Match me if you can: How do I find the right PR agency for my needs?

Gain awareness, strengthen a brand, become a thoughleader– there are many different motives for utilizing PR. Most basic of them all: Communication that adds value - in a financial sense and ideational as well.

Why PR?

Raising awareness, reinforcing your employer brand, positioning yourself as a thought leader… There are many and varied reasons to make use of public relations work. Ultimately, the aim is always to communicate in a way that both adds financial value and boosts your image.

What is good PR?

Measurable communication success takes knowledge, professionalism, imagination, good contacts and efficiency. It also demands an intelligent, seamless combination of long-term goals and creative ideas.

How do I find the right PR agency for me?

Admittedly, it is never easy to find the right agency. And it always takes time for the two sides to become fully attuned to each other. Yet it is worth taking the time to conduct a thorough search. The following ten criteria can help you make a wise choice:

  • Jack of all trades or master of one?

Is your background in B2B or B2C? Does your product or service require very specific industry expertise? Just because an agency successfully markets every brand of spirits you care to mention doesn't mean the same will be true for software companies and energy service providers.

  • Strategy coach or "yes man"?

You may know exactly where you want to go. Even so, a good agency will always provide sound advice and stand up to you as a sparring partner. The agency should be conversant with your subject matter, media and industry trends and help you optimize the form and delivery of your story and strategy. Whether or not you take its advice is ultimately up to you.

  • Global overlord or market magician?

Want to do international PR? Global players may well trump up with offices around the world, harmonized structures and countless staff. Yet smaller agencies with international networks of partners can also give you distinct advantages: individual service providers who know the needs and peculiarities of their country or market inside-out – and can respond with the flexibility you need.

  • Triangle player or concert pianist?

Is a brief moment of glory enough for you? Or do you want your customers and partners to stay enraptured by your capabilities in the long run? A good agency works with you to craft an effective, long-term strategy, linking proven marketing strategies to PR activities. Creative ideas are important. But so too is a virtuoso command of the PR trade.

  • Sharpshooter or shotgun sprayer?

Hitting the target every time is surely better than a hope-for-the-best, "plug-and-pray" approach. A good agency knows how to tell your story and explain your product in a way that hits home with just the right influencers: customers, the media, markets and relevant partners. It also has excellent contacts – and a clear idea of who is likely to be interested in your story.

  • Print journalist or Twitter artist?

Do you have a social media strategy? If not, it is high time to get one! Neither serious market players nor employers can afford to be without one these days. That is not to say that conventional PR is a thing of the past. A good agency will cleverly combine the two to give your company a coherent, interlocking overall content marketing strategy. It will also know the specific needs of each medium and channel.

  • No-frills airline or high-flyer?

Look long and hard at what is offered you at what price. More expensive agencies are often worth the money. Price transparency is imperative, however: You need to know exactly what you are getting for your money. Confusing and opaque "service packages" often look cheaper at first glance but end up short on deliverables. Ask yourself how much more is satisfaction worth than frustration.

  • Town crier or dialogue driver?

Your agency needs more than good copywriters and storytellers. It should also have good listeners. Does the agency ask intelligent questions? That is important, because your goals, your challenges and the demands of your market are what matter most to begin with. Only when all this has been fully understood is it the agency's turn to contribute its creativity. That also means repeatedly and flexibly adapting actions and activities to your current situation.

  • Newcomer or old hand?

People seem to assume that young agencies are always innovative and bursting with ideas. Agencies that have been around the block are regarded at best as steady and reliable, at worst as behind the times. That is strange, because long-standing agencies have proven their ability to spot and anticipate new trends. Before choosing your agency, solicit personal recommendations, listen to what customers say, and examine the agency's measurable successes.

  • Straight-talker or diplomat?

Even with the best agency, it is hard to work together if the chemistry is wrong. Above all, you have to be able to get on with your contact persons. Working together on such a close level will present challenges that are so much easier to deal with if you quite simply like the people you are working with.