Hiring a PR agency is a major decision for any business and when approaching the initial selection process, it’s important to never underestimate the time and effort required when choosing a suitable agency.

Therefore, in order to set yourself up for the most successful year ahead, you should be starting this process now in order to ensure that your business is on track to succeed in 2020!

So, if you are in the process of shortlisting applicants and choosing a PR agency for 2020 and beyond, there are a series of key deliberations that you should make to ensure that you align with an agency whose skills and experience will result in the most reward for your business.

From our combined experience at Agent99, we have come to recognise the most crucial factors for businesses to consider when selecting a new PR agency:

  1. Budget

It’s surprising how many businesses start the selection process before receiving internal sign off for a budget or buy-in from decision makers. This is a critical mistake, as the budget will determine the nature of the campaign an agency can roll out, and ultimately the results achievable within the hours allocated to your campaign.

Potential clients commonly request a ballpark figure of what a campaign will cost them, but unfortunately PR is not a fixed price service. The cost is largely dependent on the campaign’s objectives, as well as the hours of service required to achieve these. Take the time to consider exactly how much you can afford and commit to, ahead of the selection process. With a budget in mind, the agency is in a better position to tell you what they can achieve, and this overall process will run more smoothly.

Additionally, it is important to note that some agencies won’t even pitch unless there is a clear remit, approved budget and senior team buy-in.

2. Refine your selection process

Regardless of the timeframe you plan to allocate to selecting an agency, it’s imperative that you put a well-designed selection process into place.  This means constructing a timeline that outlines clearly defined steps throughout the entire process.

The selection period can take anywhere between 4 to 12 weeks, and without a well thought out selection strategy, agencies can be left in the dark as to your expectations, the communication process and even what it is that you’re looking for. Confusion during the selection process often results in an off the mark pitch or complete overkill. Having a clear process will also demonstrate that you’re serious and show that you’ll make for a straightforward and professional client.

3. Face to face

Businesses often underestimate the magnitude of face to face meetings when selecting a new PR agency. Doing a Google search of an agency simply doesn’t cut it, as after all, public relations is a social service with a significant focus on human interaction.

Face to face meetings are vital, as you must not only match your business needs to that of your PR agency, you need to match your personal approach, from flow of communication to the general vibe of the people you will be working with.

It’s also important to ensure that your meeting is with the team members that will be involved in your campaign at all levels, from the most senior director to the assistant. This is important in PR, as the process is generally a highly orchestrated team effort and requires a great deal of communication and coordination.

When you are starting to narrow down your selection, ask yourself the question “Can I see myself working with these people daily?” A good PR agency will be your partner and will work with you very closely, so you need to make sure that there is a good cultural fit.

You also need to feel comfortable with what they have achieved in the past and if their experience speaks to your own needs.  Ask for client references and case studies that demonstrate results.

These factors will give you a very clear picture (and a lot of confidence) when you get down to the brass tacks of making the final appointment.

4. Objectives
Companies often make the mistake of diving into a PR campaign before identifying exactly what it is that they want to achieve. A lack of clearly defined targets and KPI’s can in fact make it nearly impossible for an agency to meet your expectations and can often lead to misaligned goals. 

Determine what the objectives for the PR campaign are. What do you want PR to achieve for your business? What results do you want to see? Where and when do you expect to see these results?

Understanding your own objectives will also ensure that the selection process doesn’t turn into a hoop jump involving time consuming discussions and assessments around vague expectations. Knowing what it is that you want will make it much easier to decide which agency is the best for your specific campaign, and for the agency to decide if it can successfully carry out your campaign.

In addition to this, clearly defined goals will make it far easier to measure the success of the campaign at a later date.

5. Be honest with your PR Agency

Another mistake that a surprisingly large number of businesses make is to hide information from their PR agency.

Keeping skeletons in your closet will actually benefit no one and your PR team should have an in-depth and honest understanding of your business history from the very onset.

Keeping everything out in the open is the only way that your PR team can represent you effectively and prepare to counter negative criticism should it arise.