5 ½ ways to choose your PR agency

24th October 2017

Public Relations is going through a turbulent time globally. Hiring freezes, slashing of fees, agencies downsizing and the hemorrhaging of clients and employees. Fair to say it’s been a bit of a blood bath.

When even Sir Martin Sorrell is complaining about the industry being too competitive and the WPP share price falls by more than 20%, it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the industry.

In agencies, there is a period of consolidation as companies are spending less and expecting more bang for their buck. But this is nothing new. This game of cat and mouse as old as the industry itself.

It has all been a bit doom and gloom. But…and it’s a BIG BUT… it’s not all bad news. Agencies are still hiring. Great work is still being done. In the good times, companies want to promote their good work. In the bad times, it becomes even more important for businesses to differentiate themselves and Public Relations is one of the most cost effective way to do that… “If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on public relations.” – Bill Gates

And it’s not just good news for the big agencies. Boutique agencies can thrive in this environment. Offering more personal attention and more flexibility is very attractive in this climate. The smaller retainers will look even more attractive in the current market.

So, on the other side, how do you choose the best agency for your business:

1. Ask around town

The best agencies are well known for their work. Ask business owners who they use, what their experience has been. Do your research. People in PR know which agencies are doing the best work and truly love what they do. Choose an agency that echoes your own approach to business. They will be your advisors, your confidants –  in good times and bad. Make sure they’re on the same page.

2. Strength and Depth

If the MD is in the pitch, it might not be a good sign. The agency should be able to show its strength and depth. The Managing Director of an agency is very unlikely to be servicing your business day to day. Ask to see the Account Director and the Account Managers who will be looking after you. If you want digital, meet that team too.

3. Go to their home

You can’t tell everything from a first meeting but you can tell if they are the right agency for you. Go to their office, meet the team, ask about processes. See their best work. See their standard work. Look at the way they monitor the media. Be picky. Feel the vibe of the agency. Do the staff look happy? Is it a dynamic place to work? If it’s a room of people hunched over their laptops with no noise, they probably aren’t who you want to launch your new restaurant. However, they may be the best people to represent your financial services product / accountancy firm.

4. Don’t just look at the awards

Does the best film always win the Oscar? No. Don’t just look at the wall of awards, look at the campaigns, meet the individuals who won the awards. If they impress you, hire them.

5. Results and clarity

You have a shortlist. You like the agencies you’re speaking to. Now ask the KPIs. There must be defined goals, they must be realistic, they should be ambitious. Do you really want 4 press releases sent out per week? Probably not. Video content / influencer outreach / networking events / round tables with media. What works for your business? If you don’t need any of these, tell them. You know your goals; your agency should advise you of the best way to achieve them. If they can’t convince you in the pitch, they won’t convince your customers.

6. Ask us

Through our sister agency Ampersand, we offer an agency matchmaking service which helps clients find the ideal partner (if for any reason points 1-5, haven’t worked)


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