By David Landis, President, LCI
Having been in the public relations business for more than two decades, I’m often asked by business people how to find the right PR firm for their needs. Finding the perfect PR and marketing communications agency is a bit like dating: you might have to kiss a few frogs to find your soul mate. To bypass the frogs, here’s a 5-step guaranteed process that will help you identify the right agency for your PR needs.
1. Think clearly about your goals, scope of work and budget
Before you begin, this is the most important step. If you can’t define success upfront, you’ll never find the right partner. And don’t just say, “Get me into the Wall Street Journal.” Professional PR firms want to know “how should we target our efforts to help your business grow?” Most important of all, know and articulate your budget or you won’t be able to identify the correct PR partner.
2. Do your research
To do your research these days, it’s not so hard. Do a Google search for “best public relations firms” in your City and you’ll come up with a list (those agencies that don’t do a good job promoting themselves probably aren’t going to do a great job of promoting your business, either). Take the time to visit each website to determine if they have the relevant experience, case studies, results and customer testimonials for your needs.
3. Ask yourself: Is this firm the right size for your business?
Just like Goldilocks, some PR firms are too big; some are too small; and some are just right for your needs. At LCI, we like to educate prospects that there are three types of agencies: multi-national firms that have multiple offices worldwide (and budget minimums that reflect those resources); mid-sized agencies, likes ours, that have many of the capabilities of the “big guys” but with less overhead; and freelancers, who generally are the least expensive, but most often are best suited for a local campaign. Once you’ve figured out your needs and your budget, you’ll be able to determine which of these three options is best for your business.
4. Get to know the agency before you meet them
The best way is first to send an email identifying your interest; then have an initial call to see if they understand your business and your vision; and finally, ask them to put a proposal in writing. But proposals are only as good as the information that prospects give agencies: the better your “request for proposal” (or RFP), the better suited the agency responses will be. And, don’t send your RFP to more than a half dozen agencies.
Many of us in the PR business won’t even respond to that because it’s an open call and less likely to result in business. A better way is to vet the agencies before you ask them to respond in writing: that way, you’ll get better proposals and the agencies will put their best foot forward.
5. Most of all: do you like them?
We always recommend that prospects visit us in person – not just to meet the team firsthand (you can’t believe it, but some people hire folks these days without meeting them face-to-face) – but to assess the offices, the workplace culture and the gut level “feeling” about the agency and its personnel. Have the agency present their ideas in person so you can hear them fully fleshed out. Then, ask specifically who will be working on your team and ask to meet them. In the end, you will be working with your PR pros closely, so you want to make sure that you like them as people, not just as professionals.
Following these steps will help you find that perfect agency and – more likely than not – result in a longstanding partnership that will benefit both parties for many years to come.
What are your thoughts for finding the best PR agency for your needs? Please comment below or tweet me @david_landis.