Cara Good

Article Summary:

How to select the right PR agency for your needs.

How to Select a Public Relations Agency

Working with a public relations agency can bring your company profitable industry and business exposure and help you create an integrated marketing communications campaign that boosts sales. Selecting the right PR agency for your needs is critical to the success of your company. PR is an extremely cost-effective method for reaching a large number of diverse target audiences. By working with an agency, you gain strategic communications counsel and an extensive database of media contacts. Here are my suggestions on some of the best ways to select your next PR agency:

Assess Your Needs
Before beginning your agency selection process, determine what you want to accomplish by working with a PR firm. Are you entering a new market space or launching a product? Will financial PR be used as part of your investor relations program? Are you launching a new brand or trying to revive a tired one?

Be Frank about Your Experiences
Dig deep and discover what you really think about PR and PR agencies. If you've worked with agencies that didn't deliver, don't discount all firms.

Learn the Players
Ask industry colleagues for recommendations. Trade associations can be valuable referral sources. Professional service providers, such as attorneys, investment bankers and VCs, can provide good tips as well.

Develop a Long List
Your initial agency assessment should span six to 12 agencies and include a range of boutique, midsize and large firms. Understand how each agency presents itself. Some agencies favor working with start-up entities while others take on established corporations only.

Set Evaluation Metrics
Determine measurement criteria before conducting agency reviews. Consider factors such as industry experience, ability to grasp your technology or service, account team structure, creativity and responsiveness.

Be Selective
Request that your "long list" of agency candidates complete a telephone interview or respond to a written request for proposal. Select three or four agencies to meet with in person.

Interview the Finalists
Invite the finalists to present to you their capabilities as well as their PR program recommendations. This should be a highly interactive meeting during which you can assess each agency's ability to mesh with your team.

Feel A Spark
The old adage rings true here: People do business with other people, not companies. Perform a gut check: "Do I want to work with these professionals?"

Interview Other Clients
Past and current clients can give you insight into how easy an agency is to work with or whether it delivers on promises.

Meet Your Team
Some agencies will send their top executives and business development managers to meet with you and get your business. Often, these individuals will have no to little activity on your account. Always ask to meet with the professionals who will service your account before signing a contract.

Let the Process Work
We all want to see immediate results, yet PR is a cumulative activity that blends near-term wins with long-term strategy. Allow your new agency about three months to perform.

Cara Good is the co-founder and president of WunderMarx Inc., a fast-growing international public relations, marketing and branding firm representing some of the world's most innovative technologies and ideas. She has been quoted and featured in numerous articles on entrepreneurialism, public relations and marketing, and speaks frequently on these topics. For more information visit www.wundermarx.com

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