Selecting a public relations agency is tough. There are a lot of options and specialists out there, they all sound good on paper, and they are working hard to get your business. But that doesn’t mean all agencies offer the same quality or service so get ready to ask the tough questions.
Of course you’ll ask about their experience and staff. But that’s not enough to be sure they are the PR agency (or marketing firm) for you.
So, here are some direct questions you should ask PR agencies when you are interviewing them. Even if you already have a contract, consider bringing up these topics to ensure your long-term success.
Does the media have your cell phone number?
Chattanooga and much of the Southeast are still small towns at heart. Having a media contact person with close relationships to reporters is essential to your success. Make sure the agency is prepared to represent you to the media and that they already have excellent lines of communication. Ask about the last time they dealt with a crisis and how they worked with the media. You may find your younger account execs and reporters are handling their pitching and communications directly through Twitter. No problem! Cell phone or twitter handle – the important thing is they are connected.
Is this a contract price or an estimate?
Recently, while working with an ad agency, we received a project quote for a client and realized that the fine print made it clear that the contract was just an estimate. At first glance, a bid can look like a price for the scope of the project, but it’s actually just a guess at how many hours you will be billed. Consider how comfortable you are with not knowing how much you will pay and the possible variables in the scope of the project. If project based billing is better for you, ask the agency about alternatives.
How much time do you spend on research?
You need a high quality plan based on your own target market, research and specific goals. If the PR firm gives you a plan before they’ve asked about your objectives, that’s a red flag! Remember, you can also ask the firm to help identify your key audience, test messages in the community and establish a baseline for your public relations campaign.
Is your website up to date?
Okay, this isn’t a question you actually ask, but visit the company’s website and see for yourself. Is the site modern, clean and progressive? Does the information provided help you? Can you read about their current staff? Is the site responsive (does it work seamlessly on mobile and tablets)? A firm that keeps their own information up to date means they set these items as priorities and will help you do it, too.