We’ve talked about how to know when it’s time to fire your PR agency but what about the process of how to choose a PR agency that’s truly right for your startup? The selection process can be tough and even painful. It’s hard to trust someone with your brand. You may have even been burned before …
Is it really possible to find an agency that truly cares about your business, almost as much as you do? GOOD NEWS: Yes, it absolutely is possible. However, you have to dig in and invest the time to select the right agency because, let’s be real, you don’t want to decide to work with an agency only to be disappointed, fire that agency, and have to start the process all over again.
It’s just not fun for anyone involved and it’s exhausting.
How to Choose A PR Agency for Your Startup: 10 Questions
Although the selection process can be especially challenging because it ties directly into the success of your organization, in order to take your brand to the next level, it’s essential that the right PR partner is selected. This will allow you to give up control and allow the experts to work for you.
When choosing a PR agency, there are questions you can ask before committing. You can even go back and ask these questions if you’ve already decided on a firm, to set expectations for all parties involved.
- How do you measure results? Measurement is essential to the success of an agency in retaining clients and tangibly moving the needle on ROI. Tip: Media impressions and advertising equivalency alone do not move the needle and results they do not make.
- How do you stay on top of current events and trends? This helps you gauge whether or not an agency is growing and adapting or is instead using a more traditional approach. Are they actively researching and engaging influencers and uncovering new ways to add value to your organization?
- What will you need from our team? This ties into things such as: Will we need to create content or connect your agency with an expert from our team or will you manage those things? How often will our organization need to be available for meetings or interviews?
- How often should I expect to see media coverage? This question is HUGE. You can’t leave the answer up to interpretation. Even though an agency may not give you an exact number of times you will be covered by the media on a monthly basis (this isn’t advertising), they should be able to at least provide you with a range. It is absolutely and unapologetically unacceptable to pay a monthly retainer without receiving monthly coverage.
- How do you integrate media relations with other forms of communication? This communicates you are aware of the need to integrate marketing mediums and that you expect to keep from being siloed. This is also a great time to discuss how the agency communicates media coverage to you and your team so it can be leveraged and repurposed throughout your marketing channels.
- How else can you help our organization? This is a great tag-on to the above question. Yes, you’re coming to this agency for media relations, but it’s quite possible they are successful in other areas, such as blogging or social media.
- Why should we choose you? It may seem like a no-brainer initially, but this question can help you get a grasp of what differentiates a particular agency from another.
- Will we be expected to pay additional fees? I have heard one too many clients say they had additional fees tacked on to secure ‘media coverage.’ If you have to pay a fee for an interview or feature, that coverage is not PR … it’s advertising. Note: This does not include budget allowances for special efforts such as blogger reviews.
- Do you have contacts within our industry? If the answer is yes, ask to see the coverage the agency has secured within your industry. You may decide to choose a PR agency even if they don’t have industry contacts. In that case, ask for case studies in similar industries.
- Do you have client experience within our industry? Choosing a PR agency that has had other clients within your industry is a major plus. That said, some clients see others in the same industry as competitors. To avoid a conflict of interest, find similar industries where the agency has experience.
Never Underestimate the Power of the Ask
If you only take away one thing from this post, let it be this: It’s OK to ask questions and you should.
Great PR agencies want to be a partner and asset to your organization. And if you’re finding that is not the case with your current agency, then it might be time to make a switch. Ask questions and try to understand how you and your PR agency can work together to further the success of your brand.
A modified version of this post first appeared as my guest post on Spin Sucks.