What to look for in your PR Agency

Looking for a PR agency? If you've started diving into the research phase, you'll know they come in all shapes and sizes, and prices. One important thing to keep front of mind when reaching out to prospective agencies and embarking upon the tender process is that there is no "one size fits all" when it comes to PR. Therefore selecting the best agency to meet your expectations, fit in with your brand culture and effectively deliver the results that will propel your business forward is a process you need to dedicate time and serious thought to.

We are approached by so many brands who continue to have faith in the value of PR when it's "PR is done right", yet have found themselves breaking off a series of unsuccessful relationships with agencies who sadly haven't delivered. An investment with no return will leave even the most optimistic of business minds feeling slightly disgruntled, yet as conscientious and detail-oriented PRs, we are often left gobsmacked at how the polished packages promised by reputable agencies could be quite so …. flammable.

Unfortunately, measuring PR power isn't always as easy as tracing the number of vouchers redeemed or apps downloaded, and consequently, PRs often find themselves justifying their relevance through the vague and subjective measurements of "reach", "circulation" and "AEVE". However, when it comes to assessing the effectiveness and integrity of a PR agency, here are five things to look out for when deciding who to hire:

1. A great track record

Everyone talks a good game, especially in PR. But to weed out those who talk the talk but don't walk the walk, investigate their track record. To get a feel for the agency's level of experience and ability to produce results, ask which brands it has worked with in the past, and don't be shy to ask for some case studies. At Atteline, we go one step further and even share the name and contact details of our relevant clients, meaning the prospect can have a frank and transparent conversation about our ability to deliver, with someone we've already worked with. It may be bold, but if the agency has nothing to hide, they shouldn't mind.

If you are seeking media relations support, ask the PR firm for samples of clips it has secured in publications. If you are looking for speaking and award opportunities, request a list of conferences and awards the firm has successfully secured for clients. If social media assistance is your need, ask for several handles and case studies that point to results.  

2. A specialization in your industry

Finding a PR firm that specializes in your industry is key. If you are a tech startup looking to get into business and tech publications in order to woo investors and customers, then hiring an entertainment-focused PR firm probably doesn’t make sense. On the other hand, if you are a celebrity looking to appear on morning shows and tabloids, hiring a finance-focused PR firm simply won't work.

Not only does specialization allow the firm to understand your offerings and ramp up more quickly, but equally importantly, it means that your Account Director and PR team will have relationships with reporters at the publications where you want to be featured.

3. Transparency

The PR industry gets a bad rap, and often deserves it, for not being transparent enough. Just as with any business transaction, customers should know what they are getting for their money. Consequently, you should ask PR firms you are speaking to about what you will receive, and not accept generalities. A competent PR firm can and should be transparent with deliverables and KPI measurements

4. A 'results' orientation

You should expect positive results relatively quickly. Results will not happen overnight, but if many months go by and the firm is making excuses week after week, and month after month, then it is probably time to move on. Some PR firms have three- or six-month discovery processes -- which is absolutely absurd. You're paying big bucks, so the firm you select should be able to start delivering in a matter of weeks, and continue to deliver, if it is any good.

5. Client focused

One thing to always keep in mind is your PR agency works for you, not the other way round. You have a right to express your expectations and even when your agency may have alternative recommendations, they should always be willing to hear you out. Pay close attention to how both you and your brief is treated you during the proposal process. You want to identify an agency that will be attentive to your unique needs, and work to achieve your individualized objectives, not just manage your expectations and treat you as a cookie-cutter client. Not only that, they should respond to your emails within the hour!

A good PR company is worth its weight in gold, so it pays dividends to do your due diligence when it comes time to bring one on board.

Matthew Watt