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How to choose a PR agency

Picture the scene. You’re a marketing manager of a company and you decide you need to bring in external support to help you manage your brand awareness. You know the choice you make will reflect on you, and the company’s business objectives. It’s also a sizeable chunk of your marketing budget. So how do you go about choosing one?

Here at Tigerfish PR we have worked with dozens and dozens of businesses, and here are some of the most frequent myths we challenge:

Myth 1: We need to get lots and lots of agencies on a pitch list.

Well, no. The worst example of this we’ve seen was when we were on a pitch list of 15 agencies, can you imagine how frivolous that must have looked to the senior management?!

These sort of ‘beauty parades’ are really counter productive for companies – they reveal a lack of clarity of what their communications objectives should be; a flagrant waste of time for the marketeer (and all the agency time, which is rarely chargeable) and are frankly that ‘scattergun’ request for help shows a lack of knowledge.

What works better is to ask around your contacts which PR agencies they recommend, ask your leading trade magazine editor for a list of the PR agencies they rate the most, or check out the CIPR agency finder service.

Myth 2. We will insist on a formal pitch.

Of course you’ve got to meet the agencies, but ‘pitch’ has certain connotations, so you wouldn’t really be getting like for like from different size agencies. Larger agencies might throw lots of resource into the moment of fame… but remember, it’s not the glitzy ‘down on one knee, champagne-proposal’ that matters, it’s the long term happy marriage. Many agencies use their top people in the pitch, but they might not be the team on your account day to day.

Our preferred alternative is an ‘exploratory meeting’. A conversation with the people who will be working with you. That’s a win-win in our books.  You don’t have to be power-pointed and we get to find out more about your communications challenges.

Myth 3: We are looking for the zaniest idea

Creativity is certainly something to include in the mix, but for our money, the key questions to ask would be:

– can you work with them?

– how will they report back so you know how the project is progressing? Ask to see a examples

– who is going to be on your account?

– what have they done that is similar?

– can you speak to one or two of their existing clients?

Myth 4: If we say how much our budget is, we’re going to be ripped off

To be honest, we really need to know if you have enough budget for a banquet or a cupcake.  Give a range if you want, but some indication of budget is really vital. If you know what you want to achieve and what budget you have to do it, makes the whole process so much clearer.

Don’t ask for day rates, because these are always a red herring. It doesn’t take into account how long something will take/and the skill base that is being put on the job. It’s like asking a taxi driver how much a specific journey will cost – and they just give you a quote per roundabout. We prefer to work on a campaign basis, giving an indication on what we expect to achieve.

Myth 5: We need a large city agency

Really? Large agencies are great, but then, so are small ones. You need to be judging on outcomes, not on postcodes.

Myth 6: We just want to get awareness

Haha we love this one! Honestly, you could get awareness of your company if it becomes insolvent or some other disaster befalls it. You need to be far more specific. We know that clients get the best out of their PR if they can be as specific as possible about what they want to achieve. So we run a Communications Clarity Workshop to help you hone your objectives – you might even find you have the skills and resources in house to do you own PR! If you want more information on our 3 hour Communication Clarity Workshop, or have a quick phone call, leave you details here or email us at

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