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How to Choose a PR Agency for your Startup or Scale-Up

Choosing a PR agency for your startup or scale-up can be a difficult task to navigate. Check PRLab’s article on “How to Choose a PR Agency for your Startup or Scale-Up” which includes seven key tips for a successful decision.

1. Identify your organization’s goals

Budget 

You should audit your business income in order to allocate money for this expense and decide on how much money you’re willing to spend. Decide on whether you would benefit more from a flat rate or a pay-on-performance agreement. An on-going retainer with a PR agency might be a worthwhile investment once you’ve found the right fit for your organization. This kind of continuity is will allow your organization to maintain a cohesive narrative around the brand. 

Needs & wants

Another thing to really understand about your own business is the need for a PR agency. What exactly do you want to get out of it? Do you want a bigger social media reach? Do you want to raise awareness of your service or product? The more questions you ask, the easier it’ll be to narrow down your options and the easier it’ll be to brief the PR agencies later on. If you are in need of the following services, then you’re in need of a PR agency: crisis management, media relations, social media, speech writing, press releases, event planning, outreach, market research, media training or internal copywriting. 

PR agencies for your startup or scale-up that practice integrated marketing approaches, such as PRLab, include the following services: strategic PR & reputation management strategies, influencer marketing, press features, events management, thought leadership, ghostwriting, blogging, white papers & eBooks, social media management, inbound marketing and lead nurturing, ad placements, and marketing automation. 

Agency size 

Lastly, decide if there is a certain size of agency that you would prefer to work with. There is no better or worse option, it’s a preference that is personal to your organization. A smaller agency might be cheaper and hungrier while a larger one might have better connections— either works. Often times, smaller PR agencies are more specialized and focused on niche markets. If the agency that you are looking at is specialized in your market, give them a second look. An example of a small PR agency that is specialized in a niche market is PRLab. PRLab empowers startups by leveraging PR to establish themselves as market leaders. These are the first few things to consider when searching for a PR service. 

2. Conduct market research

Word-of-mouth

Once you and your team have decided on a budget, start asking colleagues that have worked with PR agencies before for recommendations. Sometimes their trial-and-errors with different agencies will speed up your own process. Also, ask for experiences; maybe a PR agency that wasn’t the right fit for them could be the right fit for you. 

Industry experience

Additionally, research PR agencies that have experience in your sector, familiarity with your organization’s industry is already a step in the right direction. Having them understand who they are marketing to will save you time when it comes to briefing them on expectation. It also gives them an upper hand when it comes to understanding your target audience. This isn’t necessary but it is definitely beneficial.

3. Be selective, ask questions!

Presentation

In this case, it’s okay to judge a book by its cover. How a PR agency presents itself has everything to do with how they will potentially present your image. A clean website, good content, and clear branding is a good initial indicator for that kind of work you can expect from them. 

Case studies

The best kind of indicator is a PR agency’s success stories. If not already easily accessible, ask the agency for their case studies. A case study is a good way for PR agencies to demonstrate the tangible results that they can offer. An agency with successful case studies deserves your attention; if you admire their work, you’ll most likely want to be working with them. Look out for case studies that demonstrate several deliverables, for example, a lot of media and press coverage. PRLab has several case studies at your availability, click here to view them. 

Listen for Ideas 

Make sure that they know what your collaboration will look like. Let them pitch you their ideas as soon as your brief them on yours, this kind of back-and-forth will allow you to get a taste of what their services will look like. Most agencies won’t say too much without charging a fee, but if they’re smart they will tell you enough. Look for specific ideas; if what they are suggesting feels somewhat generic, then maybe they won’t be good at catering to your specific needs and thinking outside of the box. Additionally, have an eye out for a balanced conversation. An immediate red glad is if they’re taking up the conversation to speak about how good their agency is. 

Questions 

Never underestimate the power of the ask; you should be asking a lot of questions and that is okay. Great PR agencies want to be an asset to your organization and will appreciate your questions and concerns. Questions will facilitate the process in which both you and the agency decide if you are a good fit for each other. 

-> Below are 10 important questions to consider asking PR agencies

  1. How do you measure the results?
  2. How do you stay current with trends and/or topics?
  3. What will you need from my team? 
  4. How often should I expect to see media coverage?
  5. How do you integrate media relations?
  6. What is unique about your services?
  7. Are there any possible additional fees?
  8. What contacts do you have within our industry?
  9. Do you have client experience within our industry?
  10. Why should we choose you?

-> Below are 5 important questions to consider asking yourself:  

  1. Is there a good rapport?
  2. Are they excited to be working with you?
  3. Do they listen? 
  4. Do they come recommended and/or are they well-connected?
  5. Would they understand your market and/or industry?  

4. Test their services for a fee

Once you’ve narrowed down your selection, it is always a good idea to ask if you can hire them for a one-off basis for a fee. Ask them for rates. This is extremely beneficial to do in the final stages of your selection process as it gives you a real taste of what kind of work they would deliver. Important to consider is how much you are willing to spend on these one-off basis trials, it circles back to budgeting. An example of a task could be asking them to provide a pitch and a media list for a specific event. This task, of course, depends on what you would like to test them on. Some PR agencies have integrated marketing approaches, such as PRLab, where they deliver a much more holistic service—  one that includes aspects such as content creation. This is particularly impressive and important to test out as well when running these trials.

5. Get to know those directly handling your account

The PR agency people attending the first meeting are probably senior executives that won’t necessarily be handling your account. These high-level executives will do an amazing job of selling their agency and services— they act as brand ambassadors. However, it’s important that you ask to meet with those who will actually be working first-hand with you on day-to-day tasks. For this reason, it’s more important to be impressed with the junior executives because it’s them who will be doing the bulk of work for your organization. A good way to gauge this would be to ask them out for a coffee, this kind casual setting will help you get at a more genuine feel. With PR agencies like PRLab, you always meet directly with the person that will be handling your account. This kind of transparency not only speeds up the process when it comes to choosing a PR agency for your startup or scale-up, but it also acts as a good indicator of the kind of hands-on team that you will be working with.

6. Trust your instinct

Don’t be afraid to go with your gut feeling! Once you’ve narrowed down your search to 2 or 3 candidates, go with your instinct. The credentials are there, the objective decision making has already been done, now it’s time to decide what PR agency impressed you the most. It’s extremely important to consider how your team got along with theirs and make the final decision based on that dynamic. A good PR agency for your startup or scale-up will highlight healthy collaboration and with healthy collaboration come better outcomes. 

7. Be patient

Results aren’t instantaneous, especially in PR. Every PR agency will need some time to deliver tangible results. Allow them to demonstrate their expertise and progress before badgering for results, this can be frustrating for the agencies. 

How to choose a PR agency for your startup or scale-up becomes easier with the steps above. 

If you are looking for a PR agency, please visit PRLab’s website where we have a substantial amount of case studies and information about our services. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date with tips on how to successfully grow your business with PR, especially for startups and scale-ups.

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