5 Factors in Choosing a PR Agency

With thousands of public relations agencies and social media firms to choose from, how does a company find the proverbial diamond in the rough? Selecting the right partner can often be an overwhelming task. But here are five key factors to help your brand decide on the PR representation that’s right for you: 

Size matters.

Sandra Fathi

PR agencies come in all sizes, from the two-person mini, to the 2,000-person conglomerate. When searching for an agency, keep in mind that the biggest guy on the block is not always the best. Larger firms can come with considerable overhead that impacts the bottom line. Conversely, when looking at a small agency, it is important to make sure they have the staff and requisite industry experience to meet your organization’s needs. Consider the culture of your own operation. The perfect agency should reflect those same ideals, whether they are big, small or somewhere in the middle. 

Been there, done that.

Industry experience is by far one of the first topics that you will want to cover with a prospective agency. Brands should want to know that the agency they select not only understands their business, but also understands the business of their business—an awareness of the regulation and compliance issues their clients face—and an appreciation that those issues are just as important as being familiar with the media covering their industry. It is essential that any agency selected have a familiarity, if not expertise, with how your brand's industry operates, the technology it uses, and the services and types of organizations that are important to you. 

Avoid the bait and switch.

It is important that your company get to know the team that will work on your account from the outset. When pitching prospective clients, some agencies send a delegation of key staff that lock in new business but don’t actually perform the critical task of managing accounts on a day-to-day basis. Clients work closely with their PR team through the duration of the contract. Before making the final decision on selecting an agency, you should meet with the people who will actually be developing, implementing and executing your communications campaign. 

Getting what you pay for.

While price is always an important factor in selecting the right PR partner, the bottom line should not be the only barometer for selecting an agency. You have many options when it comes to how you are going to be billed for services and those options can often be tailored to meet budgetary needs. Furthermore, it is important to know the breakdown of fees and how a PR team’s time will be divided to accommodate you. The amount of senior-level service received from one company at a particular price will likely differ depending on the agency. More important than the price is to understand what you will get for fees paid—will the agency commit to measurable results or business outcomes? A successful program is judged on performance, not the cost paid for services. 

Read the window sticker.

An agency’s proposal for services is like the window sticker on a new car. It provides an opportunity for you to examine the features and functions that an agency offers before you decide to sign a contract. A good proposal should include a clear list of program elements, activities, deliverables and key performance indicators (KPIs) that help both parties measure success. Establishing an actionable, sustainable and measurable plan from the outset will help set expectations and ensure that appropriate metrics are achieved as a campaign moves forward.

Following these guidelines for selecting an agency can help make your experience working with an agency more productive, seamless and successful.

Find the right agency to fit your needs by searching PR News’ Firm Finder Platform today.

Sandra Fathi is president and founder of Affect, a public relations and social media firm located in New York. Follow Sandra: @sandrafathi. Follow Affect: @teamaffect.

  • Sydney Griffin

    Sandra hits the five important issues for choosing a PR Agency. She is spot on. As a client, it is so important to fully understand those five points as they relate to your specific needs. When an agency refuses to establish an actionable, sustainable and measurable plan from the outset, the client should say “no thanks”. It boils down to the agency not only talking the talk, but walking the walk as well.

  • Lyndon

    Some good advice here. I’m not sure that specific industry experience is as important as a basic understanding of the business of business. The psychology of building relationships is another important factor.

  • http://www.ou.edu/content/gaylord/people/robert_pritchard.html Pritch Pritchard

    This is a pretty decent “starter” list of considerations. My co-author and I take a more comprehensive look at what you should expect from your firm in our new book “The Public Relations Firm” available at Business Expert Press or on Amazon.
    Warmest regards,

    Robert S. Pritchard, APR, Fellow PRSA
    Captain, U.S. Navy (Ret.)
    2013 PRSA Outstanding Educator
    PRSSA 2011-2015 National Faculty Adviser