The Ultimate Guide to Hiring a PR Agency in 2021

Hiring a PR agency can be a fantastic way to tell your story, amplify your brand, and grow your business—after all, it’s their job to be plugged into the media outlets, journalists, and industry influencers—but how do you know you’re ready? And how do you ensure you’re placing your brand in capable hands? So, before you start signing monthly retainer agreements, we’ve pulled together a few things to keep in mind when hiring a PR agency in 2021.

First things first…PR is like a marriage

At Sprouthouse, we ensure the individuals we partner with know what it means to partner with a PR agency and what it takes for the relationship to be most successful. We like to say, PR is like a marriage, and just like a marriage, it’s important for both parties to be fully invested. For the relationship to be effective, it requires communication, commitment, and understanding.

Here are some points to help you consider if hiring a PR agency is right for you and your business in this moment.

When you DO need PR:

    • You have a clear vision on what you’re looking to achieve
    • You understand a PR partnership is a time commitment
    • You’re ready to put in the work communicating daily with your publicist
    • You understand media coverage helps build your presence with your customer base
    • You’re willing to drop everything for a worthwhile press opportunity, often on the fly
    • You’re interested in being an ambassador for your business and its products/services
    • You’re flexible in implementing new promotions and are interested in bringing new ideas to the table
    • You’re forthcoming about the challenges your business faces that may affect your public image
    • You understand that earned media placements are not advertisements, and neither you nor your publicist can control exactly what they say

When you DON’T need PR:

    • You’re looking for instant results for which you don’t have to do any extra work
    • You don’t want to take on any additional commitments, both in time and effort
    • You expect articles and press coverage to immediately and directly translate to sales
    • You don’t have time for media leads that need a quick turnaround
    • You want to be famous
    • You have nothing newsworthy to promote
    • You think PR will solve all your business issues
    • You want to control everything the media says about you

Finding your perfect match…

Once you’ve decided it’s the right time to partner with a PR agency, it begs the question, “Who do we hire?” While Google can be a great place to start, it’s also helpful remember these three tips:

  1. Experience counts – Find a PR agency that partners with like-minded clients and has an overall passion for your industry. This will make working together easier because you both understand the field and how your business works.
  2. Communication is key – As mentioned above, you will work closely with your PR agency on a daily basis, so it’s important to have clear communication and be able to work well together. At Sprouthouse, we kick off every partnership with a meeting to identify how you like to work as a business and operate within those parameters.
  3. Proven results matter – Case studies are key to identifying a PR agency’s proven track record and are a great way to see concrete examples of previous work and the results.

Putting out the ask…

After you’ve narrowed down your PR agency search and you’re ready to start putting out feelers, here are a few things you should be prepared to bring to the table:

    • Set objectives: Ask yourself: “What do I want to accomplish working with a PR agency?” and “How can a PR agency help me reach my goal?” The prospective PR team will ask these upon first meeting, and a good team will be able to tell you if your goals can be met through a PR partner.
    • Have a budget: In any business, cost is one of the most influential factors when it comes to decision-making. Take the time to identify how much you are willing to spend on PR efforts and find agencies that align with those goals and budget.
    • Specific questions: After researching the right PR agency, reach out and be transparent about requests regarding:
      • Price
      • Previous experience
      • Prior success
      • Expertise
      • Reviews/testimonials
      • Questions to ask might include:
        • “Do you specialize in a certain industry?”
        • “How will you secure media coverage for our brand?”
        • “How do you measure success?”
        • “How do you plan to work with our marketing team?”
        • “What do the first few months look like?”
        • “What is your pricing structure?”
        • “Can I see work you’ve done for businesses in my industry?”
        • “Can I contact past clients?”
        • “Do your employees have experience in areas outside of PR, like social media or marketing?

Once you’ve said “I do” …

Now the fun begins! If you arrive at this point it means you found a PR agency, negotiated a contract, and signed on the dotted line. Before your new PR team officially kicks things off, here are a few tips for a successful partnership:

    • Dedicate a point person to manage your PR agency. We are here as an extension of your team, and it helps to have one person as the point of contact who can then direct us appropriately.
    • Remember, this is a relationship that takes time to grow. We’re both working toward a common goal, so be honest, transparent, and respectful when communicating. As a client, you’ve hired this specific agency because they specialize in what you don’t know, so trust them when they make a recommendation.
    • Sharing is caring. The most effective PR agency partnerships are when the agency acts as a natural extension of your team. Be prepared to share your core brand materials, including company logos, founders’ headshots, bios, any past messaging materials, news releases, and more.

Hiring a PR agency requires groundwork and preparation, but asking the right questions and covering all your bases from the start sets everyone up for success down the road. In the end, what makes a relationship with a PR agency work is no different from what makes any great relationship work: great chemistry, mutual respect, understanding, and trust.