By Jess Macdonald
Bill Gates famously declared that if he were down to his last dollar, he would spend it on public relations.
If we were taking business advice from Bill – and, let’s face it, there’s probably nobody better to take business advice from – we’d conclude that hiring a PR agency should be high on the list of priorities for brands.
But how can you be sure you’re hiring the right agency for you? A perfect match will elevate your company to the next level… from business to booming brand.
What is public relations?
To fully understand why your company could benefit from working with a PR agency, and how to pick the right one for your needs, you need to understand exactly what public relations is.
In simple terms, PR refers to how well the public relates to your business, and the reputation that your brand has built in the public eye, be it in newspapers, magazines or social media etc.
Public relations might conjure up images of scenes from Absolutely Fabulous, but – trust us – there’s more to PR than simply sending out press releases and “schmoozing” journalists.
There’s a lot more work that happens behind the scenes and a ton of effort that goes into landing all that swanky coverage.
People will also trust earned media more than they’ll trust a paid ad, as it’s other people’s honest opinions. Anyone can just buy an advert, but not everyone can earn an honest 5* review.
Unlike digital marketing or advertising, which has a limited shelf life, PR has a much longer lifespan. When you earn a great piece of publicity, rather than pay for it, it stays out there on the web forever.
PR, as QBF’s Director Rich puts it, is “sticky”.
What can a PR agency do for you that your marketing team can’t?
- A PR agency will handle the reputation of your company through owned, earned, and paid communications
- A PR agency’s main goals focus on brand awareness and reputation management
Your in-house marketing team will already have enough on their plate, with all the blog writing, email copy writing, website development, and other marketing-y things on their to-do lists.
Plus, there is of course the fact that PR and marketing are two very different things.
The goals of your marketing team are not the same as the goals of an in-house PR team or an agency.
So, while your Marketing Manager may have experience sending out a press release, they may not have access to the contacts or resources that a PR specific professional or agency has.
This is where a PR agency can help.
PR experts will work closely with influencers, journalists, and the media, to land your business earned media coverage and position your brand in the public eye.
In addition to sending out press releases, a good agency will go (what we call in the industry) ‘hunting’ for press opportunities and selling in your brand to targeted publications, submit you for industry awards, get your people seen and heard as thought leaders in the [enter your industry] space, and ultimately get people talking about you!
How to choose the right PR agency
Now that we’ve covered what a PR agency can do for your business, let’s look at how to make sure you choose the right one. This post is titled ‘the ultimate guide to hiring the right PR agency‘ after all!
Here are some questions to ask yourself when looking for an agency that’s worthy of “swiping left” (Tinder for PR agencies – now wouldn’t that be easier?!)
1. Do they offer the right services?
PR agencies vary in what they can offer clients.
If you’re a mental health platform looking for social media management, then there’s no point contacting an agency that specialises in sport media relations and talent management.
Some agencies will have a niche, which will fit in perfectly with what you’re looking for. Others will offer a much more varied scope of services and be able to deliver a range of PR solutions under one roof. Figure out exactly what service you need to help you pick the right agency.
2. Can you afford them?
This seems like a no brainer, right?
Believe it or not, though, many brands will blindly set out to hire a PR agency with no real budget firmly laid out.
We get it, it can be notoriously hard to find out what PR agencies cost. But to avoid wasting your time, make sure to clearly articulate your own budget to any agency you speak to from the get-go.
This will help the agency to both:
- Determine whether your budget is in line with what they charge, and
- Pull together a proposal for what exactly they can offer you based on how much you’re able to spend
As well as budget, the billing structure is something to consider too. Some agencies charge a six-month retainer, while others (such as us at QBF!) offer a rolling monthly retainer. Our relationships are important to us – and like any relationship – we want to make sure everyone is happy from the get-go.
Billing may be hourly, or by project, and unfortunately, some agencies will always have hidden costs. Some questions to ask when discussing payment and billing include when payment is due, are there any additional charges, what is the commitment length for signing a contract with this agency, and is there any cancellation clause if it doesn’t work out?
3. Who else uses them?
If an agency comes highly recommended by another brand that is either in the same sphere as you, or simply someone that you know, then that’s always a very good place to start.
Ask around and check with colleagues, friends, and business peers if they have used an agency before that they’d recommend.
If you’re specifically looking at a couple of agencies and trying to whittle it down, you could get in touch with some of their current/previous clients and ask for feedback. Don’t forget to also check out Google Business, Quora, and other forums for testimonials and reviews.
What can a boutique PR agency, such as Quick Brown Fox, do for you?
As an integrated communications agency, we know the value of a good story. A highly experienced and talented team like ours can create engaging editorial content about your brand and products, and get those stories featured in the newspapers, magazines, websites, and social media channels that your target customers look at every single day.
When you work with an agency, you work with storytellers. That’s what we do – we create narratives that prominently position your brand in the public eye.
Hiring a PR team should feel like an extension of your own team. At Quick Brown Fox, we work in conjunction with your team to build recognition of your brand in all the right spaces.
As a boutique agency, we will provide you with a tailored service suited to you and your company’s needs – no cookie-cutter PR packages here!
Contact #TeamFox today at firstname.lastname@example.org and find out how we can help build your business’ brand and reputation, boost your social media presence, or deliver any other business objectives you have.