The right public relations agency can boost your business to new heights. With a revamped brand image, you can attract new customers, expand your outreach efforts, and lower internal costs.
Yet, the team you hire makes a major difference. When you stake your reputation on the work of a particular agency, you want to make sure they can deliver a significant return on your investment.
Today, we’re sharing a few tips to help you successfully navigate the hiring process. With this guide, you’re already one step ahead of the PR game.
1. Define Your Business Goals
Too often, companies invest in PR services simply because their current marketing campaigns aren’t delivering the ROI they expected. While improved marketing is a smart business goal, it shouldn’t be your only one.
Before you start on this journey, take the time to define the outcomes that you want to see from a public relations company. A few examples might include:
- Lower your campaign budget
- Expand into new markets
- Improve brand reputation
- Increase brand awareness
- Expand thought leadership
As you work through these goals, you may decide that you’d rather handle these tasks in-house. If so, then it might be more economical and effective to leverage PR outreach software rather than hire a dedicated team.
If you do want to move forward with the hiring process, then start by assembling an internal team comprised of key stakeholders. Give everyone the opportunity to share what they hope to see from PR services. This way, you can develop a strategic approach.
Once you have those goals and initiatives in place, decide how you’ll track and measure those outcomes. These will become your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and can help you ensure the team you hire is on the right track.
2. Set a Budget
The best public relations firm in the world won’t be helpful if you can’t afford their work. Once you have your goals firmly in place, then it’s time to set your budget.
As you decide what you’re willing to spend, keep in mind that a great PR agency can help you lower operational costs over time. When you outsource these services to a third-party team, you can free up your in-house employees to tackle more mission-critical work. This is work that can ultimately bring more money into your organization.
In addition, you’ll also save on internal marketing resources. There are substantial costs associated with print and digital campaigns, and allowing an agency to take those reins can be a cost-effective measure. As you begin to compare proposals, resist the urge to go with the lowest-priced bidder simply because the numbers line up.
Remember: The public relations company you hire will essentially be the face and voice of your brand. You don’t want to give that responsibility to just anyone.
3. Research Specific Companies
Before you begin making phone calls and scheduling interviews, create a short list of PR companies that you want to check out. You can get the names of reputable local firms by asking peer companies or other professionals in your networking circle.
Once you have those names in hand, it’s time to look into their industry reputation. One of the best ways to do this is to scope out their online presence. Start with their website, paying close attention to the types of services they provide.
Does their scope of work align with your needs? Do they have experience working in your space? Most firms will have a dedicated web page titled “Services” that clearly spells out the typical work they provide.
You can also learn more about each company by researching their recent announcements. What do their own PR briefs look like? Have they announced any new partnerships or campaigns?
You want to team with a company that’s growth-minded and interested in pursuing new opportunities. If you can’t find this information on their website, then a quick Google search will usually display any recent newsworthy updates. If you’re mostly interested in the company’s financial stability, then most shareholder documents are available online for public review.
4. Consider Issuing an RFP
Each company is different, but many business leaders prefer to issue a formal Request For Proposal, or RFP, when they’re ready to start the hiring process.
Especially if you’ve never gone this route before, it can seem daunting. If possible, hire an RFP professional with experience in the PR space to help you navigate the process. An RFP is essentially an announcement that your company is looking to hire someone or some team.
You’ll begin by choosing around 10 PR firms that you’re considering to fill this role. Your research in the steps above will help you narrow down the vast sea of options to just those final few.
The RFP and RFQ Process
Once they receive the RFP, those companies can read through the document to clearly understand your requirements and what you hope to gain from the hire. If they are interested, they can submit an RFP response that details how they can approach the project. An RFP response is usually a high-level overview of what a firm does and how its work aligns with your vision.
When you have all of those responses in hand, you’ll issue a Request For Quote, or RFQ, to a handful of top qualifying firms. This is a more technical, granular request that requires companies to put in a little more work. In an RFQ response, each PR firm will explain their strategic approach to your project, with details that include:
- Pricing quotes
- Lists of services provided
- Project schedules and timelines
- Descriptions of key team members
All of this information will be contained in a Statement of Work, or SOW. You can use SOW responses to find your best-fitting PR agency.
While the process seems straightforward, it’s a good idea to have a proposal expert on hand to help you handle and organize the incoming responses. You may need to edit or red-line the SOW responses and send them back for revisions. This is a common request, but it can be tricky to keep up with the different versions.
5. Interview Key Prospects
If you don’t decide to find your PR firm through a formal RFP process, then you can bring your top companies in for interviews with your internal team.
Before you begin this process, it helps to know the most important questions to ask. Make sure that you cover these topics during each meeting:
- Price of PR services
- Experience and expertise in your niche
- Explanations of past successes in your space
- Descriptions of previous clients (company size, value, etc.)
- Reviews or testimonials
While you want to choose a company whose answers align with your expectations, don’t forget to gauge how well you interact with each representative. Chemistry is critical in these partnerships, and you want to hire a team that you can work well with for years to come.
6. Set Clear Expectations
Once you have the right PR agency in place, it’s essential to make sure everyone knows what to expect moving forward. Establish a clear line of communication to avoid any bottlenecks, and ensure everyone is aware of the reporting structure. Before moving on to the next step, make sure you know the answers to the following questions:
- How often will your team contact us?
- How will we track and measure campaign results?
- Who is the primary point of contact at your firm?
As you work through these questions, remember that most companies look at a public relations firm as an extension of their in-house services. If that’s the case for your company, then everyone on both teams should know how the partnership will work.
7. Onboard and Set KPIs
The final step in this process is to officially onboard the PR agency that you hire. This is the time to check back on those original KPIs that you set when first defining your PR goals.
Make sure the agency is aware of those goals and set up a strategy to track them together. Only if you’re working in sync will this plan work and deliver real value. Even if the team you hire is working completely independently of your in-house team, you should still have full transparency and visibility into every facet of their operations.
Hire the Right Public Relations Agency
Whether you’re at the helm of a fledgling small business or a successful Fortune 500 company, a public relations agency can help you reach new heights.
While the process might seem overwhelming, these steps can help you partner with a team that understands your goals and can help you reach them. Take the time to weigh your options, ask the important questions, and comb through each proposed strategy.
Then, you’ll be ready to make a hiring decision with confidence. In the meantime, we’ll keep you updated with more business and tech news you need. Check back often for more advice!