It occurs to me this Valentine’s Day, searching for the right PR firm can be a lot like dating. There’s a lot of fish in the sea, but finding “the one” can be daunting. You want chemistry and substance – you want it all and should not settle for less. As someone with a lot of dating experience, I’ve learned it’s important for both sides to ask the hard questions of each other.
The answers will ultimately help you determine how well suited you are for each other and what you will both need to do to ensure a successful working relationship. Before you swipe right, here’s an insider’s perspective at five questions to ask when you’re looking to hire a PR firm:
- Is the chemistry right? Make sure you like the team you are hiring. When you first meet with a potential firm, ask yourself: “What makes these people tick? Are they smart and creative? Do they listen, or just talk? Can we see their team fitting our culture and working well with our team?” And the kicker, “Who will lead the day-to-day work?” You should be excited at the prospect of working with them every day.
- How do you communicate? If you work with a mega-firm, you could be a small fish in a big pond. Conversely, if you go with a small shop, you need to be confident they have the depth and breadth of resources to deliver consistently to all of their clients. You will want to know how often the people on your account will be updating you, their day-to-day availability for you to email or call them, and what level of responsiveness and accountability you can expect.
- Do your clients stand by you? Always ask for client references (of different sized accounts). Does the firm chew through clients (and personnel), looking for the next big account? Or, do they cultivate lasting relationships and maintain a solid roster of clients that come back year after year?
- Are you passionate about [insert industry here]? It will work to your benefit if your hire an agency that has experience working with similar clients and is knowledgeable about issues and events within your industry. Ask to see results from past campaigns with contacts important to your business.
- What do I need to do to make the relationship work? Once you hire and onboard a PR firm, you’ll need to be continually involved, whether it’s taking media interviews, being available for meetings or managing internal approval processes. Find out what your level of commitment will need to be to effectively manage your PR firm. A clear understanding of each team’s responsibilities from the start will set you both up for success.
Serving at trusted advisors to government, association and corporate clients for more than two decades, Stratacomm is a mid-sized, independently-owned communications firm. Nine out of 10 clients say they would hire us again and 100 percent of our team reports they are proud to work here. With our clients and our people – our relationships are built to last.
Jennifer Heilman is an account director in Stratacomm’s Washington, D.C. office.