Choosing the right PR agency for your business
At some point in their career 40% of brand managers admit to appointing the wrong PR agency.
So when your company needs the services of a good consultancy, it's not a decision to be taken lightly.
Once you start looking at hiring a PR firm, the sensible thing to do is ask professional contacts for their recommendations, as well as conducting a little online research using keywords of the services you seek - such as "crisis communications" or "integrated marketing agency".
While a professional PR association will supply you with a list of members in your area, many of the best agencies choose not to be part of a professional body.
Setting goals and objectives is part of any business, so look at what you want a PR firm to achieve for your brand. It's advisable to learn how to write a PR brief, so you can communicate exactly what you are looking for from an agency.
Which to choose
There are more than 700 PR agencies in the UK, both large and small. Remember to consider size and location when appointing a company which suits you.
While it is more convenient to employ an agency nearby, if you require national or even international PR then it may be best to be served by a city agency with a strong regional network or multiple international offices.
And while you don't want a company too small to handle your workload, a large agency may not give you the personal attention you need - especially if you have a modest budget.
Consider the type of agency you are going for. Is it a creative PR agency, or a corporate PR agency? Perhaps you are seeking a digital PR firm or looking to select one of many fashion PR companies on the market. Make sure the organisations you target specialise in the type of public relations you need.
Some brands prefer not to work with an agency which represents a rival, but a counter viewpoint is that such a consultancy will already know the market inside out. And many of the top PR agencies will happily sign a confidentiality agreement to avoid a conflict of interest.
When hiring a consultancy the golden rules are:
- Do your research: Speak to the firm's existing clients before reaching any decisions
- Take a trial run: Don't enter into a long-term contract in the beginning
- Admit your mistakes: If it's not working out, fire them fast and move on
Writing your brief
Once you’ve decided on agencies you’d like to invite to pitch for your custom, it’s important to be clear about what you want to achieve.
Are you seeking media coverage? Do you want to heighten brand visibility? Or is an increase in sales your purpose? Perhaps you want an integrated marketing strategy which fulfils all three.
List the services you require to achieve your goals – media relations, social media networking, evening management, digital marketing, or experiential campaigns.
Do a timeline of when you want to brief selected agencies, when you will receive presentations, and when you’ll make an appointment.
And, most importantly, prepare a written brief to give to PR agencies. This should give all the detail mentioned above, but most importantly it needs to give an indication of your budget. Also make it clear that agencies tender at their own expense.
Send your brief to no more than six agencies, and invite a maximum of four to present in person with a PR campaign proposal.
After sending your document to selected agencies you should make yourself available for interview by telephone or in person. Agencies are bound to have questions. Set aside time for face-to-face meetings and pay a visit to the offices of those who choose to pitch, if possible. People chemistry is important and you will always get the best results from people you enjoy working with.
If an agency declines your invitation to pitch this could be because they are too busy, or your budget may not be big enough. Don’t be discouraged if some walk away.
Making a decision
One of the big questions to ask a PR firm is whether the team which pitches for your business is the team which will handle your account, should you go with them. Often an agency will use its big guns to pitch – but pass the business to a junior team.
While your gut instincts will serve you well, you may want to award points for: creativity, big ideas, knowledge and understanding of your brand, experience and team strength, price, chemistry and any additional sweeteners or money back guarantees.
Always go first to the agency which you want to appoint, and get a deal in place before breaking the news to the others.
Keep a second choice in mind, in case things don’t work out.
Be sure to contact all the agencies which pitched and give honest and detailed feedback on your decision. This keeps PR companies on side, in case you want to go back to them in the future.
We are an integrated creative communications agency. Contact us on 0800 612 9890.