Hiring a PR Firm and Hiring a Client

Today’s blog post is courtesy of Abbie S. Fink of HMA Public Relations, our PRGN partner agency in Phoenix, Ariz. Abbie offers her thoughts about the agency/client relationship during the hiring process.


Hiring a PR Firm and Hiring a Client


Late last month, Gini Dietrich wrote about what to consider when hiring a public relations firm. She included a great checklist but talked mostly about evaluating expertise of the firm – the skill set and strategies they would bring to your organization.


If only having a checklist made the process easier.


I’ve been in the agency business a long time – reasons clients want to hire agencies vary. Their understanding of what we do and how we do it varies as well. And as those responsible for new business development and responding to the initial client requests, we need to ask some tough questions, too.


Things such as:

  • Why now?
  • Have you worked with an outside firm before? Why are you looking to change?
  • What are your expectations of your public relations efforts?
  • What do you consider to be your success measures?
  • What are your budgetary guidelines? – It is always tough to talk about money. But both sides of the equation need to know the answer — plans are flexible, should be based on results but if the client doesn’t allocate enough resources, the agency can’t allocate the kind of time and resources necessary to deliver on those shared results. 

Yes, experience and know-how definitely matter when selecting a public relations firm.  After all, using the services of a public relations agency can help you create, build and protect your good name. And we know how important your reputation and image are to the success of your business, so selecting the right firm may be one of the most important and strategic decisions you can make.


Understanding how public relations agencies work can go a long way toward helping you appreciate why they function they way they do. Public relations professionals are similar to attorneys, accountants and architects who sell their talent and knowledge. We are business advisors providing counsel regarding public relations issues.


And once you do have the right agency on board, here are a few other things to keep in mind:

  1. Communicate early and often: Whatever guidelines you put in place for your consulting team, make regular meetings a priority. This will create a healthy dialogue with each member of the team, ensuring everyone involved – those on your end and those on the agency side – each share the same vision. An added benefit of regular meetings is the agency is top-of-mind when you need to communicate something new. It becomes a habit to include them in the company goings-on.
  2. Include them in the fold: Sharing your company’s high-level strategy or vision with the public relations agency is important. It is practically impossible for your public relations agency to be strategic about communicating a coherent corporate story if they haven’t been exposed to senior-level executives, corporate marketing plans, relevant research findings and the like. They look for opportunities, and knowing what your ultimate goals can only help.
  3. Confidentiality is key here. Your public relations agency can be trusted to keep this information close to the vest. As a professional standard, a client’s trust is pertinent to do an affective job communicating. You have to trust them and trust they know what they’re doing. These concerns should all be handled in the selection process. If you don’t trust your consultant, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board.


What do you think? Anything to add?


Post your comments and thoughts below and email us at [email protected] and [email protected].


This article originally appeared on Spin Sucks


Abbie S. Fink is vice president/general manager of HMA Public Relations, a full-service marketing communications and public relations agency based in Phoenix. Known for asking a lot of questions, she’s still trying to figure out the answers.


HMA PR is LCI’s affiliate PR agency in Arizona and a fellow member of the Public Relations Global Network.


6 thoughts on “Hiring a PR Firm and Hiring a Client

  1. Abbie – great thoughts. I agree with you. The MOST important thing to include if you’re putting out an RFP? A budget. Not doing so only makes it difficult for an agency to determine if they’re the right fit or not. You’re never going to “get a deal” by not naming a budget – you’ll just waste your time in the selection process with a number of agencies that aren’t appropriate. Bravo, Abbie! Cheers, David

  2. I enjoyed reading this Abbie – and I agree with all your points. Of course the “art” in our business is knowing to ask your own network about the potential client’s product/service. I always enjoy finding out that my colleagues “love” something we’re pitching even if I’ve never heard of it – and I always try in advance, as long as it’s reasonable. Sign up for the service, test the product, register for the website…customer experience is invaluable to you and the prospect. Thanks for sharing!

  3. David – yes, budget is important. It is safe to assume the prospect has some idea of what will be allocated to public relations. It does a disservice to both sides when that information isn’t shared.

  4. David, couldn’t agree more. Even private sector prospects will not always provide a budget instead, asking us to provide one. Really — how much is too much? If the prospect is basing their decision solely on price, they may not end up being the best client with the appropriate expectations. Just saying..

  5. Scott – I agree. And my pal Joel Drucker used to say. When a client says “I don’t know how much I want to spend,” ask the question: “Well, how much do you NOT want to spend?!!” Cheers!

  6. I work with clients both as a PR agency search consultant and also a PR consultant so have perspective from both sides of the table. With agency searches, I always insist on the client including budget parameters in the RFP. I know how much time and effort goes into new business pitches so I want to be respectful of that and provide the best possible guidance.
    On the flip side, PR people could do a better job at saying No to potential clients who are not a good fit. I think we are so trained, as service people, to always say “Yes” that we cannot bring ourselves to turn down opportunities. What happens instead is that people are slow to respond or don’t get back to inquiries or promise something and then don’t deliver. (Which amazed me the first time it happened.)
    On the PR consultant side, my other pet peeve (and this usually happens with very early stage companies) is when you ask who their target audience is and they answer “Everyone” or “moms” or some other broad swathe of people. Well as the old saying goes, if you’re trying to appeal to everyone, you’ll end up appealing to no one.
    And, to Abbie’s point, access to the client leaders/senior managers is vital. It really hinders the PR agency team if everything is funneled through the day-to-day client contact. With the agency searches I’ve run, we make it a test to see which agencies will ask to meet with the client (rather than me) for a Q&A session prior to the pitch. If they want this, we already start to think they are people my client can work with.

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