7 Factors for Finding Your PR Agency Soul Mate

Sep 14, 2016

I often tell my clients that selecting a PR agency is much like selecting a spouse. It’s an intimate relationship; we often talk with our own clients several times a day on the phone and email, so we know how important it is for agencies and their clients to “click.”

As for finding this perfect PR match, it’s a lot like real life dating. Sure, an online search can reap lots of possibilities, but referrals from people you know and who know the other party are often the most effective way to find the agency just right for you. So be sure to ask your colleagues, strategic partners and industry editors who they’ve worked with in the past.

After you’ve identified a viable candidate, do your due diligence to confirm it really is a match made in (business) heaven. With 25 years of experience running a successful PR agency, I’ve narrowed this vetting process down to 7 key factors.


Do you need an agency with experience in multiple verticals or do you want an agency in a specific market niche such as healthcare IT (HIT)? With the latter, you’ll get knowledge that’s both broad across different niches within that space and deep a combination which uncovers many more messaging opportunities and angles. Such an agency is going to have more relationships with HIT media and digital influencers, along with media experience and skills in national and local markets.

But don’t just take the PR agency’s word for how experienced its team members are find out how long the agency has been in business and be sure to review customer case studies. If possible, seek a conversation or two with the agency’s clients.


It’s amazing to me that some companies, even really small start-ups, think they need a “large” agency to succeed–the “nobody ever got fired for hiring IBM” mentality. I have heard so many clients and prospects describe their experiences working with a large PR agency and their inevitable discovery that the agency viewed them as one of the smaller fishes in the pond. How much attention do you think these companies ended up getting?

There are some companies who start with a small or medium PR agency and then become so big that they do in fact need a large, global partner or multiple agencies and very often, it was the dedication of an independent agency that helped get them there. So when it’s time to hire your next PR agency, make sure to scope out how much personalized attention you’ll get. Ask how many people will be on your team, and their different levels of expertise. Find out their roles and responsibilities and get a good sense of how much access you’ll have to each one.


In the old days before email, Skype, web conference calls and the like, companies largely felt they had to work with agencies in their town or state. But that’s no longer the case. Today companies can communicate and work with any agency in the world, meaning they have exponentially more agencies to choose from. Of course, time zones are a consideration, so you’ll want to seek a PR agency with staff located in all zones. But aside from that, you now have so many more agencies to choose from. So many choices can be overwhelming, so again narrow them down by how well an agency meets the criteria I’ve outlined for you. It really does work!

Range of Services

It’s so much more convenient to work with an agency that offers a roster of services that clients can choose from, either a la carte or integrated. Look for a PR agency that can offer media relations, social media, PR strategy, content marketing, digital marketing, and writing at a minimum. Ask about their connections with video production firms, graphic design and other auxiliary creative services. An experienced agency will either offer these services themselves or have numerous connections on hand they can refer you to and work with on your various campaigns.


On the subject of agencies working with other creative groups, choose one that can collaborate not compete with your existing agency partners. This is important for integrated campaigns that are executed by multiple agencies to actually work.


Here’s something you might not discover until after you sign the retainer contract with some agencies: very often the high-level execs you met at the presentation aren’t the team who will be working on your account. That’s unfortunate, because experience and compatibility matter. Ideally, at the initial presentation at least one of the people who will be on your team should be there. Do you feel a connection with them? Are they someone you would enjoy working with on a regular basis? Remember this is going to be a close relationship. There are days when I speak with my clients more than with my own husband!

Budget/terms/scope of work

When evaluating agencies you will want to compare apples to apples in terms of services, quantities/deliverables, etc. Are you going to engage in an annual retainer program or a PR project? Will you be billed by the hour or by scope of deliverables? Based on my experience, the latter will get you more value. Teams won’t be clocking out the second your hours for the month are used up; instead, they’ll work tirelessly to successfully execute your campaigns with no limit to the time they put in.

Most PR agencies, if they have hit your top 5 or 10 list, are probably going to be solid contenders. They can all probably write a solid press release and know the nuts and bolts of working with the media. But hone in on how they’ll work with you. Zero in on the fit. Does it feel right? Is this the company that you want to serve as an extension to your own team? As with all other relationships, this comfort level is the key to finding your PR agency soul mate.

Jodi Amendola

Jodi is an accomplished leader with 25 years of experience developing, implementing and executing high-impact, integrated business-to-business public relations and marketing campaigns. Since 2004, she has served as CEO and co-founder of Amendola, where she has led campaigns for countless industry giants and start-up companies.