Eight Quick Questions for Hiring a Public Relations Firm

Avoiding the Bait and Switch

Here are eight quick questions every company must ask before hiring a public relations firm:

1) What is the firm’s experience?

PR firms may specialize in high-tech, healthcare or crisis communications. In entertainment and sports, a specialist is mandatory. In any industry, you should look for a PR firm with editorial contacts at your key publications.

2) Is the person selling the account the same as the one who will work on it?

With larger PR firms, day-to-day operations are turned over to an account executive. A smaller firm is more likely to provide the personal attention of an experienced PR pro.

3) How well does the PR firm write?

The best public relations firms write succinct, compelling press releases and bylined articles. You should carefully review a firm’s portfolio or writing samples before hiring them.

4) How well does the PR firm pitch?

Pitching at smaller organizations is closely connected to writing. Top PR practicioners suggest the idea, write the release and pitch it to publications. Thus, when reporters ask questions, they know how to respond.

5) How many other organizations is the public relations firm serving?

Turnaround time is very important when you have a critical project. Will your public relations firm come through and meet your deadlines?

6) What are the terms?

The going rate is about $3,000 per month. This is often prohibitive for smaller and start-up organizations. But some PR agencies offer introductory programs.

Many PR firms demand a three-month contract, but if you are new to PR, you should insist on a month-by-month retainer to evaluate whether it is right for your organization.

7) What do I get?

No PR firm will guarantee results, at least no reputable one. You should, however, request to see some of the agency’s placements for clients in fields similar to your own.

8) What other clients use the public relations firm?

Ask for references from both past and current clients. When you talk to them, ask about the PR firm’s strengths and weaknesses. Every firm has both.