When choosing the right public relations agency for your business, you first must determine your goals. Do you want to enhance brand awareness? Establish solid media relations? Drive customers to your business? All of the above? The answers to these and other questions will help you determine what size public relations agency can best serve your needs.
First, come up with a list of strategic and tactical objectives. You can prioritize these later.
One place to begin your search is the internet. Search for clearing house web sites that collect information on many difference public relations agencies. Or post about your requirements on professional PR discussion lists and message boards.
Do a little homework; find out what public relations agencies other businesses within your industry are using. If you’re already a member of a public relations organization such as the Public Relations Society of America or International Association of Business Communicators, be sure to network at meetings.
Treat the process like a job interview, one where you’re doing the hiring. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but also allow the agency representatives plenty of time for their presentation. Beware of presentations that are more fluff than substance. The presentation is usually a good indicator of what you can expect from a public relations agency. If you get fluff during the interview, don’t expect more once you’ve signed on the dotted line.
The “WYSIWYG” rule applies here: Make sure that who you see is who you get. Make sure that the people participating in the interview process will be the same ones servicing your account.
Ask for sample press releases. The way an agency crafts a press release reveals more than just a working knowledge of grammar and punctuation. Is the release written in journalistic style? Is the opening paragraph clear and concise? Do the quotes truly contribute to the piece?
Don’t let location be a hindrance when selecting an agency. With today’s reliance on email, telephones/cell phones, and faxes, you still can maintain control of your public relations program even if your agency is in another time zone. After the initial face-to-face meeting, you can keep travel costs down via video conferencing and other creative methods of telecommuting.
Fees are negotiable. If you have a limited budget, you might decide to go with only a portion of the agency’s proposed services. Or you might opt for a contract shorter in duration than the one proposed.
You should be skeptical of any magical formula that equates editorial placement with advertising space. It’s like comparing apples and oranges.
When you enter into any kind of relationship, chemistry undoubtedly plays a role. Don’t ignore your “gut feelings” when choosing a public relations agency.
Once you’ve hired an agency, keep your account reps fully informed to ensure a successful public relations program.
This article, written by Darcy Silvers, originally appeared in PR Fuel (http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel), a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.