Hiring a public relations firm is like marriage. It helps if you like them and have something in common before you fall in love.
Sometimes a PR firm and an organization are just oil and water. The best way to avoid a bad relationship is to spell out in advance what a successful relationship would be like.
Gini Dietrich, writing for the blog Spin Sucks, lists 17 great questions to pose when hiring a PR firm. Her list includes:
- Do they have experience in your industry?
- Do they have experience doing what you think you’d like (i.e. social media, events, crisis, speaking engagements, traditional media, email marketing, etc.)?
- Can they do more than “get you in the news”?
- Do they do their own PR?
- Google the leaders; do they have a strong online presence?
- Do they open their doors and windows and let their clients in by demonstrating their culture from the bottom up?
- Do other writers and bloggers write about their leaders and the firm (which show they’re well-respected by their peers)?
- Are they willing to give you a reference of a client who fired them?
- When you meet with them, do they talk about the tactics (i.e. social media, events, crisis, etc.) or do they talk about your business with you?
- Do they talk only about social media or do they talk about strategy and how the new tools fit into (or don’t) your business goals?
- Do they discuss your marketing efforts in order to help you understand how to integrate PR into the overall strategy?
- Are they process-oriented or results-oriented?
- Are they asking the right questions about your business goals?
- Do they have specific metrics that are tied to your business growth goals?
- Can they demonstrate where their efforts have helped another client reach their business goals?
- Do you get to meet everyone you’ll be working with, including the interns and subcontractors?
- Do you like them?
Some of those are uncomfortable questions, but they illustrate the candor needed to launch a fruitful, productive relationship.
Candor is a two-way street. Business and organizational leaders need to own up to your shortcomings, as well as tout your objectives. You need to be realistic in terms of expectations. You need to be straightforward about the resources available.
Honest talk leads to good marriages and positive results from your PR firm.