Make your pick: searching for a PR agency: expensive procedure or useful and rewarding experience?
Effective PR can help to position a company, or a brand, in the marketplace. It can help to build--or to repair--corporate and personal reputations. And it can provide an additional boost to the sale of products or services.
But for those companies and organisations that outsource their PR, selecting or changing an agency can be a tricky and time-consuming business. The following five tips may be helpful.
First, have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve through public relations. Do you want PR to support your sales? Do you need to raise your profile? Do you have a reputational issue to address? Do you need to promote an event? Do you need to explain your side of a story? Do you want to share a great idea? It will help your PR agency to help you if you know what you would like to achieve.
Ensure that your management appreciates the value of public relations and that sufficient resources have been allocated for investment in PR. What is your budget? Who will liaise with, and manage, your PR supplier? How much time will your firm dedicate to PR? How will public relations work alongside your other marketing activities, such as advertising or public affairs? How will you measure your return on your PR investment?
Now that you know what it is you want from PR, write it down! Prepare a concise briefing paper that sets out your PR requirements and objectives. Provide background information on your company and your product or service. Provide relevant information such as length of engagement--is it a one-off project or do you require ongoing PR support?--indicate to whom the PR agency would report--communications manager, CEO, marketing director--and so on.
And ask that their proposals list the people who would work on your account. The more detailed the PR brief, the more likely you are to receive relevant proposals from the agencies you decide to approach.
Do a little research on PR agencies. Get an idea of what agencies are on the market: size, experience, ethical reputation, whether independent or part of a bigger group. What agencies could be conflicted--PepsiCo would be unlikely to approach a PR agency engaged by Coca-Cola.
Prepare a list of, say, six agencies that you feel may be able to deliver against your public relations requirements. Give them a call, have a chat. Explain that you are looking to appoint a PR agency and ask them to submit their credentials.
Shortlist four agencies with the credentials that most suit you and your company, or that you like the look of, and then provide them with your PR briefing paper. Set them a deadline to submit their proposal. An agency may get back to you for clarification on a particular point in the brief, or with some questions, prior to their proposal submission.
Review the proposals and decide which ones best meet your requirements. Invite the agencies to pitch, either at your offices or theirs. The agencies should send their proposed account team to present, and should be able to clearly and simply explain what it is they propose to do for you, and how they propose to do it. A good agency will be able to demonstrate that it has done some research into your company and sector, and be able show that it understands, and can deliver against, your PR brief.
Miroslava Kostadinova is Country Manager (Bulgaria) at Cook Communications
Tel.: 02/980 71 85