These tips will make the process of hiring a PR firm less painful and they will help you to make an informed decision!
Tip #1 – When you hire a PR firm, decide on PR/Firm goals before you do anything else!
As with all PR and marketing programs, I always advise defining goals before getting too far into making decisions about retaining an agency. We must recognize that strategy is the first step to success and leads to tactical execution. I am a firm believer that good strategy starts with goals. As you look to hire a PR firm, decide what you are trying to achieve.
Tip #2 – When you hire a PR firm, make sure you have considered all options.
How does a company tackle PR effectively? Hire a PR firm? Hire in-house? The answer will be different for every company, but I venture to say it is generally a combination of the two for a very good reason: a PR firm that isn’t managed by someone who understands PR will never fully realize the firm’s full potential. A PR firm needs brand and product knowledge and most importantly, access to the right internal people for both strategy and execution, and an internal PR person makes this possible. This combination of in-house and PR firm is not always possible, so you’ll need to decide what your budget warrants.
Tip #3 – When you hire a PR firm, determine your PR Agency budget.
Seems like a simple tip, right? In some ways it is, but it is important to make a firm decision on your top-line budget. Agencies are expensive and you’ll need to make sure you clearly articulate your top-line budget, including base retainer, overages, expenses and incidentals. Believe me, it can add up. Make sure you have a clear path that requires written approval for any month expense that exceeds your budget.
Tip #4 – When you hire a PR firm, decide what size PR firm is right for you.
PR firms come in all different shapes and sizes, and the firm that’s right for you might not be the firm you’d predict. There are many reasons to go with large PR firms (global reach, massive relationship networks, fantastic experience) and just as many reasons to choose a boutique PR firm (smaller, more closely knit teams, local expertise, niche industries, etc.).
Tip #5 – When you hire a PR firm, make specific requests regarding their pitch presentation.
When you hire a firm, especially when you implement a formal RFP process, there will be a formal presentation when your prospective agencies pitch you in effort to win your business. Before that meeting I recommend making three very specific asks:
1 – Ask that they only send people who will be on your account from day one to the meeting. This way you will not get caught up in a situation where you’re pitched by the A-team, but assigned to the D-team.
2 – Ask that everyone who will be on your team be involved in the presentation, not just the team lead. In the end you will work with everyone, you’ll want to know how each one thinks.
Tip #6 – When you hire a PR firm, don’t ignore the importance of chemistry.
Make sure you like the team you are hiring. Of course it is important that they are qualified and will do a great job, but it’s equally important that you like them and want to work with them. It’s really no different than hiring people to your own internal team, you want to be excited to work with them everyday!
Tip #7 – When you hire a PR firm, make sure they have at least one idea you’re excited about!
In the pitch meetings, if the PR firms have done their homework and prepared properly, they will present a few different PR campaign ideas based on your RFP requirements (when applicable). I generally take these ideas with a grain of salt, after all these PR firms are not fully on-boarded and have limited knowledge of your brand. That said, at least one of the ideas should be out-of-the-box and cool enough to get you excited!
Tip #8 – When you hire a PR firm, understand your contract.
Once you decide on which PR firm you want to hire, you will move to contract and/or statement of work (SOW). Make sure you review it carefully, with a lawyer if possible, and understand all key terms (cost/budget, duration, team, hours you receive based on budget, how they will report out results, etc.).