In my role as president of the PR Council, the national association of PR agencies, I’m often asked about what to look for when searching for a PR firm. After 25 years working on the agency-side of the business, and in my current role, I’ve developed a list of “Top 10 Criteria to Consider” when choosing an agency partner. Client-agency partnerships are like any other relationship – you will get out of it what you put in. That is why it’s important to take the time to find the right partner. – Renee Wilson, President, PR Council


  1. Industry-specific expertise – If your brief is about launching a product in a specific industry such as food, automotive, biotech, etc. you may want to consider a firm that specializes in that area, as you will have a specific set of industry knowledge to work with.
  2. Budget allowance – Carefully consider the amount of budget that you want to put against your public relations efforts, as different size firms have different budget requirements. It doesn’t make one firm better or worse, it’s just reflective of the size or type of assignment.
  3. Your available resources – Determine who from your organization will be managing your new PR agency. If your resources are limited or junior in experience, you may want an agency that can truly take the brief and run with it. However, if you plan on being quite hands-on, your agency selection may vary.
  4. Target audience – It’s important to think through the audience(s) you wish to target as different firms specialize in different audiences. For example, if you have an assignment about ‘marketing to moms’ there are firms that specialize in that area; if your assignment requires targeting financial investors, other firms will specialize in that, etc.
  5. Cultural fit – The culture of a firm will say a lot about its values, behaviors, and the company it keeps. Be sure to spend enough time ‘dating’ your prospective agency to ensure your corporate cultures are aligned.
  6. Geography desired – Think about whether or not you need local, national or international reach and expertise. This will help determine the type of agency you need and where they are located.
  7. Senior-level involvement – Do you need and/or want senior level counselors regularly engaged in your business? If so, be sure to select an agency where that is a part of your agreement.
  8. Team dynamics – Look at the chemistry of the group of people who will make up your team. Are they a unit you can see yourself working with in a productive manner, day after day?
  9. Project vs AOR – If your assignment is more project-oriented than a long-term engagement, you may want a certain type of firm. Perhaps you want a smaller firm to work on a smaller project?  Alternatively, you may want a small team within a larger firm but the point is: think about how a project versus AOR will work for the engagement.
  10. Traditional vs. Integrated capability – Most PR agencies these days offer some form of integrated capabilities; i.e., paid, earned, shared, owned working together. However, not all do. If you are not looking for all of that, and only need media relations work done, you may opt for a traditional firm with a very focused skill set.

The PR Council’s Find-A-Firm and RFP Builder tools are great ways to search for the right PR firm. You can always reach out to us, too!