Public relations firms come in all shapes and sizes, from one-person shops to large multinational firms.  Each of them has a place in the mix, it just a question of finding the right one for the size, industry and stage of your firm.  Here are some things to consider while going through that decision process.

  1. What is the size of your budget?  Let’s be real; you are not effectively going to get a four-person team from a large PR firm for $1000 a month.  No matter how well you negotiate or how attractive your company is to work with, there are some boundaries.  Likewise, it’s unlikely that a sole proprietor PR resource will want to charge you $20,000 a month no matter how good they are.  Be aware of the norms in your industry and company size as you start your search.
  2. Is your company public or private?  It does stand to reason that the larger your company, perhaps the larger a PR resource you’ll want and need.  However, public companies of any size require special expertise and care and this is an important requirement that should be weighted heavily in your analysis.
  3. What is your industry?  Since the publications, websites and analysts you’ll want to reach are organized by industry, you may want to choose from the firms that service that particular industry.  However, if your market is less industry focused, a broader firm might be the one for you.
  4. What resources do you have internally?   It’s a good idea to review the resources that you already have before adding new ones.  You may have a great writing resource on board already that has experience in writing press releases and pitch sheets, etc.   This could move the requirement for an outside firm to pitching and relationships with less emphasis on writing.  It’s sometimes also the case that some product management professionals have deep relationships with industry analysts and you won’t require so much of that from your outside PR firm.
  5. What stage of the life cycle is your company at?  Different PR firms, even in the same industry could have expertise in different stages of the company life cycle.  Take a look at the clients they currently have and see if each firm has clients that look like your company.  Often, firms will state the type of clients they serve in their mission or description.
  6. What are your international requirements?  If you have worldwide responsibilities you may want to consider a worldwide firm.  It’s also possible to operate with more than one firm, picking the firm in each region that best suits your needs there.  In any event, there will need to be coordination on a global basis so each firm would need to have that experience, or you’ll risk experiencing some pain right when you don’t need it.

It’s also a fact that growth companies have different needs over time as the company grows.  You may ultimately “outgrow” your firm, and they know it.  Picking the right firm is both art and science and can often be a daunting task.  Lastly, there are consultants that specialize in agency searches that can assist you with developing the criteria and finding a firm that has the best fit.  It’s always good to have more than one way to “skin the cat.”

What additional items do you feel should be part of the decision criteria?  What issues have you had in choosing a firm?

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