22 Aug Looking for a PR Firm? Seven Things to Consider
As the summer winds down and offices return to business as usual, PR firms will start fielding prospective inquiries with increased frequency. There’s something about September that makes people get serious about accomplishing their business goals – and occasionally that involves hiring additional resources.
So, if you’re in the market for a PR firm, I offer these suggestions as you consider how to proceed and what type of firm to hire.
- The Must-haves – Make a list of the criteria that your future PR firm must absolutely meet. If a specific expertise, capability, firm size or geographic reach are deal-breakers for you, then eliminate firms early on that don’t meet your needs. Note: this is harder than it sounds. It’s not unusual for companies to conduct extensive searches with PR firms of all types or even to change their must-have criteria mid-stream. Getting the decision-makers to commit to a must-have list is key to a smooth search process.
- The Money – Be open about your budget with prospective firms. Budget is an important initial factor that PR firms use to vet prospects. If you’ve got a monthly budget of $3K, and the firm has a $10K minimum, you can save everyone a lot of time by sharing that information during the first phone call.
- The RFP – Marketers love RFPs, but is an RFP a necessary step in the search process? Many PR firms are resistant (or even unresponsive) to RFPs because the likelihood of winning an RFP is small (some companies will send an RFP to 10+ firms), it’s a ton of work and some RFPs require the equivalent of creative spec work (lots of ideas and research offered up for free). You may get a better response from PR firms if you can short cut or eliminate the RFP process.
- The Commitment – Are you ready to dive into a retainer relationship or would you prefer to start with a discrete project? Some firms will consider projects as long as the project is attractive enough and the firm feels that it can be successful. Projects also provide the opportunity for both sides to try working with each other, which can be positive for both the firm and the client.
- The Goals – Every company has them. What are yours, and how can your communications efforts help you achieve them? Goals are the bedrock of any PR program, and before you hire the agency, it helps to have specific business objectives in mind. Doing so will help provide everyone with a better idea of how to define the PR program for optimal success, including…
- The Scope – What services are you looking for? Just media relations? How about content development? Do you need help with analyst relations, social media, inbound marketing, event support, speaking and awards? The more clarity you can provide about what you’re looking for, the easier it is for the firm to prepare and put their best foot forward.
- The Expectations – And last but not least, be clear about your expectations and your goals for the program. If a company doesn’t have much to work with but expects to be in TechCrunch or The Wall Street Journal in month one – that is a red flag for PR firms. There’s nothing worse than not meeting a client’s expectations, especially if you’re getting (what you feel to be) reasonable results.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on what else should be included on this list and how both agencies and prospective clients can simplify the search process.
– Katie Hanusik