Choosing the Right Public Relations (PR) Firm – 5 Helpful Tips

If there is one industry that has become overly saturated these days it is the field of Public Relations. It seems that PR Firms are cropping up faster than weeds, and the process of sorting through the slush to choose a public relations company of quality can be a daunting and overwhelming process, to say the least.

This article offers you 5 helpful tips that can hopefully make the journey of choosing a PR Firm or a publicist a little bit easier and more streamlined, so that you can get the most bang for your public relations buck, and actually see a return on your investment.

Five Tips For Choosing The Right PR Firm For You

1. Size – Are you seeking a large corporate PR Firm, a mid-size firm or a small or boutique firm?

The question I pose is not a black and white one. The answer to this question must be determined by several things. Your budget, how much hand holding and personal attention you require, how far you want your public relations outreach to be, and your desire for a team working on your account or for just one or two ambitious publicists working on your account. Large corporate public relations firms generally charge between $10,000 and $20,000 per month for their basic retainer services, so budget is a huge factor here. To a company like Microsoft or Johnson & Johnson this is a drop in the bucket. But to a small or medium sized company that type of fee is far out of reach. The benefits of a large national and sometimes international firm is the wide reach your brand can achieve, a large team working on your account, a large pool of other clients who are with that firm from that your company can possibly network with and benefit from. These large firms generally have a ton of experience on their side. Many of these large PR Firms are 20, 30 or 50 plus years old. The downside of these large firms aside from the hefty monthly fee is the amount of bureaucracy and red tape involved in the day to day functions of the company, and unfortunately this can often lead to smaller clients falling through the cracks. Another minus to working with large PR Firms is the lack of personal touch and attention, which is fine for established companies but not as good for start ups, small and medium sized companies who require more nurturing, more brand development and other complimentary services like writing and basic marketing assistance.

Smaller public relations firms tend to offer monthly retainers that can range anywhere from $7000.00 all the way down to about $2500.00 depending on how much overhead that firm has, their level of experience and expertise, their particular public relations niche, their contacts and how much time they plan to devote to your account. Most PR Firms out there tend to fall into the mid-size, boutique or small category and are also very effective at doing their job.

2. Ignore the Hype and Look at a Public Relations Firm’s Portfolio of Work!

I cannot stress this enough. In perusing some colleagues’ websites recently I was shocked to observe that some of these websites have flashy graphics, catchy promotional copy about their services, and glossy images but NO examples of their media placements, marketing case studies, writing samples… nada! Where is their work? Don’t fall for public relations firms that are all flash and no substance. Always, and I mean always look to see if their website is packed with examples of past projects, past examples of media placements and other examples of work created by the firm. Look over the work that is displayed on their website and when speaking with a representative from that public relations firms ask them to elaborate on their body of work. Some great questions:

What media placements are you most proud of? How was that media placement achieved by your firm? What is your firms biggest strength? Can you tell me some of your contacts in the media? Can you give me some marketing case studies? Some public relations case studies? What sets your firm apart?

3. Make sure you are a match: Assessing values, vision and creativitiy

The above sentence is pretty self-explanatory but I will elaborate. This publicist or pr team will be your brand ambassador. You want someone whose values reflect your own values. You also want to be sure that your publicist understands, appreciates and shares your vision for your company or organization. If a PR Firm wants to pitch your beauty brand as an elite, untouchable, prestige brand and you want your beauty product to speak to the every-woman, showing her how beauty can be accessible to all women, then that publicist may have a vision that is not in line with yours and things will likely go from perplexing to downright tense. A good trick is, when speaking to a potential publicist ask him or her how they see your product, who they think your audience/demo is and how they envision positioning the product to the media and to potentiial consumers. Don’t expect them to go into too much detail before really delving into the product line, but they should give you a basic pitch that falls in line with your own vision. If not, move on.

4. Are you in it for Website traffic, magazine placements, TV appearances? What is it you want? Be specific!

Don’t be shy about what it is you want. Why are you searching for public relations services in the first place? Really sit down and think about it. And don’t be shy about your needs. Is your main objective to build a strong targeted online following to drive quality traffic to your website and convert visitors into sales? Is your main objective someone who can write outstanding copy for your business like press releases, articles, pitch copy to send to media outlets, etc.? Is your main objective to become something of a personality and expert in your field and to build a resume as someone who makes appearances on television news programs giving advice to promote yourself as a brand and an expert? Figure out what your goals are and choose a PR Firm that is strong in your area of interest.

5. Location, location, location

In the age of email, fax machines, long distance phone plans and inexpenseive air travel the location of your public relations firm may not matter to you… or it might. Do you want lots of face time with your publicist or do you not care if your publicist is in Timbuck Tu as long as they can get the job done, and get your company press coverage? Everyone’s comfort level with location is different and there is no right or wrong. If you are looking for entertainment public relations you may set your sights on a PR Firm that is in Los Angeles or in New York. If you are an up and coming Internet company you may find value in a San Francisco based PR Firm. Fashion, New York may be the way to go for you, unless your fashion line is a range of swimsuits; in that case a Miami PR Firm could be the right fit. Looking to attract the Latin market, again, Miami could be the key for you.

Or, you may simply look for a public relations firm with a rolodex of contacts in a particular city or industry, regardless of their brick and mortar location.