Guide to Finding & Selecting PR and Communications Agencies

The CommunicationsMatch "Guide to Finding & Selecting Public Relations and Communications Agencies and Resources," offers basic advice for companies looking to engage PR or other communications firms to achieve their business goals.

It draws upon two decades of experience as a corporate communications leader hiring agencies and consultants, as well as experience from running agencies.

Guide to Finding & Selecting PR & Communications Agencies


The Guide sets out to help companies find PR, Government Affairs, Social Media, Content Marketing, SEO or Internal Communications and other resources that best match their needs, using a simple three-step process. 

Define PR & Communications Agency Hiring & Search Criteria

All journeys start with a business need. The Guide sets out to help companies determine their agency search priorities. It notes that industry experience is critical for public relations because most industries have well-defined groups of reporters and trade publications covering them. Firms or consultants with relationships with these journalists and a knowledge of your industry– will likely be best positioned to advise on and execute strategies in short order. It is important to then determine which communications skillsets are important. PR, social media, content creation, email marketing, media relations, executive training, and website development are all unique capabilities. Firms may have expertise in one or more of these areas. 

Location may or may not matter. It’s typically dependent upon the type of business and project. To generate desired coverage from the launch of an office in San Diego, a local firm with relationships with local media is most likely deliver the best outcome. For international projects, agencies in-country firms are generally a necessity. 

Size matters. Large agencies may well have extensive capabilities across various industries and communications skillsets. They may also require more significant retainers and project fees. Smaller communications firms tend to offer greater flexibility around budgets but may not offer the same breadth of services. Boutiques and consultants, can be a good solution for small or start-up businesses as well as larger companies that have a need for an expert.  

The ability to search by ownership or organization membership may also be important, if finding diverse or women-owned firms is a priority.  

Shortlist Matching PR Agencies and Professionals

Starting an agency search with the broadest outlook is an important way to find firms that may not otherwise by on your radar screen to ensure the best match for your business. Narrowing the list of candidate firms can be simply done by using several search criteria at the same time.  

Reviewing the profiles of matching firms by reading through profiles to select those on a shortlist is a key next step in the agency search due-dilligence process of shortlisting agencies for outreach and engagement.

Select and Interview Communications Firms and Professionals

Finding an agency that not only matches your needs, but that also has a good fit with your firm and culture requires a well-managed agency interview and selection process. 

The Agency Selection Guide recommends companies request the following basic information combined with interviews with leding candidates.     

  • A customized capabilities presentation focused around your business
  • Examples of recent work or case studies
  • Information about the firms’ fee/retainer model
  • Potential conflicts i.e. Does the agency work for a direct competitor?
  • References

During this engagement process, agencies responsiveness, demonstrated interest in working together, case studies, and quality of the materials, are important metrics for selecting communications partners.

Using a grid that allows comparison and rating of capabilities for final selections can be valuable, but at this stage arguably the most critical factor in the final selection will be the personal chemistry and fit with your company.

Download the "Guide to Finding & Selecting PR & Communications Agencies" here.

Read a recent Researchscape International Blog by Simon Erskine Locke, Founder & CEO of CommunicationsMatch in which we discuss agency search in the context of related CommunicationsMatch and Researchscape research and the experience of our partner RFP Associates.    

Finding Agencies Lessons From Research

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