What to Know Before You Hire a PR Firm

If your business is looking for a PR agency, your marketing or communications team has some homework to do before deciding which PR firm to hire.

In some recent new business meetings, I’ve been surprised to realize that the company representatives on the other side of the table (or computer screen) don’t always know what they’re looking for. And if they do, they aren’t necessarily asking the right questions that will help them find a good PR agency match for their needs.

As in any ‘getting to know you’ relationship, there needs to be compatibility, mutual understanding and a shared vision for it to be successful. The idea is to set yourself and the PR agency up for success so that everyone is happy.

If you’re in the market for a PR firm, here are a few tips to take into account before making the decision to hire:

Be clear on the terms of service upfront

Be sure you fully understand what the agency’s scope of work is, including deliverables, timeline, and reporting structure. Some agencies are flexible with adjusting the campaign on the fly and some charge extra for adjustments along the way. Make sure you understand the full scope.

Meet the team you’ll be working with

Many times, senior executives or dedicated new business development teams will sell the business and then step out of the picture once the contract is signed. At some point, make sure that you meet with the actual folks who will be executing the day-to-day work. In addition, it’s important to fully understand how much time senior executives will spend on your specific work, if at all.

Discuss clear, measurable objectives and outcomes

It’s imperative to discuss with the PR firm what success looks like and to agree on acceptable outcomes. You don’t want to discover three months into an engagement that your agency has a totally different idea of what “increased visibility” means than you do.

Prepare specific questions

Do your due diligence and know a little about the agency before your meeting. Find out what clients they’ve worked with who have had a similar situation to yours and ask about how they solved their problems. How did they measure success? Did the relationship end? If so, why?

Understand the agency’s business philosophy

What is their culture? What are their values? The relationship is likely to last longer if your company and the firm’s philosophies are aligned. Don’t be shy about asking about turnover. It’s frustrating to be presented with an account team only to learn that many of them have left the firm by the time the contract is signed.

Ask where your business will fall in their roster of clients

Will you be a large client for them, small, or somewhere in between? Knowing where you fall within the agency’s client list will help you to better understand the hours and staffing allocations. For some companies, it’s important for them to know they’re one of the PR agency’s biggest clients. For others, it might be more important that they go with a “big name” agency, even if they’re one of the smaller clients. Decide what your preference is prior to your meeting.

Make sure there’s a personality match

Once you’ve found an agency that has all of the talent and experience that you’re looking for, make sure that your teams click. You can typically get a feel within the first meeting whether your teams are simpatico – which is another reason it’s so important to meet with the team who will be your day-to-day.

Hiring the right PR firm to meet your business needs can be a challenge, but a successful PR campaign can help breathe new life into your business in ways you might never have been able to do on your own. Being as prepared as possible in a new business pitch meeting is the first step down the road to a successful client/agency relationship.

If you’re interested in learning if Maven is the right agency for you, drop us a line.

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