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4 Tips for Hiring the Right PR Agency Look for skills specific to your business needs.

By Danielle Sabrina

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Regardless of what stage you're at with your business, you need to attract and retain customers from key markets and demographic groups to ensure continued success. Working with an experienced public relations firm can be a great first step.

Maybe you're in the process of revamping your marketing and PR efforts, and now you're tasked with finding a PR agency to work with. You don't want just any agency; you want the right the one. It's daunting to figure out which one that is.

Related: 4 Tips to Launch Your First Effective PR Campaign

You start with a Google search of "top PR firms" and get a long list of other lists, like O'Dwyer's PR database or Clutch.co, so you poke around at all the agencies listed. But nothing grabs your attention. If they can't market themselves, what can they really do for your brand? When you do reach out to an agency, you're lucky to get a response. For the retainers PR agencies charge, you'd think at the very least, an assistant would get back to you.

I get it. There's a lot at stake. If you don't choose the right agency, your bottom line is going to take a hit. The decision could jeopardize your future marketing budget or, worse, put your company at a deficit, struggling to find ways to compensate for the large spend that resulted in poor ROI.

On the flip side, choosing the right agency can drive some serious results --ones that key executives won't overlook. These are the kind of results that can justify your marketing spend, help your department hit key KPI's and launch your company into the next growth phase.

Consider your business objectives when weighing which of the more than 46,000 PR firms IBIS reports operating in the United States will help you attain your market share and mind share goals.

Related: 3 Things Franchises Should Know About Hiring a PR Firm

I own the PR agency Tribe Builder Media, and I'm proud of the work we do. At the same time, I know we might not be the right agency for you. To find your match, here are some important questions to consider:

1. How can the firm help you reach your target audience?

Inquire about a firm's ability to match up with your business goals. If your business is B2C, ask about the firm's placement rates with consumer publications and with connections with influencers on Instagram and other retail-friendly platforms. B2B organizations, meanwhile, should learn more about firms' trade show and event planning services and what ties they have with sector-specific publications, professional organizations and pundits. The right firm should be able to provide strategies that will position your business to receive high-quality mentions and backlinks from the sources your target audiences care about.

2. What experience and skills can the firm bring to your campaign?

Working with PR professionals who have a journalistic background can give you a leg up when pitching to newspaper, magazine and website editors. Still, this shouldn't be the only asset the firm offers. Firms with videography, photography, analytics and digital marketing capabilities can also ensure your campaigns remain relevant and effective amidst ever-evolving content consumption trends. This aligns with recent USC Annenberg study findings that PR professionals believe social media, multimedia content development, and data and analytics are among the top six skills critical for ensuring organizational success over the next five years.

Related: Positive Publicity Boosts Your Startup's Chance for Success

3. How invested is the PR firm in emerging technologies?

Firms can leverage artificial intelligence and predictive analytics to help clients identify new opportunities to expand mind share, make informed crisis management decisions and adjust campaigns based on real-time feedback. Clients who work with PR firms that use these technologies will be at a major advantage, particularly given how lukewarm most PR professionals are on the importance of these tools. In the same USC study, for example, only 46 percent of PR professionals considered real-time marketing experience to be a valuable skill for PR professionals to master, and only 35 percent and 24 percent felt the same about artificial intelligence and software coding, respectively.

4. How does the firm connect with key influencers and decision makers?

Although the internet has made it easier to connect with key contacts across the globe, none of these methods can overcome the power of person-to-person interactions with key decision makers. One study by GreatBusinessSchools.org found that 95 percent of the business professionals surveyed considered face-to-face meetings critical for securing long-term business relationships. While the importance of digital marketing and publicity can't be discounted, working with a PR firm that also values in-person connections with influential contacts can benefit your overall strategy.

In all, it's critical to hire a PR firm that has the right personnel, connections and tools in place to introduce your company to the customers you're targeting. By asking the right questions, you'll be much closer to finding the firm that can help you achieve your PR objectives.

Danielle Sabrina

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

CEO of Society22 PR

Danielle Sabrina is a celebrity publicist and the founder of Society22 PR, an award-winning boutique PR firm. Before founding her agency she started her career on Wall Street at just 19 years old becoming one of the youngest traders in the industry. Known for her media and brand strategy, her results-oriented reputation through the years has gained the trust of many high-profile CEOs, professional athletes, and celebrities making her one of the most sought-after brand and media strategists. Additionally, she was named Female Entrepreneur of the Year, CIO's Top 20 Female Entrepreneur to follow and Entrepreneur Magazine’s expert contributor.

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