How to Hire a PR Agency

  Do you really need that multinational, extremely recognizable PR agency? Or, will a smaller boutique shop be the right choice for your business? The answer may surprise you.


What are the factors to consider when hiring a PR agency? I’m David Gerzof Richard, founder and president of Big Fish PR. I sat on both sides of the table – I run a PR agency now, and I have started and run a company where I handled PR. There’s a number of factors that you need to consider and it’s really important to make the right call.

Identify your PR Goals

The first is understanding what your PR goals are. What does PR success look like for your brand, and do you believe that the PR firm that you’re sitting with is the right agency to be able to meet those goals in those successes?

Find the Right Size PR Agency

So, the first question after “what are my goals?” is “what size agency am I looking for?” There’s a huge spectrum, from multinational giant corporations to small boutiques, and you’ll get a different service for each one of those. A large multinational PR agency will have lots of contacts, will have people basically on the ground anywhere you need your story told, but that comes with an expense. It’s very very expensive to work with those agencies and you can get lost – especially because, if they’re working with a large Fortune 500 company, you’re not priority number one for them.

A boutique PR agency, on the other hand, you could probably be one of their largest clients. They may not have the footprint that you want to have in every single area that you’re looking to get press coverage in, but you will get the attention and you will probably get the results that you’re looking for. So it’s something to weigh out.

What is the PR Agency’s Campaign Experience?

A third factor to look at is industry experience and knowledge. What campaign experience does the PR agency have in your industry or with similar products and services? It’s a good question to explore. Also, who is it that they know? What does their contact Rolodex look like for reporters that operate and that cover those beats? It’s very important to get an understanding of how deep their contacts are and how deep their experience is.

Who Exactly is Working on your Account?

Another key factor is knowing who you’re going to work with. What I mean by this is, often times you’ll get a salesperson or principal from the PR agency that will meet with you, and you’ll be very impressed by everything they have to say, their planning, the way they carry themselves, and the way they sell their agency. At the end of the day, though, is it that person who is working on your account, or is it a low-level account manager or someone in between? That is a question that you need to know.

Digging further in that into that is: who’s on that team, and what is the compatibility, the chemistry that you have with them? They should feel like they are an extension of your team. You should feel that they get you and you get them and that there is this creative flow of ideas coming out, not just on the everyday tactical PR work that you’re doing, but some really out-of-the-box ideas that’s going to move the needle for your PR campaign.

Set Expectations for your PR Campaign

The last factor to consider is your expectations. We started with saying, “what does success look like?” Well, it’s really important that you have the right expectations. When it comes to public relations work, you do not get results right away; there is a good amount of research that goes on before a phone is ever picked up or an email is ever sent to connect you with a journalist to tell your story. There needs to be a strategic calendar of all the news that you’re going be telling over the course of the next six months to a year; there needs to be messaging; there needs to be research into who the reporters are and what they cover. All of that then needs to be put together into a strategic plan. That is what you should expect to to be tackling with your PR agency in the first month to two months of any PR engagement.

About David Richard

David Gerzof Richard is the founder and president of BIGfish Communications, an award-winning public relations agency that works with disruptive innovation and technology brands. Over the past 16 years, David has successfully developed and executed numerous PR, marketing, and social influence campaigns across a broad range of industries. In 2003 David was appointed a professor at Emerson College where he currently teaches a range of marketing and public relations courses. He also lectures regularly at Harvard University and contributes to a variety of national online, print and broadcast business news outlets. David can be found on Twitter @DavidGerzof and on the web at