Does Anyone Know a Good PR Firm?

Well, sure! But the question is… is it the right firm for you?

I’ve noticed this question being posed a lot lately on LinkedIn Answers, Twitter and other communities. Sometimes we chime in, sometimes we just mine for competitive intelligence. It’s interesting to see the PR firms who take the time to provide context as to why they might be a good firm, rather than a self-serving (and, perhaps, lazy) statement such as “PerkettPR is the best” with a URL. Those answers in and of themselves should be very telling.

We thought we’d share some tips here on finding a good PR firm - for you.

What type of questions does the PR firm ask? Or do they? If they spend the entire first conversation or meeting just talking about themselves, this should raise some flags. How will they know if they can help reach your goals if they don’t ask what those goals are?

Are the executives meeting with you the ones who will be on the team? If not, why not? You’ve heard it before, but it amazes me how many prospects still come to us with a recent “bait and switch” complaint. If the CEO (or VP overseeing the practice) is present – and he/she should be so you can get a feel for the culture and leadership – what, if any, role will he/she play? (Keeping in mind they cannot possibly work daily on every account and if they tell you they do – they’re lying.)

How many accounts are the proposed PR team members on? Ask them to name them. Ask those same executives to give you an example of a recent strategy they recommended for one of those clients and how it was brought to fruition or made an impact.

Do the executives in the meeting use words such as “me,” “mine” and “I” or “we,” “us” and “ours”? PR agencies are teams. Good ones emphasize this across their culture in every way.

If something is important to you – take social media, for example – ask how all the team members are involved or have had experience with it. If social media is key and just one executive is active and involved (on Twitter, for example), that doesn’t bode well for the entire team’s knowledge or expertise in that area. One person is not enough. These types of initiatives should be embraced – and practiced – at every level of the agency. It’s equally important for the senior executives to demonstrate their working knowledge – and involvement in – the tactics executed by the account team.

How do they measure – and demonstrate – results? Any PR firm worth their retainer is going to tell you what you can expect ahead of time, and then clearly measure against those metrics on a regular basis.

Are budgets tied directly to hours? A good PR firm should build a budget around what they believe they can do for you and provide metrics in other ways. If it takes them 10 or 20 hours to reach such metrics, that shouldn’t be your problem. You don’t want the team stopping in the middle of an important project or launch because “we’ve reached our hours.” That’s so 1999.

Do they demonstrate a clear understanding of what is important and applicable to your business and your goals, not just what’s “hot”? For example, social media is fabulous, Twitter rocks when it’s working – but they aren’t appropriate for every client. Make sure the firm executives aren’t just using the latest buzzwords when discussing their approach. How does it apply to your needs? How do they foresee it helping your business?

Keep in mind that while a PR firm may not have experience directly in your space, relevant experience comes in many forms. A good firm – and experienced executives – can quickly learn and promote new technologies, products, companies or individuals. We’re professional relationship builders. Instead, ask for examples of how they helped promote a client in a market that they had never before worked in – and what the results were.

Like them. I don’t think I need to explain this one, do I?

What elements have you found to be valuable in your working relationships with PR firms? What do you like? What do you wish our industry would improve?