Public relations is an important tool for any business. It’s the discipline that manages your reputation, telling potential customers and influencers what you’re all about.
You’ve identified the need for professional support, but how do you find the right PR agency for your business?
Create a brief
Think about what you would like the PR agency to achieve. Are you looking to engage with new audiences, to create a buzz around a new service or product, or perhaps you need help to manage your social media accounts?
Make a list of the key objectives and use these to create a brief. Prospective agencies will want to know some background information about your company and to have a steer on anything that is due to launch, change or grow in the coming months.
You should also outline how the selection process will work and any key information you will require, such as points of contact within the agency.
Be clear on how you would like the agency to respond. Will there be a shortlisting process followed by a meeting? Will they be expected to present to a panel? Perhaps you’d like to meet at their offices? How long will they be given to present?
Set a budget
Setting a budget for PR will enable you to plan ahead and make the best use of your agency’s resources. Most agencies will work to a day rate, so you can request this as part of the selection process. If you need guidance on budgets, the PRCA has some guides which can help.
It’s your choice whether to share an indicative budget with agencies before they pitch. Doing so means you will not waste time meeting agencies who cannot work to your budget, especially if it is limited. It also creates a level playing field for proposals so you can determine who would be able to deliver the most for your money.
Research and seek recommendations
Locating potential agency partners can seem overwhelming. The internet will offer infinite options. To narrow your search, consider what the single most important agency capabilities or offerings are. For example, is an industry specialism what you most need? Perhaps in-depth knowledge of a particular discipline, such as media relations, is required? Do they need to be familiar with a geographical area where you operate?
Linked In can be a good source of research and recommendations. Ask your contacts if they can help. Don’t discount old-fashioned word of mouth. If you know someone who could advise, contact them directly.
Research the agencies you find – check out their websites and social media profiles to get a feel for their approach and their characteristics.
Next, it’s time to make contact and offer to supply the brief for the agencies to respond to.
Arrange to meet the agencies who best match your criteria
Think about how you want to run this part of the process. You can arrange a chemistry meeting, where you gauge how personalities fit, followed by a more formal presentation. You may decide one meeting is sufficient to meet the agency’s key personnel and listen to their response to the brief. Either way, you should offer the agency the chance to ask questions about the brief before they formulate their proposals by email, on a phone call or face to face.
When the day of the agency pitches arrives, gather your team and have key questions prepared. Understand what the main qualities are that you are seeking.
Stick to the presentation times you have outlined and let the agencies know what will happen next. You should give an idea of when a decision will be made and when the successful agency will be required to start work.
Following the meetings, you will have a sound idea about who you would like to work with. Assemble your team and discuss the merits of each agency. A successful client-agency relationship is based on mutual respect and this should be evident from the outset. If you haven’t found the right fit, start the process again.
Once you have made your decision, it’s time to deliver the good news and together you can start planning the next few months.
Don’t leave the unsuccessful agencies waiting. Even if you think you may look to them if things don’t work out, be honest that they haven’t been chosen.
Ready to start planning? As you become used to working together, don’t forget the need to keep your messaging clear.