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Choosing a PR agency for your small business

October 6, 2015

Selecting the right public relations agency is an important decision for any business, but is particularly crucial for a small organisation with a limited budget. Chris Hewitt, CEO of Berkeley PR gives businesses some food for thought when it comes choosing an agency.

Why does your business need PR?

Firstly, think about why your business needs PR. How will it help you prosper? PR must be accountable – make sure you get a return on your investment by ensuring your PR objectives map on to your business plan.

What mix of PR activities?

Make a decision about your agency based on the value it can deliver, not on price alone. A good agency will match the best mix of activities against your budget to maximise the results. If you withhold the budget hoping for a bargain, initial recommendations will be made ‘blind’ and won’t meet your expectations.

Where does PR fit into your overall marketing effort?

Understand exactly where PR fits within your entire marketing effort. Share your business and marketing objectives with your prospective PR agency so that it can interconnect with other marketing activities to deliver maximum value.

Messages should be consistent and compelling across all your communication channels, including your website, sales collateral, press material and direct mail.

Make sure you get ‘buy-in’

Ensure you have the support of those at the top right from the start, even before you approach an agency. This long-term investment will fail if those with P&L responsibility don’t agree on its value.

Consultant or cowboy?

A strong indicator that your prospective agency will do a good job is if they ask lots of questions. Never trust a firm that delivers your entire PR strategy based on a quick call to you. How can they hope to understand the business goals and your individual pressures without spending some time with you and getting to know your organisation?

Understanding your objectives

Ensure that clear goals are set out from the start and that any agency is prepared to measure the same. If your PR company is to achieve meaningful results, it needs to understand what your business is trying to achieve from PR from the very start of the relationship.

Chemistry

Good results come with effective teamwork. See your PR agency as an extension to your marketing team and don’t approach this as a buyer-seller relationship. The chemistry has to be right and if you are in any doubt, don’t hire them. You need someone you can bond with and who understands the demands made on you. The agency needs someone who will champion them throughout the organisation.

Take time to select the right PR agency for you

This is an important decision for the business – both in terms of the impact PR can have, and the level of time and budget required from the business. Make sure you have input at all stages from anyone who has a veto on significant purchases.

PR is an important investment and should not be rushed. Take time to select and see agencies relevant to your business and ask for client references. Meet agencies for ‘credential meetings’ (the chemistry test) and invite those you like to respond to your brief. Make your final decision based on their pitch and your experience of the interaction you’ve had with them through the process.

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