What Should I Look For in a PR Firm?

February 8th, 2011 by Rob Berman Leave a reply »

I love PR (public relations)photo © 2008 Jerry Silfwer | more info (via: Wylio)
Gini Dietrich from Arment Dietrich recently blogged about Hiring a PR Firm.  In her post, she shared a series of questions that Business Owners, Directors of Marketing and Product Managers should ask prior to engaging a PR Firm.

Publicists have a vital role in sharing your message with the outside world.  They should be expert in Online and Off line Press Releases as well as many other aspects of the business.

Questions to Ask a PR Firm

Her list had these questions:

  • Do they have experience in your industry?
  • Do they have experience doing what you think you’d like (i.e. social media, events, crisis, speaking engagements, traditional media, email marketing, etc.)?
  • Can they do more than “get you in the news”?
  • Do they do their own PR?
  • Google the leaders; do they have a strong online presence?
  • Do they open their doors and windows and let their clients in by demonstrating their culture from the bottom up?
  • Do other writers and bloggers cover their leaders and the firm (which shows they’re well-respected by their peers)?
  • Are they willing to give you a reference of a client who fired them?
  • When you meet with them, do they talk about the tactics (i.e. social media, events, crisis, etc.) or do they talk about your business with you?
  • Do they talk only about social media or do they talk about strategy and how the new tools fit into (or don’t) your business goals?
  • Do they discuss your marketing efforts in order to help you understand how to integrate PR into the overall strategy?
  • Are they process-oriented or results-oriented?
  • Are they asking the right questions about your business goals?
  • Do they have specific metrics that are tied to your business growth goals?
  • Can they demonstrate where their efforts have helped another client reach their business goals?
  • Do you get to meet everyone you’ll be working with, including the interns and subcontractors?
  • Do you like them?

The Takeaway

Vet your Public Relations firm to ensure a good fit.  Establish the metrics and expectations at the beginning of the relationship.

Those are the ideas.  Your turn.  Please comment below.

1.      What has been your experience working with PR Firms?

2.      What other questions would you add to the list?

3.      How can we improve our working relationship with our PR firms?

If you would like to contact me, you may do so by visiting my LinkedIn page, following me on Twitter,  or e-mailing me at rcberman2 (at) yahoo (dot) com.

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  1. Hi there would you mind stating which blog platform you’re using? I’m looking to start
    my own blog soon but I’m having a tough time deciding between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your design and style seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something completely unique.
    P.S My apologies for being off-topic but I had to ask!

  2. Rob, these are all great questions to ask. With the advent of analytics it’s easier than ever for PR experts to demonstrate where their efforts have helped another client reach their business goals. Please tell me more about why I would ask a candidate for a reference from someone who fired him/her. Thanks.

    • Rob Berman says:


      The fired question is a bit of an odd duck in the list at first glance. What I think it does is allow you to see how the PR firm reacts to the unexpected. You can learn from the experience with the other client.


  3. I haven’t had the need (or maybe the budget) to hire a PR firm, but your post is extremely helpful for a variety of situations. I love that one about asking for a reference from a client who has fired them! It’s a great idea.

  4. After reading this I’ve decided to look into a PR firm as another tool for marketing. I have never considered it before, but I’m going to look into it. It’s important that they can prove they have a track history within your industry. Absolutely.

  5. Good list Rob – or maybe I should say Gini. By the way Gini I like your site and approach to what you are doing!!

    Rob, sometimes I wonder about pharmaceutical companies using the same PR agencies, industrial companies using the same ones and so forth. It’s both good and bad. But I think they need a fresh look at what they are doing now and then and not just keep on doing what they, and everybody else in their industry are doing. Sometimes what may be considered guerrilla marketing turns to be very effective for a company. If they have the guts…

    • Rob Berman says:


      If companies blindly follow the same advice from the same firms they will not be differentiated. Like the story from Julie it helps to try something new.


  6. Susan Oakes says:

    Hi Rob,

    Good questions, although I wonder why she included email marketing. One question I would ask is what was your biggest failure and what did you and the client learn from it? I used this question when selecting a PR firm and it quickly sorted out those firms that are open and honest about their business and those they were not.

    • Rob Berman says:


      Your question is a brilliant one to separate the firms. As to e-mail marketing, I am thinking about online press releases and such. Also, PR firms can advise about how to message to clients or prospects about programs or opportunities.


  7. Rob – your timing is a little freaky in that I literally just left Panera where I spent over two hours with a lovely woman who owns her own successful PR firm in my area.

    At my last corporate position, I was hired just as they were narrowing down their choices of PR firms to hire and was actually asked to start a little earlier than originally agreed upon to take an active role in the selection process. All the questions you list are important and good things to consider. I think it is important to know exactly what the companies PR goals are when deciding which PR firm to hire. In my case, when we got down to the last two, I totally disagreed with the owner’s choice. One firm was a very polished, sophisticated NYC PR agency and the other was a gutsy New Jersey gal. What this company needed was someone who had strong relationships with financial editors and who would make sure we got into the right media with the right message at the right time. Well, he listened to my suggestion, hired the New Jersey firm and before the contract was even signed, she had set up a feature story in Financial Adviser for the company. That was several years ago and she is still working for that company.

    • Rob Berman says:


      Great story. I know what you mean about hiring the right people. I have had those disagreements as well. In several occasions I was correct. Of course, we only know that after the fact. I guess timing is everything.


  8. I have never hired a PR firm though I’d like to. I’m sure my business and personal life would benefit! Rob, this is a comprehensive list that I’ll hang on to for that “golden moment”. Thank you.

  9. Looks great! Thanks again!!

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