|You want to grow your organization, increase sales, promote new initiatives and expand your bandwidth on the web. Perhaps youve come to the conclusion that your message is the master and hiring a good, strategic public relations firm is the best way to create and share your message and to help build your brand, sales and business.
Getting all that done requires finding the best firm for your budget and needs.
In this article, I will help you to: figure out what "best" might mean to your organization, create your short list of potential PR partners and ultimately select that best PR firm.
Top 10 steps and considerations when searching for your ideal PR match:
1. Personal and online search. Ask your friends and colleagues for recommendations. Learning from first-hand experience helps avoid going into your selection process cold. Ask what kind of experiences they have had with their PR firms. Were the firms attentive, did they set and meet goals, did they focus on solving problems? And, the big question: would they hire their firms again?
Next, go online and Google terms like: "public relations firms (and CLOSEST BIG CITY)." Youd insert the closest metropolitan area if working with a local firm is important to you. Review the websites of at least a dozen firms on the first three pages. Things to look for: a sense that the firm speaks to your needs and culture; a very well organized and well-written site (first impressions); a good presentation of its track record, a solid array of case studies that illustrate its problem solving/thinking and results; and third-party endorsements (awards and testimonials that speak to the experience other clients have with this firm). (While no PR firm will post testimonials of clients who have had a less-than-positive experience, testimonials still can provide useful information when you begin to see similar comments about approach, service, etc.)
If you know you need a firm with strengths in a particular discipline, such as crisis management, look for that.
Pick your top three to five firms and call the owners or another, appropriate contact. Make note of who takes the call. Are you handled simply like a new-business lead? Are you "sold to"? If so, ask to speak to an account manager, as the new business person may never speak with you again after the firm wins your business. Or, do you immediately speak to someone who wants to know about your needs and is willing to immediately share a few initial ideas? Is the firm willing to provide names and numbers of past and current clients? Does the other person do most of the talking or most of the listening, focused on learning what youre about and need?
2. Pick up on passion. It is important to choose a firm whose people view media and PR as not just their job, but also their passion. You want a PR firm to sincerely care about its work
and your business. Determine if it is passionate when it describes its philosophy, its past successes, and its interest in your business and your unique offerings. You dont want to feel like "just another client" whose PR firm is "going through the motions." While there arent specific criteria, necessarily, that define passion, you certainly know when youre speaking to someone who doesnt have it.
3. Collaboration is key. Ensure your prospective PR firm believes in authentic collaboration with its clients, not just scheduling meetings and providing activity reports. Ask how the agency collaborates. Does the firm regularly schedule meetings or calls, request to receive newsletters (e.g., internal for employees, and external for clients, others) and other communications tools, desire to learn about your companys broader goals and culture, have a strong willingness to attend your industry conferences, etc.? Ensure the firm and its people are committed to investing in and becoming partners (in a sense) in your business / success. If not, then look elsewhere.
4. Examine track record. How successful has this firm been at helping grow its clients businesses? Does it understand the challenges that its clients have faced, set goals and successfully meet them? Request examples. Interview past clients and ask these exact questions.
Here are a few additional questions you could ask past clients:
How responsible/dependable is the firm? Did their billing correspond to the results garnered? Are they proactively anticipating your needs and coming up with recommendations? Why would you recommend this firm? What big mistake did the firm make and how did it recover?
5. Only deal with top dogs no puppies.
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