By Tanya Carlsson.
This article originally published in Forbes Communications Council.
Going on the hunt for a PR firm is no easy feat. It’s a considerable decision that takes time and commitment – and it can be a big investment in services, people and, ultimately, your business. Knowing what to look for (and what not to) can be difficult. Here are a few things that are crucial to know before you begin your search.
Chemistry is key.
It’s important to think of your PR firm as a natural extension of your own team. Given that you’ll be in constant communication, and that you will have to trust your firm with sensitive information and tasks, it’s important that the chemistry is there. Make sure you know what they stand for, and that it closely aligns with your core values. What do they have in mind for the future of your business? Do you trust them? Are they genuine? Lastly, are they people you can you see yourself having a little fun with? It may seem small, but it is the key to any successful agency-client relationship.
Domain expertise and experience is a must.
It’s vital that the firm you are considering has direct experience in your respective market. Having a strong understanding of the market and competitive landscape means they can quickly get up to speed and start producing results. In addition to domain expertise, consider the team’s seniority. Ensure your team includes a number of seasoned members who can provide high-level strategy, as well as help you make important business decisions. More often than not, you see teams out there composed of junior PR people who may not have the years of experience required to adequately represent your organization or provide strategic recommendations.
Size really doesn’t matter.
Many organizations make the mistake of believing large, global firms will get them better results. Wrong. The only thing that truly matters is that an agency understands your business objectives and end goals – and that they offer services and programs that make the most sense for your business. Look for a firm that can create a custom PR program to get your business to the next level. Boutique and mid-sized agencies are often more flexible when it comes to customizing programs and giving your organization the attention it deserves.
Assess your readiness.
It’s not always the right time for PR. You must know what you’re trying to achieve in advance. Are you planning to launch your company or product? Are you repositioning or rebranding? These scenarios serve as great launchpads to kick off the PR relationship. In terms of readiness, there are other things to consider as well. For example, are you ready to clearly define your target audience, place in the market and differentiation from the competition? Are you ready to offer executives, customers or other spokespeople to the media, and do you have the budget to invest in a long-standing PR relationship? It’s important to look past the short term and consider what you have in the pipeline.
Location is irrelevant; connections matter.
In today’s highly connected world, location is a non-issue. More important is identifying how wide the firm’s network reaches. Do they have a large network of partners and relationships with key influencers and stakeholders? Seek out a firm that offers a network you can benefit from, now and in the future.
Your budget depends on your needs.
In terms of PR programs, there is no one size fits all. Work with an agency that offers a breadth of services and can customize your program based on your key objectives and current stage of business. Be sure they are flexible and open to readjusting the program over time. Do not enter the search process with a number – enter with an appetite for opportunity.
It’s not worth doing if it’s not worth measuring.
It’s important to ask your potential PR partner how they measure success. Do they have a formal measurement process? How do they deliver results? Chances are you’re going to need to protect and validate your PR investment to an executive team or board, so it’s crucial that you select an agency that has a proven measurement approach.
By following these seven steps, you and your PR agency can work well hand in hand to help meet your business goals. Good luck!
Tanya Carlsson is PR Director at Offleash. She oversees global client communications programs, with a focus on analyst and media relations, developing editorial relationships, driving creative campaigns and strategy. Check out Tanya’s Forbes Communications Council column and contact her at email@example.com.