Hiring a PR Firm Partner: 5 Ways to Prepare and Get it Right

Many organizations approach hiring a PR firm in the same way they think about purchasing new furniture. What’s the price point and when can they deliver?  But approaching your communications challenges as though they are a simple business transaction is the best way to waste time and money.

Hiring a PR firm partner represents much more than a transaction, it’s a relationship with a group of individuals you are hiring to change the game for your company. That’s a tall order, and before you onboard someone who looks good on paper, you need to do a little homework yourself.
At The Fearey Group, we recommend companies consider these five tips before they begin the process of hiring a PR firm partner:

  1. What Value Do They Bring to Your Company?

    The PR firm you choose doesn’t need to have three Ph.D. level scholars within your niche, but they should have some relevant experience working within your industry. If they don’t have direct industry experience, make sure they have experience tackling the specific communications problems you need help with. Not sure what those are? That’s definitely something to think on before you onboard anyone.

  2. Know Your Budget (At Least a Range)

    We know, we know. You don’t want to give all your cards away at once as to the full budget available. But in holding the cards close to your chest, you’re hamstringing the agencies you’re speaking with right from the start.

If you don’t put out a budget, or at least a range, it’s likely that the agency will build the Cadillac proposal with all the bells and whistles, meant to bring you on board. Then once you’ve recovered from the sticker shock, you’ll need to realign the proposal based on your actual budget. That adds time for all involved and prevents the agency from getting started sooner. Aka, furniture delivery delayed due to miscommunication.

A budget, or a range, gives agencies the guardrails necessary to build a proposal of what they can realistically do for you. It also offers them the opportunity to bow out if it’s not a good fit for their capabilities or budget level.

  1. Vendor or Partner?

    Be honest with yourself, are you looking for a vendor or a partner? A vendor can help you with projects or fill a need where there’s a staffing hole. That could be short-term or ongoing, but they are tactical, i.e. creating press releases, drafting website copy, and blog posts.

A true PR partner firm grows to be an extension of your team. While they still do the day-to-day executions you need them to tackle, they also should be bringing strategy and ideas to the table to help push your business goals. They are invested in your success and maintain an outside eye to everything that’s happening in your industry and in the markets you serve. That’s value add you can’t get from a vendor.

  1. Who’s on Your Team?

    Ask the agency partners you are interviewing who will be on your account team. Understand the roles that each person will play. Who’s your day-to-day contact? How about their backup contacts? How involved will senior leadership be in the day-to-day?

Too often, PR firms will bring in the top senior team to win the business and then give you to the junior team to execute. That works out sometimes, but you still want to understand who exactly will be working on your business on a daily basis. Otherwise, it can feel a bit like a bait and switch – and nobody likes that.

  1. Discuss and Agree on Your Company’s Definition of Success.

    Do your best to align internal stakeholders on the WHY of bringing in a firm and the WHAT you hope that they will achieve. Starting a relationship with these conversations makes it clear from the start what the expectations are. Is PR success identified by increased sales? More referrals or maybe 10 placements in the New York Times? That is information your potential PR firm would greatly benefit from knowing. Along the way, if business or communications priorities shifts, be sure to communicate those changes to your PR team, then they can also shift tactics to better reflect the intended outcomes.

Finding the right PR partner can be a great exercise if you’re clear on why you need support and what you hope to achieve with a new partner. These are the conversations that should set the tone for creating a relationship that works for both sides, the client and the agency.
At Fearey, we’re committed to identifying the above items to ensure we’re a good fit for your project. We want to be your long-term partner and help you grow your business, whatever that may look like. For us, that means engaging with you and creating enduring relationships one conversation at a time.
So, are you ready to chat?