How can I find the right PR agency?

PR agencies become important partners when your dedicated in-house team can no longer achieve the results you’d like. That might be because they lack the time or subject-specific expertise. Or perhaps you haven’t done any PR yet, and want to get started. Agencies are useful in both situations.

The best thing you can do to find out whether to hire an agency is to ask one, as we explained in our previous lesson about who should do PR. Once you’ve decided that, you’ll need to figure out how to find a good partner. There are a few things we can teach you about that.

Decide what your business need

Before finding a suitable partner, it’s best to have a good idea of what you need. If you’re a small startup, you probably won’t want a large corporate communications firm. If your product or service is available across several continents, you’ll want to find a partner that knows those regions, or has its own partners that do. If you sell a very specific, technical product, you’ll want an agency with the knowledge and skill to serve that need. Cost, too, will always be a restrictive factor. Figure out what you want, and what you can afford. Even draft a simple document with the basic points.

Use your network

With all the social media and marketing tools we have at our disposal, we often forget to turn to the most useful tool of all: our networks. And by that we don’t necessarily mean your list of connections on LinkedIn. We mean the people you’ve worked with in the past, your friends, and even family.

Here at Words + Pixels, most of our clients join us after receiving a recommendation from someone we already know or work with. Maybe one founder heard about us through another, or a marketing director saw our name in a WhatsApp community. Once you know what you need, the best thing you can do is to ask around. It won’t cost you a thing, and your contacts may just know exactly the agency that would work for you.

Speak to them

You might be able to ascertain some basic details from a company’s website – their specialisms and former clients, perhaps. These things are important. But there are some things you can only learn through speaking to the people who own or manage the agency. A frank conversation doesn’t need to be a long one. You just need to find out a bit about their culture, and determine whether both you and the agency can align on your idea of success.

Speak to a few different agencies, and be frank about your budget. That will help you reduce a long list down to a few options. Then, you can either go with your gut feeling (if you have one at that point), arrange another round of in-depth discussions, or book in a formal pitch process.

There’s no single way to find a good PR agency. And it’s not unusual to try one or two before finding the right fit. These three steps will help you to accelerate that process, and increase your chances of striking gold the first time.