Choosing a B2B PR agency can feel overwhelming. For one, it’s all promises at the start, and for two, what’s REALLY the difference between PR agencies? Well, it’s important to understand distinctions, but only within the context of how they apply to you. It’s not just about PR pricing, realistically, the key elements to choosing a B2B PR firm require you to know your needs first. But here’s the advice I give my peers when they’re hiring an agency.
Do They Work With B2B Companies Like Me?
Choosing a B2B PR agency means knowing who you are now and where you’re going. Where you’re headed may be more important than who you are now. And ask for B2B PR examples or case studies. When you look at the case studies, look to see how they are like you, if they’re where you want to be – and if the growth measurements are ones you can identify with. Yes, you can be impressed by tier 1 coverage in outlets like Bloomberg, or TechCrunch, but dig deeper and look at the situation and the outcomes.
Every PR agency has an ideal client with whom they work best. Don’t be afraid to ask: who do you work best with? For example, here at Avaans Media, we’re very clear. We work with very ambitious and fast-growing companies; for us that typically means companies that are pre-IPO startups. Some agencies specialize in tech PR, and some niche into industries like AI PR, cleantech PR, or cannabis PR. Some agencies prefer to work with publicly traded companies, some prefer to work with clients in a particular sector (for us, that’s emerging industries).
My personal advice to my entrepreneurial colleagues: choose a PR agency who has experience with companies that have the same goals as you.
What’s the Experience Level of Your Team
Experience matters. An experienced team is skilled at scanning the horizons for the media trends that will impact your business and reputation the most while also being able to execute your tactical needs on a day-to-day basis.
A lot of times, the person you meet with about working with the agency never works on your account. So, that seasoned, wise exec is not the one solving your problems. It’s common for agencies to have inexperienced people doing the heavy lifting on PR accounts. How seasoned and wise is your PR team going to be? This is a really important question worth asking. I really believe one of the top reasons we’re a top-rated boutique PR Agency is because our team is executive-level experienced. Everyone on our team has a minimum of ten years of experience in PR, many of them with much more than that. As importantly, they can all discuss B2B media trends and their impact on your business.
My advice to my colleagues: make sure your team includes oversight from someone with at least twenty years PR experience. Your day-to-day person might be more like 15-17 years of experience, but you want someone who has been through funding rounds, recessions, wins and failures who oversees the strategy.
How Will They Measure Success?
There are a few key B2B KPIs that PR agencies can measure independently. But working with your PR agency, you can really start to see traction on outcomes if you’re working collaboratively. These could be business KPIs like moving the need in your business – things like sales impact, time to decision, and number of incoming inquiries. PR can impact Big Hairy Goals – if your B2B PR agency can’t show you how to measure these things, they might not think big enough for you.
Choosing a B2B PR agency that builds programs based on your goals is paramount, and for that, you need to be clear on your goals; and if you want to really maximize your investment, open the kimono a bit. If your goals are sales-oriented, have your salespeople talk to your PR agency about the problems they face in the marketplace. If your goals are related to an IPO, then share with your PR agency more information about your timeline, your targets, and your concerns. A great B2B PR agency can help you avoid pitfalls. If you’re looking for more venture funding as a PR goal, then make sure your PR team knows that and can share their experiences with you.
Bottom line advice to my colleagues: open the kimono and give your agency the room they need to be your partner, but when you do that, hold them accountable and keep make sure you’re both tracking KPIs.
B2B PR Pricing: Where Do You Fit In?
Yes, it’s essential to know your PR budget – but what’s equally important is to know the budgets of your agency’s clients. This is one of those moments where bigger isn’t always better. For example, if your budget is under $175,000 annually, you probably don’t want one of the country’s largest PR firms, even though technically, they’d probably accept you, depending on the scope of work. Why? Because you’re likely to get shoe-horned into a PR team with little experience and a lot of turnover. Meanwhile, you can expect a consistent, experienced, and highly engaged team for that budget at a mid-range agency. And if you’re paying $5K/month at an agency, you simply aren’t paying enough. Agencies can’t do outstanding work for that budget; a freelancer can make it work, but a team of experienced, engaged, proactive PR executives can’t do the work needed for that budget.
Bottom line: when choosing a B2B PR agency, align your budget with the experience you’re looking for. You might not get the best for your team if you’re at the bottom of an agency’s scale. If you’re at the top of the scale, you can expect a white glove experience.
What’s the PR Plan?
One struggle we most commonly hear about hiring a PR firm is not knowing what you’re going to get. That’s true. The way most B2B PR agencies work is they provide you with a proposal about their program without having a firm grasp on the details of your business. Avaans Media solves this issue with our unique strategy-based PR pricing. This enables you to know exactly what you’re going to get before you make a massive commitment to a PR agency. The reality is, unless you’re really experienced working with PR agencies, you probably struggle to differentiate between the plans you get or the plans you get differentiate on things that won’t really matter to your outcome (like fancy proprietary platforms or reporting tools). Instead, focus on outcomes in your PR plan and ask your PR agency to provide you with expected results so you have a clear idea of how your PR plan will help your company grow.
Bottom-line advice: Get to the numbers fast. What does your PR agency realistically hope to accomplish?