How to Choose a PR Agency

It is not a one-size-fits-all situation when hiring a PR agency. Public relations can be a critical component of a company’s overall marketing mix. Partnering with the right public relations (PR) firm can help your business grow and also help it from falling during a crisis.


The company and the PR agency need to be a good fit. Asking the right questions and doing research to find the best agency for your business is worth the extra time and effort. Here are a few questions and tips to help you get started:

  • Goals & Budget: Before seeking out a PR agency, determine your goals and budget and then interview PR agencies that are inline. Find out the average monthly spend of their clients – you don’t want to be the smallest account on their client list. Also find out who their ideal clients are. You want an agency the truly wants you as a client and is understands your budget and goals.

  • Blending Traditional & Online PR: Today, traditional PR and marketing must be interrelated with new media efforts. Will the PR agency offer a good mix of traditional and online marketing advice? A PR agency can help to increase website traffic but it will be useless if it is hard for Internet traffic to find your website, if the website is hard to navigate through or if the website doesn’t have information valuable to potential customers. Check the firm’s online marketing experience with social media, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Google AdWords, online advertising, blogging, landing page copywriting and ROI tracking.


  • Accountability: Knowing what is going on with your PR campaign is very important. Ask what kind of reporting will you receive and how often as well as how they track your Return on Investment (ROI).

  • Practice What They Preach. Research how good the PR agency is at its own public relations efforts. If the prospective public relations agency does not use PR itself effectively, they aren’t practicing what they preach. In addition, their portfolio of prior projects should be extensive. If the PR agency's campaigns are only carbon-copies of each other, then that reveals a lack of originality and creativity.

  • References. What do their previous and current clients think? Hiring a PR agency is just like hiring an employee – check their references. Be sure to ask for references from both current clients and companies that are no longer using the firm. Of course, you need to talk to at least three references and focus on companies that had similar sized PR campaigns, budgets and goals.

  • The Real Team. Be sure you know who the team will be. A new business dog-and-pony show may bring out the senior team, but who will really be working on your account? Who will be your primary contact? How long have they been with the firm? Who will actually be doing the day-to-day work? The answers to these questions are key.

  • Client Support. Of course you expect to be able to contact the firm during normal business hours. However, crisis doesn’t always fall into Monday through Friday, 9 to 5. When potential bad press is hitting, what service will be available -- 24-hour support? Seven days a week? Just during working hours? Make sure that you know. Most crisis situations need to be fixed before the next news which is usually within three hours or less.

  • Start Small. You may want to consider starting on a project basis with a PR agency before hiring them on a retainer basis.

Although picking a PR agency is a complex issue, this list of simple tips is a good way to get started.

Squeezed Tip courtesy of PAN Communications, (, a public relations firm specializing in technology and professional services.


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