So you’ve made the decision to retain a public relations company to create and implement a PR campaign on your behalf. But how do you know which firm is right for your company, organization or nonprofit? How do you go about deciding which of the thousands of PR/marketing firms out there will help you achieve your PR goals and objectives?
Here are 10 tips to keep in mind when looking for the right PR and/or marketing firm:
1. Before you talk to any prospective PR firms, determine specifically what it is you want to achieve, and a budget that you know you can handle for a minimum of 6 months which is the right amount of time a firm needs to prove itself.
2. Find a firm that has experience in the industry or business you operate in. Some firms try to sell the idea that all PR is the same. Knowing your business is a key element in any successful PR campaign.
3. Don’t ask the question, “Who are your media contacts?” Clients should not hire PR firms thinking they are buying the firm’s media contacts. A better question is, “What is your strategy for getting us media attention?” Media contacts are dynamic, and reporters do stories that are newsworthy, not because they know the PR firm.
4. Ask to meet and interview the PR firm’s person or people who will directly work on your account. You want to know the backgrounds and experience of the people who will be on the front lines for you, not in the back office.
5. Ask the prospective firm to discuss several similar campaigns they have done and the results they achieved.
6. Inquire about their billing procedures. Some firms charge a flat retainer and others charge an hourly rate while still others use a combination formula. The most important thing to ask about are the expenses they will charge to your account. If you are paying for anything that is not a direct service to you, then you are being overbilled.
7. When reviewing a PR firms work, inquire whether the ideas they show off originated from them or the client. Sometimes PR firms simply take a client’s idea and run with it then claim ownership of the idea. You want a firm that not only can implement an idea, but comes up with them as well.
8. Make sure you have a comfort level with the level of communication between you and the PR firm. You have a preference as to how much communication you want from your consultants. Too much or too little contact can sour a relationship.
9. If you want monthly reports from your PR firm, ask whether they bill for the time to do the reports. Believe it or not, some firms bill for the time to do monthly reports and some even bill for the time it takes to bill their clients!
10. Last, and certainly not least, at the outset ask the firms you interview what they believe they can realistically achieve on your behalf. While it is nice to be promised the world, if they can’t deliver, you will be dissatisfied. Ask for a realistic assessment, and then you have a benchmark against which you can judge their performance.