A friend of mine asked me the other day if I could recommend a PR agency.
Knowing many, many PR agencies (a very large proportion of UK PR agencies are DWPub clients) you would have thought that it would be easy for me to recommend a PR agency to someone. But it's not.
Choosing a PR agency is a bit like choosing a wife or husband. You want to get on. You want it to last, a reasonable amount of time anyway. You want to be able to work well together when things get tough. You need a few things in common. And you don't want to be with a dominating partner, or one that is too weedy to stand up for themselves. Would you choose a life partner based on someone else's recommendation? Probably not.
If you search for 'choosing a PR agency' you'll see there is a lot of clever advice out there. And there are all sorts of established processes for such things. I don't want to recreate any of that, but instead just offer a few thoughts.
Time for a list.
1. Culture. This is numero uno most important factor, in my opinion, when deciding which PR agency to hire. You need a compatible culture. This does not mean to say that the people in the agency need to look like the people in your team. But they do need to be able to work together and understand each other. Culture is a hard thing to nail down, but if you share one then the relationship will work much better. At the end of the day you want to work with people you like, so don't play down that factor.
2. Size matters. If you are a small company you will find it easier to work with a smaller PR agency or even a freelance. Big PR agencies are geared up for serving larger companies, with all the scale and reporting abilities larger companies require. This is not a hard and fast rule though - a large agency could be a good match for a start-up if there is a good cultural match and the agency really wants the business. And a freelance could do a great job for a large company if they have good sector expertise and the client has a fairly narrow product set or operates in a niche sector. But generally it's better to one of an agency's biggest clients then one of its smallest.
3. Clear objectives. PR people are very creative and if you do not give them a clear set of objectives their minds will explode with ideas, but none of them will be much use. Seriously, modern PR is very much objective-orientated. It's not just about 'column inches' any more. What are your business objectives, in terms of sales or other measurable results? Give these to your shortlist of agencies and you'll see better quality pitches.
That's just straight off the top of my head. I may revisit this subject, as it clearly deserves more than just a list if three thoughts.