Guest Column: Thinking of Hiring A PR Agency?
Having a public relations agency can do a lot to improve your sales and visibility, but choosing the right agency can be a daunting task. Like all professional organizations, PR agencies come in all shapes and sizes.
Your first step in selecting an agency should be to ask for recommendations from industry peers whose opinions you trust. If no one in that category comes to mind, call a magazine editor or two and ask them who they'd recommend. Journalists tend to consider PR agencies a necessary evil, so a recommendation from that quarter represents the sincerest form of flattery.
Just as if you were getting a new roof for your house, you'll want to have at least three agency proposals to choose from. No matter what the specifics of your business there are at least three agencies out there that could handle it. So listening to at least three proposals is only being fair to yourself, and you'll learn a lot just from hearing the prospective agencies' presentations. There are several questions you'll want to pose to each of them, but before we get around to those, here are some questions you need to answer for yourself before you even pick up the phone:
1) What do I want my agency to accomplish? There is no "correct" answer to this question. Some companies hire PR agencies specifically to increase sales. Others are interested in drawing attention to themselves as investment targets. Maybe you just like publicity about yourself for its own sake and want to see yourself quoted in the Wall Street Journal. These are only a few of the valid reasons for hiring a PR agency. Tell candidate agencies openly and frankly at the outset what your goals are. Don't make them guess. Any reputable firm will let you know right away whether your wants are a fit with their actual capabilities.