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Pros or Pretenders? How to Choose a Reliable PR Agency in 6 Steps

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If you own a business, you know that reputation is everything. It’s not enough to know what your brand is about and its values – you must communicate all these things to clients, partners and stakeholders. This is where PR places your company on the map and establishes the right communication channels. But with so many names out there competing for clients’ attention, how do you know you’re hiring a reliable PR contractor?

In this guide, you’ll discover six tips to help you choose a professional, result-driven PR agency that will work to effectively build your brand reputation and make your brand stand out on the market.

1. Look for an agency with a rich media catalog

A long list of media outlets in an agency’s database is not just a sign of extensive connections in the industry. It also means it will be easier for a media expert to select the outlets that perfectly fit the client’s criteria, such as budget, niche and target audience. Let’s break it down with a simple comparison:

Bad agency: Offers you a list of a couple of dozens of media to choose from to publish your story. It’s unlikely you’ll find an outlet that satisfies all your PR needs – even the core ones.

Good agency: An extensive media catalog with outlets covering various industries, reader demographics and geographic regions. No matter what your PR goals are, you’ll be able to find the right place to publish and promote your business.

Related: Why You Need A PR Agency and How to Choose One Wisely

2. Analyze the media you’re offered to appear in

Remember: quality always beats quantity. Instead of bringing your brand name to the pages of several little-known or low-quality outlets, it’s crucial to focus on choosing a few or even one reputable source. Expert PR agencies live by this rule and would not waste your time and money on publications with little to no impact.

Bad agency: Likely chooses cheaper outlets with fewer readers to save their (not your) budget. They might also conceal what outlets your piece will feature in until the moment of publication.

Good agency: Focuses on results and transparently communicates the selection of reputable outlets, even if it means a higher price. You will be able to make an informed decision and know exactly what impact the PR campaign will have on your business growth.

Related: How to Make the Most of Your Public Relations

3. Request the agency’s portfolio

Imagine you come to a real estate agency looking to buy a property. An agent keeps pushing you to buy this “amazing” apartment with a “great” interior design and a “fantastic” infrastructure. But they never tell you where the property is or even show you any pictures. That’s what happens if you work with a PR agency that has no open portfolio. It’s a leap into the unknown, often not worth the risk.

Bad agency: Doesn’t have a portfolio. Agents refer to vague NDAs as an excuse, so you don’t really see any examples of the agency’s work and achievements.

Good agency: Shows you real client cases and publications. Better yet, it has a diverse portfolio published on its website, so you can take your time to see and analyze it.

4. Seek full clarity on price and service-wise

When something is too good to be true in the PR industry, it probably is. So, if you found an agency that offers publications in great media for unusually low prices, it’s reasonable to be suspicious. Always explicitly ask for all the details of each publication. Does it come with special tags? Is it a full-on piece about your brand or just a mention? Try to eliminate all the blind spots.

Bad agency: Sells you a publication marked as “advertising” so that search engines will treat it as an ad, not a piece of organic content. Or will promise a high-profile placement but deliver a brief mention in an unrelated article.

Good agency: Is straightforward about prices and services. Will tell you what page your publication will appear on, whether it will carry any tags, etc. You’ll know for sure where you land.

Related: 10 Tips to Negotiate Like a Boss

5. Look for diverse contract options

Traditional PR agencies often insist on signing long-term contracts regardless of their clients’ needs. It means a higher price and a lower level of flexibility. What if you can’t afford it consistently due to financial struggles? Or perhaps you will no longer need the PR services in a couple of months. Canceling such contracts can be costly and legally painful.

Bad agency: Pushes you to sign a year-long contract and make a large advance payment and is not fully transparent about the cancelation policy.

Good agency: Strives to be flexible. Offers short-term contracts and is open about the cancellation policy, ensuring you have the freedom to tailor your PR services according to your needs.

6. Read real client reviews

When choosing a PR agency, it’s smart to see what other clients have to say. Reviews provide valuable insights into how the agency operates, the quality of its services, and whether it can truly meet your needs.

Bad agency: Avoids sharing client feedback or only shows you a few cherry-picked positive cases. Or it has many generic reviews that lack specific details about the agency’s actual performance.

Good agency: Is proud of its track record and will show you a range of feedback, both positive and constructive. Reviews include photos and/or links, feature brand names and real company representatives.

All these tips revolve around one core idea: work with professionals. Just like you’re looking for a qualified doctor to attend to your health, an expert mechanic to fix your car, or an experienced teacher to educate your children, only say yes to a PR agency that inspires trust and shows professionalism. After all, PR is a key aspect of your brand’s reputation and success.

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