15 Sep Four Questions to Help You Choose the Right Public Relations Team
As a communications professional for your company, you have been tasked to find a public relations/public affairs agency that specializes in media relations. This new partner will work with you to build your company’s credibility, increase your influence and reach among your target audiences, and raise awareness and visibility of your brand via the media. With all the options available in the marketplace today, how will you choose the right agency to meet your needs? Here are a few things to keep in mind during your search.
Which Firm is Right for You? Small Agency, Medium or Large?
There are several variables to take into account when choosing an agency partner. These include the overall scope of the project, the need for specialized skills, the market knowledge required to execute the work, the number of markets involved, the project or annual budget available for the scope of work, and yes, your preference. Some people feel most comfortable working with large firms and are prepared to pay the higher fees associated with hiring one. They don’t mind being a relatively small fish in a big pond. And, they appreciate the breadth of services large firms provide and the bandwidth they can give a project.
Other clients prefer a small or mid-sized firm for the specialized services they provide, their focus on a specific DMA or industry, or their ability to meet a unique need. These clients like knowing that they are a big fish and are able to secure the attention of senior practitioners on demand.
To evaluate the right choice for your organization, first, look at the industries that the firm serves. You will want to hire an agency that knows your industry and is familiar with issues and challenges similar to yours. Second, see if the firm has relationships with other organizations, associations and groups in your specific industry. Dependent upon the needs of your project, an agency might be able to connect you with aligned organizations to build your relationships and credibility. Those connections, which may have been hard to come by in the past, are now readily available to you and can help you to achieve your overall objectives. Third, ensure that the firm has the reach and scope to meet your needs and is not limited by geography. Lastly, find out if the firm will provide you with access to members of its senior team after the pitch is over. This is when the real collaboration begins.
Does the Agency Have Relationships with the Press?
Ensure your media relations partner has relationships with the reporters you are targeting or a plan to engage them. Be sure to consider the relationships they maintain not just in your industry or city, but across media, including print, broadcast (TV and Radio), and online (including bloggers). The key take-away is that your media relations team should actively pursue stories about your organization that will resonate with the media and position you as a thought leader in your industry.
Is Your Agency Candidate Proactive and Creative?
In order to achieve success, your media relations partner needs to be both proactive and creative. The team should present you with new ideas and different strategies to engage the media about your company. You may not be able to implement every idea, but you want a team that is looking for ways to build upon your current bank of stories. Teams can stagnate over time, relying on a single strategy rather than exploring new opportunities. Reporters get inundated with press releases, email pitches and phone calls from PR pros, and about 60 percent of those outbound communications fall flat. How your media relations team goes about getting your organization on a reporter’s radar screen is crucial to getting coverage. At the end of the day, you want a team who is creative and bullish about helping you get to the next level.
Can You See Yourself Working with the Agency Day In and Day Out?
Receiving top-notch service is key, as is selecting a team you truly enjoy working with. As the saying goes, “People do business with people they like.” Your media relations team should treat you like a valued partner, not a paycheck. Aim high. A like-minded team will embrace your company’s work style, culture and philosophy, making the work better and the days more fun. This doesn’t mean you have to hire a “yes” team. A great team should challenge your thinking, when necessary, so that you can move the needle from good to great.
Culture. Experience. Creativity. Relationships. Size. These are key factors to consider when choosing a team to support your PR and media relations efforts. By asking and answering the right questions, you can dramatically increase the odds of finding the agency that is the right fit for your organization.
Marichelli Hughes leads the media relations practice at 720 Strategies and has a 16-year track record of driving results for Fortune 500, trade association and non-profit clients.