When vetting a public relations agency, the biggest PR firm in town might not be the right choice, says Ola Danilina, CEO and founder of Los Angeles-based tech and consumer public relations firm PMBC Group. Rather than focusing on a well-known name in the business, Danilina advises, “Look for the best fit for your company.”
Danilina offers the following insight to help companies find the perfect match in a public relations firm.
Whale of a Time
Many large firms have whale clients for a reason. These agencies work similarly to a large corporation and prefer the slow-moving corporate clients that they can service at a slow pace. Press releases go through many levels of internal approvals and then to the legal department and then back for editing, and so on. It can take days, weeks, or longer to move forward on an action item.
Smaller firms may be a better fit for a fast-moving fast-growth company. Startups need to act fast, to get press on their business quickly to gain consumer users, to satisfy investors or attract a second round of funding. For these companies, slow and steady never wins the race. They need a like-minded PR agency that moves as nimbly as they do.
Your Success is Their Success
Small, growing PR agencies need fast results for your benefit and their own. The more impressive cases studies an agency has, the better its chances of getting positive word-of-mouth that small agencies depend on for news business. Small agencies are more inclined to be invested in your success and hands-on with your account. They understand, and share, your need for immediate results.
Many startups demand media placements at a rate of three to four hits a week, beginning the first couple of weeks of their engagement with an agency. These results are possible for a small agency that can hit the ground running. Big firms usually are still in the introductory phase of a client relationship for a month, or longer, as they bring account teams up to speed, put together press kits and perform other mandatory tasks on their new-client checklist before they can begin work.
At Your Service
Ironically, for large companies the attentive service provided by a small PR agency may be too efficient. Small agency teams are often in constant contact with their clients; whereas large PR firms may hold a weekly call with clients or have less frequent contact — at worst amounting to an invoice at the end of the month.
Who You See is Who You Get
Beware of the bait and switch. During a pitch for new business, large PR firms will often bring senior staff to present their firm’s capabilities. The reality is that those agency leaders will likely not be involved in your account once the contract is signed. Often larger firms will assign a junior account executive or even an intern to oversee smaller accounts, whereas smaller PR firms generally utilize their senior staff in the daily direction of your account.
The Bottom Line
When interviewing a PR agency, companies should ask to meet the entire team who will be working on their account. Working with a PR firm is much like dating. Companies need to get to know an agency and let the agency earn their trust before getting fully engaged. A confident PR agency understands they need to prove themselves in the first three to six months or they lose an account. The bottom line is to find a PR agency that has the right personality for a compatible, long-term relationship.
Ola Danilina is founder and CEO of PMBC Group, a Los Angeles-based public relations firm with offices in Beverly Hills. As a former venture capitalist, Danilina developed a portfolio of innovative technology companies utilizing strategic public relations to help build brand awareness and value through media exposure. PMBC Group specializes in individualized ROI-driven campaigns in technology, consumer, healthcare, design and professional services sectors.