’re onboarded, you’re assigned a junior manager who joined the firm just months ago.
You should see how the roles are distributed among team members, who is responsible for which task. Some managers have more experience in B2C promotion, while others, on the contrary, know everything about B2B promotion. How do you feel about communicating with these people? Do you feel comfortable enough to trust these people with the reputation of your business?
As with every other kind of relationship, good communication is critical, so never be afraid to bring up your concerns. Your relationship — and your company’s success — depends on it.