Ours. End of blog.
Ha! Just kidding. Seriously, if your business is at the stage where you need some help raising its profile and you're doing the rounds of firms to choose then before you go ahead and sign on the line, here are some questions to ask to make sure you're partnering with a firm that knows what's up.
How do you measure your efforts?
Most PR firms are getting serious about metrics. Advertising value equivalents in media relations was kicked out years ago, so any firm still peddling this non-measurement is probably not a forward thinking one. Firms that ask for access to your website analytics, or firms asking you on the regular how many new email sign ups or contacts you've had and where that traffic has come from are ones to pay close attention to. If an activity is showing in your analytics that it's having massive new and returning traffic, it gives a good indication that you're focusing on the right thing for your business goals. If not, and for example's sake, your Tweets are getting zero love, you know right away that you can take the focus off that particular platform. A good PR firm will embrace web-analytics as a measurement tool of activity.
Do you have experience working in my industry?
It's not expected of PR people that they will have your industry experience, but a good working knowledge of what your business does is a pretty good start. And if they haven't got any experience but can demonstrate reasons why they are keen to work with you (aside from winning a new client) hear them out. PR people work reasonably tirelessly to achieve a great result, and that result is often better when your account team is led by a passionate or industry involved account lead.
For example, our client CricHQ is led by David (a self-confessed cricket addict). He loves the work he does with them and the weekly WIP meetings are progressive and useful because he has knowledge, experience and passion for cricket and tech.
Who will be representing us?
It's not a secret that PR firms often send their best and brightest stars into a pitch meeting, then when the work has been won, schedule a junior account manager or someone completely different to do the work. And while this is often common practice, it's better if you know up front who the worker bees will be, representing you and your company.
What does representation look like and how will we work together?
If this is the first PR firm you've hired, you should ask them about their work preference and what level of service is included. If you think being a first time client of a PR firm might lead you to need a lot of support, that should be included in your service level agreement so everyone is on the same page. You might require a weekly progress meeting or be happy with a monthly workshop. Whatever you need, checking that the firm you want to hire has the capability to meet your need is really important.
How much of my time will you need?
You may have a comms team in your business already and the support you require from a PR firm is to assist them with some specific tactics to achieve your goals. Your comms team may have been able to get on with the job without too much involvement from you, however, an external PR firm often needs your time to help complete media interviews, op-eds, thought leadership and the like. A good PR firm will have an idea of how standard tactics operate and can tell you pretty early on in the relationship what time commitment they'll require to finish the job properly.
Successful PR firm/business partnerships can thrive beautifully in an honest and transparent environment. Asking these questions to help you select a firm to work with you could be the difference between achieving your business goals and not at all.
Lou Draper is Managing Partner of Draper Cormack Group and a public relations veteran. Originally from Auckland she is now living, working and breathing public relations, personal brand and content curation in Wellington City.