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The Selection Process
Before an organization begins its search for a public relations agency, the group should first define its goals and objectives. This information will help the organization clarify the scope of its public relations program. From there, the group can pinpoint the qualities and strengths it should seek in a public relations firm or counselor. Some steps an organization should take in its research process include:
1. Get recommendations for a PR firm or individual counselor by:
Talking to peers
Talking to trade and professional organizations
Calling local reporters who cover the organization's field and asking them to provide names of agencies that distribute the most accurate and professional information
2. Review the credentials and capabilities of the firms or counselors and contact a principal at each one. First, make sure there is no conflict of interest. Then, ask them for the following information:
General background and any expertise in the organization’s industry
Range of services
Professional memberships in PRSA, IABC, National Press Club, etc.
Professional qualifications such as accreditation
Specialized skills
Client case studies
Fee structure
3. Meet with a "short list" of firms or counselors to determine their abilities and to test the organization’s chemistry with them. Questions to ask include:
What reporting methods are used?
How does the firm measure success?
Who would be the key account person?
4. Ask each firm or counselor to submit a proposal showing how they plan to meet the organization’s objectives. (This proposal or presentation is not a public relations plan.)
5. Make a decision based on the information gathered.
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