Choosing the right Public Relations Agency or Consultant

An agency or consultant can be an excellent way to address your PR and communications needs – whether you are starting from scratch or require additional support or specific expertise for your in-house team. Either way it is important to choose an agency or consultant that understands your business, that you can build a good working relationship with, and can deliver agreed outcomes.

Step 1. Identify what your specific requirements are. This should include:

  • an understanding of the business or organisational opportunity or problem you are trying to solve – and perhaps the related public relations or communications objectives – as well as details of any in-house resource available, timescales and any issues or opportunities that you know of
  • a realistic vision of what you want to achieve. A good clear brief is key to getting results but be too prescriptive on how the desired outcomes might be achieved.

Step 2. Browse the PRINZ Agency and Consultant Guide to create a short list of options (fewer than six). View their websites and call the agency or consultant to ascertain whether their services are suitable.

You should consider:

  • what services, skills or expertise you need
  • what size consultancy is appropriate for your project and organisation
  • whether you need local, national or international services
  • your budget and the required timeframe for the services.

Step 3. Narrow your selection down to two or three options. Arrange a meeting to discuss their approach generally and meeting your needs specifically. You need to establish whether there is a good fit between your organisation and the agency so don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. Ensure you understand:

  • the background, experience and areas of expertise of the team who you would be working with
  • experience working with similar client or projects
  • references and testimonials from past and present clients
  • possible conflict of interests with other clients, and how these will be managed
  • charging policies, rates and reporting systems.

This is an opportunity to understand the fit between the consultants and your business. It is not appropriate to expect an agency or consultant to produce details of a fully comprehensive solution or communications plan until you have engaged them. This is akin to asking a lawyer or accountant for free advice on a complicated brief before appointing them to your business. If you require a more detailed response at this point, and you are prepared to pay for it, provide the agency or consultant with a written brief of your situation and needs.  Expect to pay between $2000 and $10,000 depending on the size and complexity of the project.

NOTE: A competitive pitch process involves significant time and resources responding to RFPs, credentials presentations, research, strategy development, and more. PRINZ does not believe the process is necessary or relevant unless the client is prepared to meet external production costs. If you are running a competitive pitch process it is important to ensure that:

  • the time and effort required by an agency or consultant is in proportion to the size of business on offer
  • the brief is clear and concise
  • decision-making criteria are transparent
  • discussions on commercial terms and procurement processes are managed in parallel 
  • confidentially and intellectual property rights are adhered to.

Step 4. Once you have selected an agency or consultant, it is critical that you have a contract or written agreement of the scope and terms and conditions for the programme of work.