Jane Lomas - PR & Marketing

How to choose a PR consultant


Finding the right PR consultancy for your business can be a challenging task.

There are so many types of agencies to choose from: large or small, full service or specialists and sole traders …and then there is question of fees and the value you are likely to get for your money!

Before you make any decisions about this important business relationship, here are a few pointers on how to find the best fit with your particular company or brand.

1. Have a clear brief
Before you begin the selection process, it’s important to ask yourself what are your business objectives, your USPs and your key messages? Then have in mind a clear PR budget.
Having clearly defined and realistic goals will not help you select an agency but it will also help them respond to your brief.

2. Does size really matter?
Well, yes it does. Large agencies can offer full service resources and multiple areas of expertise to deliver a seamlessly integrated campaign, but they may also have expensive overheads. They may field high-flying account directors at the pitch, but don’t forget to check out the calibre of staff, who will actually be handling your account!

Smaller agencies (and certainly sole traders) usually have a flatter hierarchy, with less red tape and bureaucracy. They tend to offer a flexible and personal service enabling them to act as an extension to your marketing team. You, the client, can also benefit from being a much bigger fish in a smaller pool.

3. Do they have a good track record?
Most agencies can ‘talk the talk’ – particularly at the pitch stage – but can they walk it? Check out who their clients are and how long they have retained them. A large but rapid turnover of clients is a ‘red flag’. Look for an agency with a good reputation backed by longstanding relationships with their clients. Find out what awards they have won – or even better the awards they have won for their clients!

A good PR consultancy should be able to provide you with examples of their work backed by glowing client testimonials and they’ll also be able to demonstrate positive relationships with your target media. Find out how long they have been trading. Newly established agencies can be very keen and offer good value initially, but those that have been around for say fifteen years or more have already demonstrated a degree of staying power and a stability that is likely to last.

4. Do they specialise in your industry?
Market knowledge in specialist industries such as the building and construction industries cannot be achieved overnight. Make sure your prospective agency has a firm grasp of your particular sector. They should be able to demonstrate relevant market knowledge and an awareness of the trends and issues that may impact on your business.

5. Do they listen?
PR experience and expertise is one thing, but it is worthless is there isn’t a willingness to listen and learn and to commit the time to truly understand your products, services and how your specific business operates. Look for an agency, which is prepared to tailor its services to support your precise business objectives and not just manage your expectations.

6. Do they challenge you?
Your agency may listen, but are they prepared to challenge you? Don’t pick a ‘yes person’. A good agency will be open, honest and strong enough to stand up and be counted if they think your strategy or ideas are not right for your business and they will respectfully suggest alternative solutions. Remember, an objective view from the outside can be invaluable when it comes to achieving your goals!

7. Finally….listen to your gut instinct
Once you have seen the pitch and read the PR proposals, listen to what your gut instincts tell you. Chemistry can be important, as you need to be confident that you can trust that the people who handle your PR will offer a high level of professionalism and integrity you can rely on.

Hopefully you’ll then enjoy a happy and long-term business relationship!