Appointing a PR company

15 Things to Consider

We were recently asked to help a contact put together a brief in advance of them hiring a PR company. All pretty straight forward stuff. However, once it was done, I couldn't stop myself from offering further guidance.

If you're a tech 'start-up' for example, you might need a heavyweight agency in terms of experience and track record, but a partner that understands how to be creative with modest budgets!

The person in question was new to working with PR agencies, so I was keen to help them make the best possible decision. Because when the client/agency relationship starts off poorly and doesn't end well, it's less likely that the agency itself was flat out rubbish. It's more likely that the two parties were mismatched in the first place.

If you're a tech 'start-up' for example, you might need a heavyweight agency in terms of experience and track record, but a partner that understands how to be creative with modest budgets!

We jotted down our own checklist, below. Whilst it isn’t exhaustive, it does summarise years of our collective experience.

So, 15 things to consider when appointing a PR company:

1. Your position in the client pecking order – will you be a little fish in a big pond?

2. Fully justified fees in terms of activity and return - totally transparent reporting

3. Find personalities that you can work with

4. The level of experience among your account handlers – is the tea lady going to be pitching your features?!

5. Are your day-to-day account handlers the same group of people that pitched to you?

6. Staff turnover – some medium-large agencies introduce a new member to a client as often as every 12-18 months

7. References offered from any of the agency’s clients – not just those ‘cherry picked’ for you

8. Good knowledge of the media, relevant channels such as social media (as appropriate) and a deep understanding of integrating PR across the sales and marketing mix

9. A proven ability to make and maintain new press contacts

10. Demonstrates creative ideas, but produces realistic proposals

11. Offers tangible results and evaluation of coverage beyond standard column inch reporting

12. Does not work for competing businesses or products

13. ‘Local’ enough to avoid time-hungry commutes for meetings / press events

14. No ‘hidden extras’ – charges for ‘admin’, stationery, phone calls etc.

15. Hungry for your business and genuinely enthusiastic about your proposition

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