Prepare for your Search
Before beginning your search for a PR agency, it’s vital that you and your team make a list of your needs and define why you are looking for an agency in the first place. This includes clarifying and listing your business and strategic communications goals, determining your monthly budget, and having a clear view on major upcoming marketing initiatives. Hiring an agency is a partnership – you’ll have to dedicate time to it. Define what financial and staffing resources you have available to hire and work with an agency. Once you set your needs, goals, budget, and resources, you’ll better be able to identify agencies that are a good fit.
Interview Your Top Choices
Tap into your network for recommendations, and look at lists of award-winning agencies (PRSA’s Anvil Award winners – which include Landis – are a good place to start). Research those that have the experience you require, and create a list of five to start. Have an initial conversation, covering the agency’s capabilities, service offerings, experience, case study examples, team members and general pricing structure. They should have a long list of questions for you, as well. Based on this conversation, you’ll be able to whittle it down to a handful of potentially great partners.
Define the Process – Next Steps
Determine how you’re going to move forward – written proposal? Presentation over zoom? In-person meeting? Finding the right agency is more than hearing great ideas and understanding reputations. Make a judgement call here. Is it your company’s style to meet and spitball ideas or are you more of a “let’s review the slides” sort of group? Ask your potential agency partners to conform to your style – this could save a step down the road.
What to Look for in an Agency
Ultimately, your agency and its team should have a high level of strategic communications experience, skill and acumen, including public relations, public affairs and crisis communications. You should feel confident in your potential agency’s leadership and team members and their ROI programs/metrics. They should be a real strategic partner and fill in the gaps appropriately. For example, is your organization a non-profit with a very small communications/marketing team? Your agency should be able to scale to create a virtual department within your company. Conversely, a Fortune 500 brand might need an agency for a specific project; one that can work well with other agencies on retainer.
Finally, Ensure It’s a Good Fit
A major factor in selecting an agency is culture fit. After all, these are people you’ll be working with week in and week out – and importantly they’ll be representing YOUR brand.
Do you get a genuine sense of excitement from your agency whenever you connect with them? Are they as passionate about your stories as you are? Cultural and work-style fit is vital, and many potential clients ignore it. Never choose an agency only for budget reasons, or because there’s a specific client on their roster. The relationship between a client and its agency is based on trust, camaraderie and the ability to work together.