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You’ve done it! You got the green light to engage a PR firm to assist with your PR and marketing needs.
Choosing a PR firm that is the right fit for your firm is crucial to the success of your PR program. Once you’ve outlined your goals, needs and budget, you are prepared to meet with potential PR agency matches.
Here are eight key questions to ask your agency candidates:
1. How large is your staff? Selecting a firm that is too large may mean higher fees, less senior attention and fewer results, while selecting a firm that is too small that can’t execute your program can doom you to inconsistent effort, stress and criticism. For many companies, a smaller agency with multiple staff members can offer the expertise, economy of scale and flexibility they need, without adding unnecessary overhead.
2. What kind of resources/infrastructure do you have in place? It’s important to know that the agency is large enough to have the resources in-house to get the job done efficiently and effectively (ie: consistent billing/budget tracking system, IT infrastructure, online media directories and compatible software). Also, does the firm participate in an established, trusted global network that can bring you local market expertise in major markets around the world if/when you need them?
3. What is your firm’s focus? If the firm offers PR, advertising, digital/online and marketing communications in-house, you have to decide if you want a jack-of-all-trades (master of none) or a specialist. Their focus should align with your anticipated needs and target markets, such as business-to-business vs. business-to-consumer.
4. How long have you been in business? Lots of small PR shops pop up when times get tough or former corporate PR people retire early and decide to become PR consultants. While such executives may offer impressive experience, you have to wonder if their agency business is not just a stop-gap measure to sustain them until the next corporate job comes along.
5. Who are your other key clients and how long have they been with you? You want to make sure that the agency staff has experience in your industry and in your product/service segment, but that they do not work for any of your direct competitors. If your work is business-to-business and most of their clients’ work is business-to-consumer, it might not be a good fit. You may want to probe a little deeper to make sure they understand the trends and issues that affect your business and that their relationships with key clients last.
6. How will my budget rank among those of your other clients? If your budget is substantially smaller than most of the agency’s clients, you may not get all the attention you want or deserve. Conversely, if you will be the agency’s largest client, they may not have the infrastructure or capacity to adequately handle your work at times of peak demand.
7. Who will be on my account team? It’s important to know who the core members on your account will be and what their roles will be. Make sure they have the experience, the energy level and the enthusiasm you’re looking for and, ultimately, that you will enjoy working with them.
8. Has the agency asked me good questions to understand my challenges or have they just talked about themselves? If the agency has not focused on you in the initial stages, you have to wonder where their focus will be after you’ve signed a contract.