Has your business recently expanded, or are you in a position where you’re ready to accelerate growth? If so, you’re probably ready to hire a PR agency. Bill Gates once famously said that if he was down to his last dollar, he’d spend it on public relations. When done well, PR creates credibility, builds trust, and grows loyalty, which is why it’s so important to hire the perfect agency for you.
It can be difficult to know where to start, however. What makes one agency better than another, and how do you know if you’re getting good value for money? What’s the difference between an integrated comms agency and a broadcast PR agency?
There are many things to consider when choosing the right PR agency for you, ranging from the kind of PR strategy you’ll need (e.g. if you’re looking to generally raise the profile of a brand, or launch a particular product or range), to the kind of coverage you’re looking to achieve. Using our years of experience and extensive knowledge of the industry, we’ve gathered our top five tips to consider when choosing the right PR agency for you. The ideal agency should:
Provide a comprehensive range of services
Long gone are the days when PR revolved around long client lunches and newspaper column coverage. The world of public relations has had to evolve alongside digital marketing, to keep up with the myriad platforms and opportunities for coverage in the modern day.
The lines that previously distinguished between PR, social media, marketing, and content creation have become so blurred that they now all seem to fall under one umbrella. At least, they should do, if your agency has the capability to maximise all opportunities that digital marketing has to offer.
The best PR agency for you is the one with the skills to amplify your media coverage and to go beyond the traditional methods with digital expertise. For example, if the PR manager leading your account has an understanding of the different strands of marketing and how they work in tandem together for optimum results, they’ll be able to offer a more integrated approach to your campaign.
Essentially, what you’re looking for is a range of media skills under one roof – and while this sounds like a big ask, it isn’t too much for a capable PR agency in today’s world.
Explain its process for measuring success
This one is crucial. When speaking to potential agencies, ask them to explain how they will measure the success of your campaign. Try not to influence their answers by pre-empting what you want; just allow them to respond, and see if their idea of success aligns with your own. For example, you might be hoping to achieve a set number of coverage pieces, or aim for an increase in the number of visits to your website.
If the agency is still reporting success by manually measuring column inches – or, even worse, if they say that it’s difficult or impossible to measure PR – you should steer clear. While it’s certainly trickier to measure how much your reputation may have grown than reporting on facts and figures, a good agency should have plans in place to measure the factors that show you’re achieving your goals – whether that’s web traffic, downloads, enquiries or sales.
Ensure that the agency you end up hiring commits to a specific number of interview opportunities or media placements each month, and then get this formalised within your contract. If they’re unable to commit – perhaps stating that PR is an awareness tool rather than a sales team – then you might need to look elsewhere. In this age of accountability, strong and clear metrics are essential.
Be responsive to industry trends
It’s important to ensure that the PR agency you choose is aware of industry trends, has their finger on the pulse, and is willing to be responsive and adapt if needed, in order to go above and beyond the initial brief.
For example, many PR agencies today assume that broadcast coverage is old-fashioned and irrelevant, but new research by a broadcast PR agency, Broadcast Revolution, has proven this to be incorrect. In fact, more people – young audiences especially – are tuning into TV and radio than ever before, due to both the impact of the pandemic and the need for trustworthy news updates and light-relief entertainment. It seems that broadcast media has never been so important, trusted, and relevant as it has right now.
Yet, when surveyed, just 9% of PR firms said that they have a strong broadcast PR strategy, whilst 72% admitted to not being as confident as they’d like in delivering broadcast coverage for their clients. It seems that there is a clear disconnect between the opportunities that broadcast media presents, and the way that PR professionals approach these opportunities in their strategies.
In this example, a good PR agency would quickly respond to this new research by looking for opportunities where there is currently a gap in the market. As well as responding to the brief, you ideally want a PR agency that will constantly be in the know about the latest trends and research, and be able to pitch you for opportunities that you’d never even considered.
Demonstrate past successes and case studies
When it comes to getting an idea of how successful a PR agency is going to be when running a campaign for you, the best way to measure success is to look at its past work examples and case studies. A good PR agency should demonstrate unique strategies, excellent media coverage and an enviable book of journalist contacts.
Don’t be afraid to ask for examples of their best case studies to date. Be sure to check that the examples you’re shown replicate the results that you’re looking to achieve – for example, if you’re aiming to achieve coverage in a leading regional newspaper, look out to see if they can provide any major features or case studies in places like the Metro or Evening Standard. If you’re looking to launch a product, they should be able to provide examples of successful launch events – perhaps where they invited high-profile guests or had the most prominent journalists attend.
Introduce you to the full team
Agencies usually pitch for accounts using their most senior team members in the presentation, who tend to be the ones that are assigned business development duties. Once the contract is won, however, they’ll often hand the day-to-day work over to their more junior members of staff. This can leave you feeling that perhaps you bought into the wrong people, especially if you find that you lack confidence in your account manager.
To avoid this, you should be sure to ask who will be managing your account and delivering the everyday work, and request to meet them if necessary. Your ideal agency will bring the people who will be managing the account to the presentation, as you will need to click with them too. That’s not to say the head of the agency won’t be involved with your account, but the qualifications and personalities of the people who will be leading the PR campaign and working on your business are the ones you need to buy into.
Choosing the right PR agency for your brand is an important decision, and one that shouldn’t be made lightly. While you may well meet an agency that you warm to and share values with, you should be cautious to apply the above criteria to your situation. In doing so, you’ll increase your chances of finding the best PR agency partner, and be better placed for success when it comes to growing your profile – helping you to gain media exposure, increase sales and measure your ROI.