This is the first post in a three-part series: 5 Clues that You Are Ready to Hire a PR Agency, 5 Criteria for Hiring a PR Agency and 5 ways to Maximize Your PR Agency Investment. Can I get a high five?
I thought for sure that this blog post had been written so many times that I could just make my point by linking to my favorite versions of it penned by other PR pros. However, there are more posts on how to select a PR agency (which I’ll do next, anyway). Since the new year has already given me the opportunity to answer the question, “Do you think we are ready for a PR firm?” several times, I want to start with some scenarios that might help a potential PR agency client determine if now is the time.
1. You need expertise beyond your internal team to reach your goals. You have a solid business plan with carefully identified goals for the year. You know where you want to go, but you need help getting there. This applies to new companies, as well as established brands. The internal team might be you, an executive team, the marketing department or maybe even an internal public relations staff. When you find yourself asking more than once the question of “how do we get there?” consider bringing in a PR agency team with the expertise to help you build and execute a strategic communications plan.
2. You need resources/manpower/creativity beyond your internal team. Really smart clients accept that there are only so many hours in a day. Do you find yourself feeling frustrated that you don’t have the time to execute the big ideas? A PR firm can help. Crossing over with point #1, an agency team typically provides people with different strengths, which is an asset to clients. One person might be a better writer while another is a better media pitcher and yet another is creative when it comes to social media. Speaking of being creative, this is another benefit of hiring an agency team since most are made-up of people from different ages and backgrounds — put them in a room together and let the brainstorming begin. Here’s an example of how Clairemont helped a client with a highly creative campaign.
3. You understand that PR is a marathon, not a sprint. If you find yourself thinking about hiring a PR agency during your annual planning, you might be ready. If you find yourself thinking about calling around town to find an agency to help you get something done later this month, you probably aren’t ready. Do you notice that the word relations is part of many things PR agencies do? Public relations. Media relations. Investor relations. Community relations. Analyst relations. Blogger relations. Relations = relationships. Yes, of course we already have established relationships. However, we need time to extend those relationships to include your brand as well as make new ones based on individual client needs. Research and planning are also essential. We recommend 12-month engagements that identify mutually agreeable goals.
4. You are ready to trust. I’ve been on the client side, and I know! I know that an agency search can be daunting and that engaging or re-engaging external resources can be stressful. Trust that you can find the right agency partner, and then trust that PR agency to do great work for you. You can ease your anxiety by doing everything you can to select the best PR firm for you and the needs of your organization. More on how to do that in my next post!
5. You have a PR budget. Like any professional service you might outsource, you need to have a designated communications budget prior to hiring a PR firm. It is understandable if you’ve never worked with an agency causing you to have no idea what it might cost. If you are going to hire an attorney or an accountant for the first time, how would you get a sense for the fees involved? I suspect you might ask a friend, colleague or someone else in your industry who has used those services. While there are a variety of factors that will influence an agency’s estimate, you are likely ready to hire a PR agency when you’ve done your homework enough to understand what a reasonable budget range is (and have approval to invest it on behalf of your organization) for what you’re hoping to accomplish. Your local PRSA chapter should also be able to help you understand the financial parameters of working with an agency.
Hopefully this helps you if you are on the fence between ready and not ready. If you still don’t know, give me a call. Even if we aren’t the right agency for you, I’m happy to answer your questions and make recommendations. My mobile number is 615-294-1886. For those of you who have hired agencies, how did you know you were ready?