You’re a business owner in need of hiring a PR firm, but are not sure how to proceed. Deciding if an agency is the right fit for your unique company is critical.  The firm you select needs to understand your core values and vision because you will be working together side-by-side.

By asking the right questions, you can weed through the chaff and find an agency that will help your company grow. You should also review the firm’s website, check out the company’s social media and look for reviews or testimonials from former clients. Doing your homework is the best way to make a good choice.

Here are 6 key questions to ask public relations agencies or PR professionals before you hire them:

1. What kind of marketing campaign do you envision and what do you see as your biggest challenges?

The agency’s answer will show if they did their homework. You want to hire a firm that understands your business and has done research to have a clear picture of your biggest challenges. Is the agency’s staff creative, thoughtful and strategic in their thinking? While you can’t expect specifics, you can gauge their enthusiasm and creativity.

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2. What kind of content creation services will you provide?

It is important to establish what kind of PR services a firm will provide. Not every public relations agency writes blogs or handles social media. It is imperative that you obtain a list of exactly what the agency will do. Will staff members write blogs for your website every month, in addition to white papers and thought leadership pieces? 

Or will the content creation be limited to Facebook and Instagram posts? Getting your company’s message out on multiple platforms will provide you with the best exposure. Find out specifically how much bang you will get for your buck.

3. Do you have established media contacts and what is your track record with earned media?

Media relations can be tricky business and a PR firm’s track record will tell you exactly what you need to know. Find out how often the firm obtains client-oriented news coverage and in what media? 

Does the firm have a solid history that includes national, state and local client coverage, or are the media hits it lays claim to primarily pay-for-play? Your goal is to hire a PR firm that has established media contacts and knows how to pitch a good story that you don’t have to buy. 

4. Explain how you incorporate social media into your marketing campaigns.

Businesses today rely on social media to market their products and services and secure new clients and customers. To be effective, a PR firm must be experienced with all social media platforms and understand the strengths and weaknesses of each social media channel. 

Ask the firm to provide examples of ways they have used social media to promote clients and market their goods. Were they successful in helping clients reach their goals? Ask for metrics.

5. What is your experience with crisis communications and “cancel culture”?

Because so much business takes place online where situations can spiral out of control fast, it is wise to hire a firm with crisis communications expertise.  Being prepared and having a plan that is ready to go when you need it can mean the difference between success, failure and peace of mind. A PR firm that can create a specialized crisis communications plan so you are prepared when an emergency situation arises can prove invaluable.

“Cancel culture,” or the boycotting of a business or individual can also have devastating results. A public relations that knows how to react quickly can prevent a touchy situation from spiraling out of control.

6. What is your experience with online reputation management?

Reputations that took years to build can be sullied in an instant if something unfavorable spreads on social media. Bad news spreads like wildfire and because so many people are online, the damage can be devastating. That is why it is important to hire an agency that knows what to do if an online problem crops up. 

Speed is one of the most effective ways to fight back, so is helpful to know if an agency will monitor social media for problematic content. Ask for examples of how the agency “repaired” a client’s online reputation after a social media attack.

Hiring a PR firm is a big decision, and you want to make sure the firm is a good fit. Do your homework, ask a lot of questions and review examples of their work. One advantage of an agency such as Red Banyan is that we possess experience with both PR and crisis communications.  That empowers us to work proactively for you and shape stories, as opposed to merely reacting to events as they happen.

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