With so many hundreds of PR firms and consultants out there, it can be really difficult to decide which one is the best fit for your business.
Because PR is one of the more effective means to get attention, website traffic and customers for your small business, selecting the right PR firm is critical.
Rather than race into a relationship with a PR firm, it makes sense to follow a sane, rational approach based on a variety of key information
As I said in an article on Entrepreneur.com, it comes down to a combination of your budget, your expectations, and the firm’s track record in delivering results.
Here are some more ideas to consider as you search for the right PR firm to help your business grow and prosper:
- Budget: establish a PR budget and then determine which firms fit into your plans. PR compared to advertising is less expensive but you still have to invest in a PR firm to get you the results you seek. Know what you can afford and don’t be tempted to stray far from that number.
- Chemistry: smaller PR firms usually rely upon one or two executives in the firm so get a good “gut feel” about the PR firm by interviewing the key players, asking them a variety of specific questions and seeing how the respond. They should be forthcoming and willing to learn about your dreams for the business. They should also be honest about your prospects for PR and not make grandiose promises that cannot possibly be met.
- Devil’s in the Details: look at the contract details for each firm. You don’t want to get stuck into a binding long-term contract; you want the option of getting out of an arrangement as early as 90 days into the campaign if you know it’s not working out.
- Prior Experience Need Only Apply: it helps to work with a firm that has dealt with your industry before. For example, if you run sports business make sure the firm has knowledge of this field. Still, some PR firms have experience in related industries and/or working with small businesses, both of which can make for a good fit.
- Social Media: make sure they know how to use social media to promote themselves and their customers. Ask if they use Twitter or LinkedIn to connect with the media as an alternative way to promote you other than through email. Social media is now part of the PR tool set so every PR firm should have a strategy for using it.
- References: don’t be afraid to ask for them. References are the best way you can find out if the PR firm has a track record of satisfying clients.
- Availability: make sure your primary contact at the firm is responsive to your questions. You should not have to wait very long for responses to your emails and phone calls. Keep in mind that they may be busy and not be able to talk or email immediately, but same day responses are the norm.
- Listening Skills: does the PR firm actually listen to what you have to say about your business and respond to your list of expectations. It’s a two-way street so the PR firm should incorporate your “insider” knowledge into its overall strategy for making you famous. This should not be a lecture about PR and how the PR firm is the best suited to work on your account.
- Success Measurements: PR for small business needs to deliver results in 90 days or less. That’s why you should agree with the PR firm on what defines the PR campaign’s success: articles in local newspapers, TV news interviews, profiles on blogs, social media mentions, etc.
Got some good ideas that helped you find and hire the right PR firm? Feel free to share!
About Ryan Gardner: Ryan is an PR intern for Dave Manzer PR and Marketing, which is an Austin tech, healthcare and lifestyle PR agency based in Austin for startups and fast-growth businesses. Dave Manzer specializes in highly integrated PR & marketing strategies that help companies in technology, healthcare, consumer and professional services reach their goals in brand awareness and revenue growth. If you have any PR questions about your startup or small business, feel free to tweet Dave Manzer at @davemanzer or email him at dave(@)davemanzer.com.