Pick the right PR agency with this easy Pick N Mix guide
By Carolyn McMurray, SOCIATE’s Junior Copywriter
Picking a PR agency is a bit like trying to decide which sweets to include in your Pick N Mix. So. Many. Choices. Where do you even begin?
You’ve got your brown paper bag and scoop at the ready – now it’s time to choose the perfect sweets to accompany your movie of choice. Fizzy cola bottles, foam bananas, chocolate mice. So. Many. Options. So. Many. Possibilities.
It’s a bit like trying to choose the perfect PR agency for your brand; there are a hundred different flavours (agencies) to work with, but you need to filter through all of them to find the one that best suits you. Just like you might forego a chocolate raisin for a strawberry gummy, you’ve got to start narrowing down the list of PR agencies you’re tempted to work with.
You’ve got to find your why and create a checklist that helps you find your way to an ideal PR agency. And remember, PR is in high demand – the industry is expected to reach a value of at least $93 billion by 2022, and that can only mean one thing: lots and lots of PR agencies to choose from.
Getting started is always the hardest part, so we’ve created a little starter checklist to guide you. Think of it as a beginner’s guide to choosing a PR agency to work with; the basic pointers you should keep in mind before adding that PR firm to your bag.
What do your peers think?
Before making a decision, turn to your peers and ask them for recommendations. What do they think of the PR agency you’re looking at? Who would they recommend and why? You might come across an amazing PR firm you haven’t heard of before – all with the help of your network. Don’t just ask them for recommendations though; your peers are a great place to get intel on how to approach a PR agency and what to look out for. Perhaps they have specific criteria or ask certain questions upfront before signing with a PR company – these small nuggets of wisdom could help you narrow down your choices quickly and find the perfect fit faster.
What size is the PR agency?
First off, let’s make one thing clear; size does matter, but not in the way you think. The biggest PR agencies aren’t necessarily the best. Just because they have a large team doesn’t mean they’ll be right for your brand, and this is when it can become a little tricky. Don’t fall into the trap of pairing with a similar size agency to your brand, and try to get rid of the bias around small firms. Small doesn’t mean amateur. In fact, a small PR agency is often very niche and might even be an expert in the industry you’re dealing with. Their close-knit teams will be able to pay close attention to your brand, fine-tuning every detail to meet your needs. They’re also more likely to be connected and involved with your brand in the day-to-day, making them a little more personal than enterprise firms.
We’re not throwing shade at large organisations though. They can be excellent, particularly if they’ve got a large business with multiple offices around the globe. In this case, pairing with a big PR firm makes sense.
Do your research
Now that you’ve asked around, it’s time to do a little digging of your own. Don’t just count on a PR firm’s website or proposal (they are made to sell, after all) – look deeper into what they do. Scan their socials, look at review pages, and research client testimonials. The proof is in the pudding, so try to find out how successful they’ve been with past clients. You might find that what their website says is a whole different story to what’s actually going on, so do your research. It’s also helpful to take a look at their socials; this way, you can see whether their style aligns with your own. It will also give you insight into the way their PR campaigns are executed and how much reach they get.
What’s your budget?
Money, money, money – probably the most important factor in choosing a PR agency to work with. If your budget doesn’t align with their price, then what’s the point? Think about the kind of budget you have and what you’d be willing to spend, and try to find PR agencies that align with that. You’ll also want to consider what you’ll be getting with your budget and whether it’s enough to have a lasting impact. If you’ve got a particular agency in mind, don’t be afraid to ask about pricing. Transparency is incredibly important in this process – after all, no one wants to be messed around with. Figure out what their pricing model is and whether it suits you. Perhaps you have to pay a retainer each month or the agency gets paid on a performance basis – whatever it is, make sure it aligns with your brand.
Have they got other verticals?
PR is no longer just about getting your brand info out to the press and shiny newspaper clippings – it’s also digital. The line between PR, digital marketing, and social media has been cut, and it’s not enough to scrape by with traditional PR methods alone. If you want your brand’s PR campaign to be successful, it’s going to have to be a mix of all three. That’s why it’s super important to pick a PR agency with multiple verticals. It’s great if they specialise in PR, but do they also have a digital marketing, social media, or copywriting team? If they do, you’re probably onto a winner. A PR agency with an embedded digital marketing team will know how to get your brand in front of fresh eyes with new technologies and digital tools. I’ll reiterate it – don’t just go by their website. Look at their social media feed and see what kinds of digital PR campaigns they’re executing and whether you like the look of them.
What’s their personality like?
Personality might be last on your list of factors to think about, but it’s actually really important. Think about it. You’re going to be spending quite a bit of time with this PR agency, so it’s key that they’re a good cultural fit for your brand. You want to build a long-lasting relationship with them, and a bad cultural fit will only make it harder to get the ball rolling. Don’t just pick an agency based on things like size and success stories – take a look at the people behind the company and what they stand for. Are their values similar to your own? Are they your peanut butter to your jam
Do they understand your brand?
A key question to ask on your search is do they understand my brand? Do they work in a similar industry to you? Do they specialise in your niche? A culinary PR agency is unlikely to have the right contacts and tools to get a gaming brand into the right kind of limelight, and vice versa. Consider your industry and whether the PR agency is a good fit. They might not specialise in your niche, but perhaps they have an extensive portfolio of similar projects? It’s also key to figure out whether they’ve got the same fire and passion for your brand as you do. Are they as excited about what you want to achieve? If their enthusiasm is lacking, they’re probably not the best fit. You want an agency that will rave and root for you from all corners. And besides, being fun is a pretty good prerequisite!
Are they well connected?
A PR agency without a strong network isn’t really a PR agency at all. The whole point of PR is to have strong connections so your brand’s info can be fed out to the press, publishers, and the internet. So, make it your absolute top criteria for any PR agency you’re vetting. They must be well connected to publishers and other PR firms, and it’s even better if they know a few influencers and bloggers within your niche as well. Social media is a great tool for spotlighting your brand, so make sure your PR firm knows how to work it.
So. Many. Things. To. Consider. We know – that’s a lot to take in. Luckily, you don’t have to look all that far to find the perfect fit. It might be standing right in front of you. Now, we’re not one to toot our own horn but… we’re pretty good at PR. I mean, it’s what we specialise in. In addition to Social Media, Copywriting, and Content. Did we mention that we’re also a leading Dubai PR agency?
If you’re looking for a stellar team, strategic PR services in Dubai, and an agency that will root for your brand from day one, get in touch with us at [email protected]. You bring the brief, we’ll bring the execution.