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10 tips for choosing the right PR company

How do you choose the right PR agency for your business? Shelly Durrant, account director at Newgate Communications provides 10 top tips to consider

Hiring a Public Relations agency is a challenge and involves a lengthy process that is certainly not easy.  As with a lot of things in business, the process can often seem simple but there is often more to it than you think.

PR agencies come in all shapes and sizes, it’s not a case of one size fits all and it can be hard to know where to begin when starting your search. Each business will have their own reasons for needing communications support and it’s crucial that you select a firm that fits well with your business, understands your industry and can deliver results that support your business objectives.

Here are my top 10 tips on how to choose the right PR agency for your business:

1. The value of PR

It’s important to understand the value of PR. PR is often underestimated by those that don’t quite understand what it truly is and fail to realise just how targeted it can be. It’s definitely not fluffy marketing guff that some perceive it to be!

It’s a vital communications channel to connect you to both existing and potential clients. It can be difficult for a business to stand out and differentiate itself from the herd. Public Relations is an incredibly influential tool for a business. PR artfully touches prospects via the media they consume.

2. Objectives

Ensure you have business objectives which can be aligned to your PR goals. The first step to success is having a clear strategy in place and knowing where you want to take your business. Any PR plan should support and complement your objectives with both you and your PR agency working in tandem to achieve them. These could be anything from increasing client numbers, boosting sales, cross selling / offering new services, launching a product or increasing your brand awareness.

3. The people

You want an agency with a team of experienced PR practioners who have a clear understanding of your sector, incredible market knowledge and know the key media inside out.

It’s important to be clear who will run the day-to-day campaign. Often the team that pitches to you can be the agency’s more senior staff who will not be proactively working on the account. It’s also worth being mindful, that you don’t want an all junior team. It should be a team that you feel are the right people to form your strategy and execute it well.

4. Determine your PR agency budget

It seems like a minor point, but being clear and upfront at the beginning could save time. Nevertheless, the agency should always seem more interested and focussed on your business than your budget.

5. Chemistry

Make sure you like the team you are hiring and can see yourself working with on a day-to-day basis. It’s no different to hiring an internal member of staff, you should view a PR agency as an extension of your team.  Keep in mind that chemistry meetings are a two-way process, just as you are assessing them, the agency will be assessing whether they want to or can work with you.

6. Market knowledge

Never underestimate the power of market knowledge. It’s good to have members of the team that have specialist sector knowledge. However, don’t limit yourself. Good PR people are smart and can adapt quickly. Remember, everyone started off ‘green’ and had to learn their sector.

7. PR measure

An agency should not measure in column inches or advertising value equivalent (AVE), as these are outdated metrics. You want an agency that is able to measure against your benchmarks, while this can still include coverage numbers it could also include website traffic or enquiries.

While results don’t happen overnight, the longer term benefits will be worth the wait.

8. Are they working with your competitors?

For some this can be an issue. If you’re trying to find an agency that understands your sector and has market knowledge, then they are likely to be working for others in your sector. Some may view this as a positive, as you can be confident you have a team of specialists that is already submersed in the industry and can hit the ground running, while others will view this as a conflict of interest and will want reassurance that there are no divided loyalties

Always ask the agency who they are currently working for in your sector. There may be some industry peers you are happy for them to work for, while other competitors might be a problem. The agency may be able to offer you a separate team to allay any concerns, but it’s always worth the discussion.

9. Connections

No matter what industry you’re in, that little black book of contacts is priceless. Ensure your PR agency is well connected to journalists, industry figureheads, thought leaders and even other PR agencies. It’s worth asking if their external connections are available to you as well. For example, can they recommend a marketing agency, advertising firm or public affairs specialist too.

10. Track record

PR’s are pretty good at talking the talk, but you want an agency that can also walk the walk. Don’t be afraid to ask the agency what level of experience they have, what results they produce for clients, for client testimonials and case studies, and examples of coverage.

PR is a crucial element in effective business communications. Done well, it can have a meaningful and positive impact, in the same way that a poorly handled issue can quickly become a crisis. Choosing the right agency is so important. Getting it wrong will not only waste time but cost you money.

A good PR company is worth its weight in gold, so make sure you find the one that is truly right for you.

Visit the Newgate Communications website

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