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How To Hire A Suitable Public Relationship Firm

Aug 17, 2007
Public relations (PR) agencies represent about half the total public relations budget of most companies. It is important that you hire a public relations firm that understands your financial prudence and has a working knowledge of your business. A public relations firm on the same wavelength as your business needs, with independent thought processes, goes a long way in establishing a positive image for your company. The hiring process essentially involves preparing for the search, short-listing the aspirants, presentation by the firms, and starting the relationship.

Preparing for the Search

Assembling the Team: Assign staff members for handling administration, scheduling, and communication with the agencies. Employ a review team, consisting of staff members, who work closely with the agency, such as, key brand manager, HR-VP, or finance officer. They, along with one or two internal clients, will review the selected firms and choose any of them depending on a required program.

Articulating Communication Objectives: Be clear about the work you want the PR agency to do in order to achieve your goal. This will also help you in evaluating the candidates. You will be clear about those objectives that can be achieved by your staff and those to be handled by the agency.

Credentials: A PR agency should be a true partner and not a vendor. It should help you achieve your objectives in terms of strategic counseling, tactical execution, partnership development, or building a relationship with third party endorsers. Request details about any similar exercise the agency may have been involved in earlier. This will yield a lot of important information about the agency and help your hiring decision.

State your objectives: Identify the audience you want to reach and the locations of your operation. Estimate the duration of assignment, funds budgeted for the agency, and company support for the agency. Do allow leeway for the agency to use their capabilities.

Administrative Issues: Learn about the agency's account management processes, so that you understand how they do billing for various costs.

Short listing
The agency search should be confined to three to five firms. To identify the firms you may use industry directories. An Internet search is also very effective. Correspond with the firms identified about your requirements and ask for their credentials. It may be necessary to give them details of their competitors, if they so want.

Presentations by the Firms
For maximum utility, the presentation by the PR firm should be in the nature of informal discussions, so that you get an idea of the capabilities of the firm. You will meet people who will play a major role in handling your account. You will get a feel of the more subjective aspects of the agency from the presentation. Once the final decision has been taken, you should communicate the strengths and weaknesses so that these can be worked upon when handling your account.

Starting the Relationship
The contract should be finalized and confidentiality clauses included as required. Background information and documents will have to be handed over. While the agency team is being constituted, the company must arrange a smooth handing over by the earlier agency. This is followed by a meeting with the new account team that leads on to the commencement of the relationship.

Sound planning and careful preparatory work will ensure that the process of hiring a PR firm by your company proceeds without a glitch. It will also form the basis of an enduring and satisfying relationship.
About the Author
David Gass is President of Business Credit Services, Inc. His company publishes a free weekly e-newsletter on Small Business Consulting at their web site http://www.smallbusinessconsulting.com.
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