Artisan Marketing Communications offers clients PR and marketing communications advice, practical support and implementation.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Choosing your PR agency tips

I occasionally read pieces in magazines on how to choose a PR or marketing agency.

All too often they offer some insight followed by a call to action that gives you the answer you suspect all along: choose the author's agency. It's as simple as 2 + 2.

Some companies select an agency based on recommendation or previous experience. Both very good ways to start a search to find the right supplier.

However, many enterprises do not have the benefit of their own or a trusted opinion's experience to make a choice that can be crucial to the success of the company, let alone a marketing campaign.

With no advice to resort to it is easy to use the Internet, a directory or a vague recall of an agency's name.

Within an hour's drive of my home town, Manchester, there must be at least 50 PR agencies. There maybe 100 or more. And if you include freelancers....

And then there are the full service marketing agencies as well.

I am not sure on exact figures as you can see. But the fact is there is so much choice any company would be a little perplexed when confronted, for the first time, with the problem of finding who's right for them.

Here are 10 tips on finding the right PR agency:

Shop around - do not choose the first agency you see, even if you believe they are the right agency. Get a feel of the market and if the first agency is the right supplier, at least you go into the relationship better informed.

Bigger is not always better - it can be as they might have particular expertise not found in a smaller agency. But it could be that a smaller agency has plenty of experience in your sector as well. There are lots of pros and cons - judge on the benefits, not size.

A rule of thumb is look at their client lists and see if you fit their portfolio in terms of size and prestige. You do not want to be their smallest client as there is the possibility that you will be of less importance to them.

Personal rapport - it is essential you get on with your agency's staff.

Enthusiasm - how keen are the agency to work with you? Even if they have the expertise and skills you want, it will only be to your benefit if they are motivated and really want to work with you. It is a two way process.

Will the director work on your account? - Director level staff often pitch for your business. You might be impressed by their knowledge and develop a rapport. But will they work on your account if you work with their agency? Often not. Make sure you have assurances if you are keen that they do.

Industry experience - Does your agency have knowledge of your industry? Does it have the necessary contacts? It is not always essential they do. But it can cut down the time it takes to get results.

First experiences - If your agency treats you with respect and acts professionally on your initial encounters then this is a likely sign of how they will act when hired. If the first contacts are negative take this as a warning sign and look at other agencies.

Client references - Most agencies will oblige with references and you should ask especially for ones in your sector.

What does your PR agency do? - Some PR agencies are strong in media relations others in exhibitions, some in both. Check that their expertise is in the area you want to achieve results in.

Take your time - Still not sure? Do not rush in or be hurried into a decision. Take as much time as you need to choose the right PR agency.

And the directory reference from an earlier entry? Well, I have a client who wins a lot of business after being spotted in Yellow Pages and delivers a quality service. There are exceptions to the rules.


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