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The Ultimate Guide to Hiring a Best-In-Class PR Agency in 2020

Many companies need a great Public Relations, but don’t know where to start or how to choose the best PR agency. Hiring a public relations (PR) agency is a big deal for your company. It is also a commitment that will hopefully be well worth your while when it comes to taking the time to vet prospective PR companies. People enjoy buying from and working with businesses with a good public image and positive word of mouth. Make sure your business is positively perceived by working with only the best PR agency to gain the most positive results and garner a truly strong brand reputation in your market.

However, not all PR agencies are created equal and not all will deliver the same results, let alone the results that you desire. As a business, are you desiring a higher sales volume, more site traffic, more app downloads, etc.? Every company has different goals and, therefore, has different ways of measuring success. This will make a big impact on choosing a public relations agency that is a great fit for your business. Here are the top things to look for when considering hiring a public relations agency.

10 Things To Look For When You are Hiring a PR Agency

1. What YOU Are Looking For

Before making the first call or online inquiry to a top PR agency, you and the rest of the leadership team at your business or brand need to know exactly what they are looking to achieve. Are you launching a new product line? Do you want to get the word out about a line of new services your company is offering? Is your company brand new to the market? Do you want your company to have a more positive reputation or are your goals purely sales-focused?

Knowing exactly what you are looking to gain from a PR strategy and the investment of hiring a professional PR agency is essential to consider before you settle on a specific PR agency for your company.

2. Transparency

The word “transparency” has been entangled with the public relations industry for years and somehow continues to be the top thing to look for when you consider hiring a PR agency. If you feel like the PR agency that you are sitting down with to consider a partnership isn’t being 100%, crystal clear with you, they probably aren’t. Once more, there is probably a serious underlying reason that they aren’t being transparent.

A great public relations agency will be completely transparent with you. If their team or a team member, even if it’s the company’s owner, doesn’t know something off the top of their head, they will tell you that directly if they are worth their salt. Don’t let a company that seems to have all the answers, albeit vague answers, pull the wool over your eyes. A really great PR agency will put transparency down as the first card on the table.

3. Strong Track Record

The age we live in today is one where we put more weight on past reviews and customer or client experience than we ever have before, so why wouldn’t we hire for services to the same standard? When considering working with a public relations agency, look at their tangible track record first. What type of past client reviews have they received on third-party sights? What kind of tangible metrics can they provide you regarding the results of their services for past clients and the results they were able to achieve?

A high-quality public relations company will have a strong track record of success with past clients and will have pre-prepared data, reviews or other pertinent information to give you during your consideration process. Remember, you are looking to a professional PR agency to establish your brand and its product or services as highly reputable and achieving the desired results. Shouldn’t your agency do the same on its own accord?

4. A Suitable Size: Bigger Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Better

When considering a PR agency, remember that bigger doesn’t always lead to better results when you are a small to mid-sized business. A smaller PR agency may not have as much flash and showmanship as a very large public relations agency. However, a smaller PR agency may dedicate a good deal more time and energy to your company and your account, simply because their team members are less inundated with work. Public relations and marketing professionals that work at a small or mid-sized agency also tend to have a much smaller client load, again making it possible for them to spend more time on your business’s PR strategy.

5. Industry Experience

Sure, the public relations agency you are considering may have years, decades or generations worth of experience working in PR and they may have wonderful reviews from past clients. While these are excellent signs and they bode very well for your choice in the selection of public relations agencies, there is one major question you may have not asked yourself. Does this specific public relations company that you and other leaders at your business are considering have experience in your specific industry?

There are many ways that industry-related experience benefits and is crucial to success in public relations. For example, a company that focuses on the “hard sell” like a car dealership or an app creator seeking downloads, may benefit completely differently from a more promotional PR strategy than a company like a high-end beauty or clothing boutique that has a slow-trip branding strategy in mind. Make sure that the company you choose knows the industry your business is in.

6. How “Success” Is Established

Rarely in life do you hire someone or make any purchase without expecting to see some type of successful results. So why would you hire a PR firm without establishing what “success” looks like and how it will be measured? Public Relations is an industry that used to slide by the firm metrics due to questions like, “how is good word of mouth measured?”

Establishing metrics you would like to see for your company as a result of working with your PR agency before finally committing to working with them is how both sides set themselves up for a beneficial long-term success.

7. Established Goals

One of the most important things to keep an eye out for is the conversation about established goals with your potential public relations agency. There is so much PR work that is truly subjective that there truly are elements that can’t be measured with a number or metric. However, that doesn’t mean that goals shouldn’t be set and performance metrics can’t be put in place. Things like website traffic, call volume, sales made, or revenue stream growth are all metrics you can track.

It is important to set goals in your public relations campaign that have some way of being measured so you can monitor the concrete return on your investment in hiring that PR agency. As a business owner or executive, be wary of any PR agency that is hesitant or unwilling to establish these goals with you upfront.

8. Your Job: Make it Someone Else’s Job

Don’t wind up hiring a PR agency to do a job only to wind up taking on an extra job yourself. Establish a dedicated point person within your company to deal with the public relations agency in regards to day-to-day work. As a business leader, you may want to joint key meetings and weight in on important strategy decisions, yet you likely don’t want to deal with the superfluous calls about billing, logo treatments, imagery, minor text updates, etc.

Public relations is definitely an exciting and interesting field, making many business leaders hesitant to give the reigns to someone else within their company if they don’t have a dedicated internal PR or marketing team. However, this can often lead to you becoming overwhelmed and things falling to the wayside. Dedicate someone on your team to deal with the more “day-to-day” items regarding your PR agency, leaving you to just focus on “big picture” items.

9. A Customer-First Mindset

When considering one or several public relations agencies, you and your team should be asking yourself if they truly are putting you first as a customer in their strategy. For example, did they come prepared to the meeting having already clearly done their research on your company, your company’s products and/or services, your competitors, and any recent news you have had? A good PR agency will have already done a wealth of research and will already be treating you as a top client before you have even signed off on working together.

Stay on the lookout for a customer-first mindset when you are considering your ideal public relations agency. A great PR agency will always put you at the forefront!

10. The “It” Factor: Trust

Last but not least, you should consider the trust factor before you commit to working with a public relations agency. Trust is an intangible factor; it is a gut instinct you will have A PR agency can have as many wonderful reviews as a second-party website will allow, but in the end, all that matters is how you and your team feel about a certain agency.

If you feel like a particular agency should be coined “slick, slippery and sketchy” don’t be afraid to simply move on.

Conclusion: Choose A PR Agency That is Best FOR YOU

Selecting a public relations agency is a true commitment and, ideally, it will bloom into a long-term partnership. Always remember that taking an initial meeting with a public relations or marketing agency isn’t a commitment or a sign-on to utilize their services. When it comes to public relations done right, there is no online review that can beat a strong word of mouth. Don’t be afraid to ask around to people in your industry or simply leadership at other successful businesses that you are already in touch with. Also, don’t forget that it is their job to ‘wow’ you in the initial meeting, not vice-versa. A PR agency can bring many benefits to your company and to the way that your brand is perceived to your target audience and beyond.

Thanks for reading "The Ultimate Guide to Hiring a Best-In-Class PR Agency in 2020", by the Linchpin Team in Chicago, Raleigh, and Wake Forest.

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