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How to choose a PR agency for your business

Written by Rebecca Oatley, Founder, Cherish PR

“Word of mouth is the primary factor behind 20 to 50 per cent of all purchasing decisions.” - McKinsey Quarterly

Most founders know that Public Relations (PR) can be the most cost-effective way to improve brand awareness and increase sales. Securing an article on your business in an international media outlet can reach millions, opening the door to new clients, new customers and new opportunities.


This earned media coverage is incredibly powerful. Along with brand awareness, comes a story that generates word-of-mouth publicity and the endorsement of an influential media outlet or a world-renowned journalist. It’s this magic that cleverly captures attention, engages customers and improves reputations.


But the earned media approach comes with its own difficulties. Without a news hook or the right angle that appeals to media outlets, many PR campaigns are unable to deliver commercial impact, despite the best intentions of PR professionals.


At Cherish, we are often approached by young, fast-growing businesses trying to choose the best PR agency for their business. From eHarmony to Vimeo, from Wix.com to Indiegogo, we have helped over 100 fast-growth businesses make their mark.


It’s an exciting time as these companies search for the best marketing techniques to drive growth, build new audiences and drive customers to their businesses.

But sometimes, after speaking with these brilliant businesses, we have to decline the offer to work with them. Not because we do not want to represent them, but because we are not the right agency for the job - or the company is not at the right stage of development for our services.


That is why we want to offer a few words of wisdom on how to choose a PR agency.


Is PR right for my business?


Many firms out there will tell you that they will deliver the world and many will get you great media coverage, but it is important to know if those results will deliver your marketing objectives.


Media relations is great for brand awareness, credibility and to drive an understanding of a product or service. It also works really well for organic content searches and often provides links to highly influential sites. It works incrementally with each result, building a digital profile, which will have a positive impact on your business.


However, PR is not a direct sales mechanism. It cannot be measured by direct traffic on a piece-by-piece basis. If you are looking for a quick impact traffic burst or a short, sharp increase in downloads, PR may not be for you.


Which is the best PR agency for my industry?


When you are looking for an agency, the natural choice may be a specialist in your sector. Relevant experience is important, but rather than simply choosing an agency with market experience, consider those with examples of how they have helped clients with similar challenges to your own.


You may be raising funding, changing an outdated perception, launching in a particular territory, or to a new target audience or market. This experience is more valuable than simply choosing an agency that can boast working with your closest competitor.


How much does a PR agency cost?


The cheapest option is not always the best. Some agencies offer a payment on a results basis, driven by achieving volumes of media coverage. Don’t be fooled by the “no win no fee” approach to PR. The results may be plentiful, but they may also be poor quality. Mentions may be fine for household brands, but when you are starting out, or trying to create better awareness, the articles should:


  • Create an understanding of what you do

  • Show how you are different

  • Pique interest in your business, service or product

Think carefully about what you want to achieve with your PR and how much you will need your agency’s advice and guidance to get there. This has incredible value; be prepared to invest in that.


What kind of PR do I need?


The media environment has changed enormously over the past 10 years and PR has changed too. While traditionally, PR delivered print and occasional online media coverage, today’s campaigns deliver a diverse mixture of placements, including online media, social channels, influencers, podcasts and even other brands’ feeds.


The best PR campaigns integrate all the channels to support your PR effort. Consider agencies that can demonstrate campaigns that use all these channels and have clear strategies as to how and why they were used.


Today’s agencies combine earned and paid placements and shouldn’t be afraid of negotiating paid deals with media, influencers and social posting. At Cherish, we have a dedicated paid social and influencer team, which can advise on negotiating and contracting media and influencers to bring a story idea to life.


These are the answers to just a few of the most common questions we are asked when clients are looking for a PR agency. We are happy to listen, to talk and to provide advice so that all of those brilliant disruptors, innovators, start-ups and scale-ups achieve the PR they deserve.