A while back, I was in my car on the way home when one of my favorite country songs came on the radio. I’m not exactly sure why, but as I listened and shamelessly sang aloud, I thought: “I know everyone doesn’t appreciate this song like I do. Some would even laugh at me for loving it, but I don’t care and it doesn’t change the way I feel about it.”
Yes, that conversation occurred just like that in my head in a matter of nano-seconds.
I’m not alone though. Everyone has a song, movie or hobby that everyone else doesn’t appreciate on exactly the same level (ahem, The Fifth Element). And that’s how it should be. But my fun and fleeting notion turned quickly into asking myself how that is applicable to decisions we make in business – particularly, why certain companies choose certain PR firms. Why are some a good fit and others are not?
Firms are like songs. Some are rowdy, some are conservative and some are in between. Some are rigid, some are loosey-goosey and there are those dancing somewhere in the middle. Some are the ones you casually see once in a while, ones you seriously date and the ones you choose to marry. The parallels could continue, but the important thing to remember is they’re not all the same, and one firm can’t be everything to everyone. Nor should it try. Usually, there are a lot of wonderful firms to choose from in a given marketplace, but here are some considerations before you get engaged to any of them.
- Choose wisely: Simply put, you need to put in the effort to find out which firms are out there and which one is the very best fit for you. Ask friends, colleagues and family whom they’d recommend. Take it to the Internet to see who’s out there and doing big things. This is a starting point.
- Dig in: Finding the right partner can be hard work. And honestly, a simple recommendation shouldn’t seal the deal. It is also my belief that an RFP process usually isn’t the best way to find your match either. After you do your research, line up in-person meetings with each agency. Make sure you have your list of questions and priorities ready. Have a dialogue; don’t just listen and don’t just talk. Communicate. And don’t just ask for references; actually call their client references.
- That lovin’ feeling: Chemistry matters, folks. Work with people you like and get along with. You should feel a certain kind of energy and connection when you meet your future PR partner.
- $$$: Poor, ole budget. This excuse seems to be the stepchild of the prospecting game, and many agencies hear: “We just love you and your firm, but it came down to budget.” I’m here to tell you that budget should never be a deal-breaker. If you find an agency worth their salt, they usually deserve what they charge. If you simply don’t have a budget for the services proposed, work with your firm of choice to streamline offerings to get it within your price range. Quality costs.
- Who’s got game?: Every PR firm doesn’t have the same skill set. Some focus on social media, some boast about their event promotion skills, and some say they can do it all. Just be sure that your needs match their services and that you receive the strategic approach you deserve.
In the end, it’s about finding a firm you trust and value – and one that feels the same way about you.