Question: What is one important thing to remember when vetting PR agencies to work with your startup?
Make It a Team Effort
"PR agencies are only as good as you help them to be. They have to be embedded in your company, armed with information and authority to know what news is coming out and then have time to do something about it or insert your brand into a larger national story. They should be considered a partner, not a consultant, so they have the ability to jump on a story (or create one) in real time. This deep involvement doesn't happen overnight and takes effort from you and the agency. "
Look for Strong Relationships With Quality Journalists
"As a former business journalist, I regularly received pitches from top PR agencies. Many of them had one major error in common: they lacked a personalized approach. So, one important thing to remember when vetting PR agencies is not only ask to see previous results and establish metrics that identify when an effort was successful, but also inquire about their methods. Are they spamming every business journalist from a list they've created? Or, have they curated strong relationships with quality publications and journalists? Go for the latter. "
Don't Buy the Spin
"PR agencies live in a world of spin, so be wary that you're not falling prey to some sexy spin when you're interviewing them. Get references, see examples of success stories and make sure they understand your business. "
Ask to See Their Past Performances
"As a PR professional, we've had a lot of clients who had bad past experiences because they didn't spend the time to ask for example campaign results or seek evidence that the firm had worked in a similar scenario before. Don't ask a firm that specializes in working with Fortune 500 companies to work with your startup. Don't ask a firm that specializes in the energy industry to do your book launch. You want to have a firm that is either a generalist and has wide experiences and successes or a firm that knows your type of company and space well. Additionally, ask for ideas on how they would approach working with you and see how innovative it sounds. With PR, you must have strong angles. If they can't craft a few, then they are not a good fit."
Check Their Work
"Make sure to check their references and also ask how they track and inform you on how they're spending their time. You must be able to hold your PR agency accountable. "
Beware of Big Firms With Big Clients
"At first glance you might be comforted by a firm's previous work with large companies. However, beware of becoming a small fish in a big pond. Small businesses should work with small PR firms who will actually care about the business. Look for an appropriately scaled agency that has produced successes with other companies that share your budget and circumstances. "
Expect the Agency to Understand Your Business
"Will they spend the time to understand your business culture? This doesn't always come out directly in PR initiatives, but it is critical for the PR team to know how the business works and how the ideas they are pitching came to fruition."