• Determine size. PR firms come in all shapes and sizes. Small firms promise direct, personal service, while larger firms usually operate as a team that offers more viewpoints, flexibility and manpower. • Establish Criteria. What PR skills and capabilities are most important to you? Media relations? Crisis management? Social media? Industry knowledge? Measurement? Make a list of the experience and talents you need from an agency, and include your expectations on results you want to achieve. • Ask around. There’s a reason consumers trust their peers more than any other type of recommendation. Friends will give you the straight facts. Ask friends and business colleagues which agencies they use or have used. You can also take advantage of the Public Relations Society of America’s “Find a Firm” function, which allows users to find PR firms and agencies by their name, location or specialization. • See what your competitors are doing. Note strategies and techniques that you think you should be doing. • Create a list of three to six agencies that fit your criteria. After you set your goals, establish needs and listen to recommendations, hash out a short list of agencies that fit the criteria. • Get input from staff. Your PR agency may be working with multiple departments, including sales, marketing and customer service. Ask staff members which agency will mesh well with the company culture. • Get bids. Prepare an overview of your criteria to send it to your list of chosen agencies so they can evaluate whether your requests are within their capabilities. Ask the agencies to also send you examples showing how they’ve solved similar problems that address the criteria.
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