Regardless of their niche, all businesses have similar objectives: building brand awareness and reaching a wider audience through a relationship of trust. Trust breeds loyalty, the foundation of successful long-term commitment to your brand.
A brand's public reputation directly affects business goals. A positive brand image will help your business thrive, while a negative one will be the end of it. Handling this sensitive matter on your own could be challenging. Fortunately, public relations (PR) agencies can help you deliver your messages and establish an impeccable public image.
Choosing a public relations agency can be demanding, especially if you don’t know how to distinguish those that do a great job from those mediocre ones. This guide will provide you with all the necessary information on what to look for when choosing a PR agency.
Let’s start with some basics.
Table of Contents
What Is PR and Why Is It Important for Your Business?
The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) defines PR as a “strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their public.”
“If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on public relations,” said Bill Gates, emphasizing the importance of PR services.
Although often confused with marketing, advertising and propaganda, PR overlaps with these fields. It doesn't sell goods nor persuade customers to accept your viewpoint. It helps businesses gain, retain and protect a positive reputation and flattering brand image.
PR tells a story about your business motivation, passion, missions and accomplishments. It also increases your brand value by making your business more visible, personalizing the brand, assisting in the sales process and enhancing the value you provide to your clients.
What Services Does a PR Agency Provide?
PR agencies offer many services and among the most frequent are the following:
- Market research is a primary PR tactic. A PR agency will use surveys, questionnaires, interviews and feedback forms to find out more about your target audience, so it can tailor content that fairly represents your brand to the public.
- Reputation management is one of the essential services PR agencies provide. It includes maintaining the brand’s positive public image, monitoring its presence in mass media, taking care of negative publicity, choosing influencers to promote the brand, etc.
- Crisis management can save the company from a sheer fall. Whether the threat endangers a company and its reputation, stakeholders or the general public. 69% of business leaders have experienced at least one crisis in the last five years, and 95% report that their crisis management plan needs improvements.
- Media relations help build a brand's public image and reputation. PR firms hire influencers and report to journalists to guarantee media coverage and dialogue between your business and media representatives.
- Press releases and media relations are closely connected. Press releases are short announcements of new assortment or significant business happenings.
- Event planning can cover various purposes. From promoting new products to spreading brand awareness. PR agencies facilitate these events' organization and communication with interested parties and the media.
- Social media management. This is vital for businesses with active social media accounts, considering the number of users is constantly growing and is expected to exceed 4.9 billion in 2023. Social media management includes engagement with the audience and influencers in your niche.
- Speech writing allows the speaker to deliver credible information that excites the listener’s attention. Whether you organize press conferences or your employees speak about specific events for your industry, your speeches should reflect the goals and visions of your brand — a PR agency will make it possible.
- Internal copywriting is a PR tactic for communicationwith your employees on various occasions: celebrations or business changes, for example.
- Outreach ensures your company’s exposure, aka visibility in its niche. This public relations strategy boosts brand awareness and public perception.
Types of PR Agencies
PR agencies offer different types of services. Depending on your business needs, you can choose between seven general and specialized PR agencies:
1. General Strategic Communication
Covers all or most of the abovementioned services, ensuring your business’s positive public image and reputation. It’s a good choice if you combine more than two PR tactics.
2. Press Communication PR Specialists
Cover the brand’s media presence, from media outreach to media relations and press releases.
3. Crisis Management
Crisis management is one of the essential PR tactics. PR agencies specializing in this field will successfully implement a crisis management plan to maintain the brand’s reputation in urgent situations.
4. Public Affairs
PR agencies are specialized for working with the government and similar organizations rather than providing particular services.
5. Non-Profit PR Agencies
Public relations agencies that work with charities and other non-profit organizations, helping them raise awareness for their noble causes, attract donors and raise funds.
6. Community Management
A PR agency manages customer relations and general communication on social media platforms.
7. Internal Communication
PR agencies that focus on interaction with the company’s employees.
Things To Look for When Choosing a Public Relations Agency
The right PR agency can level up your business game, but only if it fulfills your requirements. Here are some of the common things you should look for:
- Industry knowledge and experience: If a PR agency is familiar with your business niche, it will save you a lot of time and effort explaining industry basics.
- Agency’s size: If you’re a small business owner, a small PR agency that will prioritize your requests might be the right solution for you, especially if you’re concerned that a big agency wouldn't dedicate the necessary attention to your tasks.
- Agency’s location: If your business operates locally, go for a local PR agency that has connections with local media representatives and can increase your business’s visibility.
- Price: Although it doesn't determine the quality of the service, price is an important factor. Don't go for the most expensive candidate, nor the cheapest one. Concentrate on their services and choose the most suitable for your requirements and budget.
How To Hire a PR Agency
Choosing a PR agency ideal for your business isn’t easy, even when you know what services PR agencies provide. Follow these steps to find the right solution for your needs:
1. Set Your Goals
Regardless of the type of changes you want to introduce to your business, the first step is to determine your goals.
What goals do you want to achieve by hiring a PR agency? How can PR services improve your business functions?
When you answer these questions, set SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound) goals and move on to the next step.
2. Determine Your Budget
Determining the budget you can allocate to PR services is essential. Consider the following:
- Align your objectives and your budget.
- Find out possible hidden costs to know the monthly total of PR services.
- Keep your priorities in mind (SMART goals)
3. Research PR Agencies or Submit RFPs
After determining your business goals and budget, it is time to research possible candidates for the job. There are two ways to do it:
- Consult online marketplaces and directories like DesignRush for the best public relations agencies. Find out more about their specializations and services, and read reviews and testimonials—single out appropriate candidates.
- Submit a public relations request for proposal (RFP), an official document that includes all your requirements, reaching out to all the suitable candidates who can compete for the job you’re offering.
4. Prepare a List of Questions to Ask the PR Agency
Interview the agencies you singled out as the best candidates. Here are some questions you should ask their representatives to help you make the final decision:
- Does the PR agency have experience in your industry?
- What services do they specialize in?
- Who were their previous clients from your niche?
- How do they measure the success of their services?
- Previous client reviews and testimonials.
- Pricing (including hidden costs).
5. Schedule Meetings
Armed with a list of questions that will provide you with all the information you need, you can schedule meetings with selected candidates.
In addition to the answers, pay attention to the communication with the representatives of the PR agencies. If communication does not go smoothly at the first meeting, it is probably a good idea to continue searching for the right agency.
After completing all the interviews, compare the answers, suggested strategies and prices.
6. Choose the Right Candidate
The final step is choosing the public relations agency you’ll work with. Introduce them to your business objectives, set your expectations and establish a communication model.
Choosing a Public Relations Agency: Final Thoughts
Choosing the right public relations agency can improve your business, raise its exposure and improve your brand's reputation.
To ensure that you have chosen the best candidate, set goals, plan your budget, research options, interview and choose the agency that best aligns with your business objectives. By following the steps we've discussed, you can increase your chances of selecting the right candidate and achieving your desired outcomes.