How to Choose the Best PR Firm For Your Business

If you've never hired a PR agency before, you might not know how to tell a good firm from a bad one. Or one that’s actually the right fit for you versus one that looks great on paper.

Is bigger always better, does location matter, and is category experience the deciding factor?

The truth is, there are lots of myths floating around about what you really need in a PR agency. If you specifically look for a large Silicon Valley or NYC PR firm with tons of experience working with companies just like yours, you might get what you're looking for – or you might get shuffled around more junior team members who produce cookie-cutter campaigns across the agency’s roster. On the other hand, taking a chance on a firm with experience just outside your industry might actually get you amazing results that exceed your expectations.

Let's break down a few common misconceptions people have about what to look for in a PR agency, and why it's important to take a more holistic approach when choosing your firm.

Myth 1: Category experience and being local trump everything.

Reality: Yes, you want a PR firm that understands your company and the market you serve – especially if you're a niche business with a highly targeted audience. However, industry experience isn't the end all be all.

Sometimes agencies that specialize in your industry have blinders on, often falling into patterns and relying on templates that have worked in the past. This may work for some, but if you want a fresh approach that takes into consideration your businesses’ unique needs, you may be surprised that partnering with a firm slightly outside your company’s box could take your business to a whole new level.

Similarly, location shouldn’t matter in today’s remote, digital world, either. Some brands feel they need to hire a local agency that knows their geographical region. Unless your campaign is strictly regional, there’s no need to limit your PR agency options based on zip code. Armed with the proper data and research tools, someone located 2,000 miles away from your office can do just as good a job (and in some cases, better) than someone who works a few blocks away.

Myth 2: Hiring a big agency means more resources will be dedicated to your business.

Reality: You met with an all-star cast of a big-name public relations firm’s leadership team and felt great about what they could accomplish for your business. They've got a huge team and access to a lot of high-level resources, so that means they'll be able to dedicate more time and effort to your business, right?

Not necessarily. A large PR firm may boast a big team, but that doesn't mean the senior-most talent is involved in your account at all. The day-to-day work – pitching, copywriting, scheduling interviews, etc. – is often delegated to junior team members. This may result in miscommunications, missed opportunities, and overall inconsistencies in how your business is handled. And since the junior-level roles typically are entry-level, this can also translate to a “revolving door” of people in and out on your business. That account director you love today can be poached by another firm tomorrow.

Myth 3: Hiring the team best = the people you could see yourself “hanging out with.”

Reality: Potential PR clients tend to place a lot of emphasis on "chemistry" – do I like the person who's working on my campaign? Could I see myself being friends with them?

While you should definitely look to build a rapport with your PR team – you don't necessarily need to see yourself grabbing a beer or getting mani-pedis with them.

More important than personal chemistry is trust. Can you trust this firm or this consultant to be persistent and diligent on your behalf? Do you feel confident that they have the capacity to overcome any campaign challenges, and to communicate your brand value to the right audience at the right time? Will they have your back during the highs and the lows? You should be able to confidently answer "yes" before you hire that agency.

Fact: Among the most important qualities in a PR agency are strong storytelling skills and problem-solving ability.

The No. 1 question you need to ask yourself before you hire a PR agency is: Can they tell our story and tell it well? Do we feel excited by the ideas and opportunities they see for us and do we feel they can execute them well?

Separating fact from fiction will help you choose the right partner at your company’s various stages.

Let FLIGHT PR tell your startup or tech company's story. Get in touch with us about your PR needs.