Tips for Finding the Right PR Partner
July 29, 2021
By Heather Keroes, APR
When you add someone new to your team, undoubtedly you take great care to make sure that hire is the right fit and is someone who will become an asset to your organization for years to come.
Most of us dedicate significant time to making the best hire. The same should be true when searching for a public relations and marketing firm or agency to be your partner. Just as internal relationships can make or break a team, the same is true when working with an external partner.
Like when hiring for a job within your organization, it’s important to have a key set of qualifications and experience in mind, along with other attributes, when on the hunt for a public relations and marketing firm.
As one former C&P’er told me many years ago, “PR doesn’t stand for press release.” There are many facets of public relations and marketing, from internal communications and crisis planning, to content development and media relations. When looking for a public relations firm, be sure to get a comprehensive understanding of their skillsets, just as you would when searching for a job candidate. What skills are a requirement for the “position,” and does the firm have the experience and team to back it up? If you are looking for a partner to help build relationships with online influencers, find out if this is within their wheelhouse and ask them to share a few examples.
Most importantly, take time to carefully consider your goals in hiring a PR firm and use that to determine the competencies they must possess to get the job done right. Not entirely sure about what you may need? A good firm will work with you to assess your goals and objectives, and share recommendations for how to achieve them. That’s what we do!
It’s also easy to forget that when interviewing a job candidate that you are also being evaluated as a potential employer. A public relations and marketing partner that is serious about winning your business will ask questions to better understand your organization’s vision and help you achieve it.
Work History and Reference Check
If a job candidate handed you a resume with nothing filled in under job experience, you wouldn’t bring them in for an interview, would you? The same should be true when selecting a public relations and marketing partner. Request case studies showcasing their work, preferably for organizations within your industry or with similar needs for support. Do a “reference check” and request contact information for others who have worked with them. And when you reach out to those contacts, use the opportunity to explore why they decided to work together and if they felt that their goals were met or exceeded.
Age matters, too … at least, when it comes to client relationships. If a firm has several longstanding partnerships (of at least two years or more) then that is a good indication they know how to keep their clients happy.
When you select a public relations and marketing firm to be your partner, you are not just selecting the company – you are also selecting its people. Find out who would be working on your account team and, most importantly, who will be leading it.
Beware the bait and switch of only meeting firm leadership and then being assigned very junior professionals who will now serve in that lead role on your account. As is usual practice, a PR firm’s senior leaders will manage new business conversations with you. Although they may have some involvement in the account work, it’s highly unlikely that they will also serve as your day-to-day contacts (nor do you want them to be, if you are hoping to be cost-effective!). If the firm does not openly share who you’ll be working with directly, ask from the get-go who will manage the team and who will do the work.
When sitting down to interview a job candidate, you sometimes realize the person who appeared wonderful on paper and checked all the right boxes for your position is not the right cultural fit.
Approximately 90% of companies have clearly defined corporate values – beliefs that guide their actions and serve as the cornerstone of their work culture. When adding to our talented team at Curley & Pynn, we seek candidates who share and appreciate the values we hold dear – integrity, trust, family, excellence and leadership. And when exploring new client relationships, we prefer to work with those who either possess or appreciate similar traits. As the marketing or communications leader spearheading the search for a firm or agency partner, you should desire no less. By working with clients who share our values, we’re able to better understand and complement each other, and in turn, produce better work and results.
Let’s face it … no one works for free . When seeking a public relations and marketing partner, it is important to be as clear as possible on budget. Do you already have a specific dollar amount earmarked for public relations? If so, be open with the firm you are considering and find out from the outset if that amount suffices for everything you need.
Not sure how much to budget? My fellow Curley & Pynn VP, Kacie Escobar, APR, tackles this question in depth, here. Ultimately, it comes down to having a strong understanding of your goals and desired scope-of-work, and the willingness to make an investment in the strategies and tactics that will get you there.
If you think Curley & Pynn might be the right PR partner for you, give us a shout. Even if we are not the right fit, our team is friendly with others in town and would be happy to make a referral, and we have connections in other markets nationwide as a member of The Croft Society.