Before You Hire a PR Agency or Consultant: Questions Nonprofits Should Ask

By on Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Questions abound when it comes to hiring public relations agencies and consultants. Before you take the leap for your nonprofit organization, think through your project:
Questions to Ponder Why do we want to hire a public relations agency or consultant? Is it a special project or campaign? Do we need ongoing help?
  • What do we ultimately want to achieve for our organization by seeking public relations advice?
  • How will this project/campaign/ongoing communications assistance help our organization achieve its strategic goals and fulfill its mission?
  • What information will we need to give the agency when we call them? Do we need to issue an RFP (Request for Proposals) because the project is fairly complex?
  • What types of timelines or deadlines are we working with?
  • How much can we afford to spend? If we keep this work inhouse with our staff, how much is it likely to cost us and what will be impacted?
Questions to Ask: Getting Acquainted
  • How long has the agency or consultant been in businesss?
  • Have they worked with a nonprofit organization similar to yours in the past?
  • Do they specialize in particular issues or industries that are important to your organization?
  • What types of services does the agency provide in-house? What types of services are typically contracted out?
  • Who are the agency or consultant’s other clients? References?
  • Where is the portfolio with examples of the agency or consultant’s work?
  • How does the agency or consultant manage client relationships?
  • What types of successes has the agency or consultant had in implementing campaigns or strategies in the past?
Questions to Ask: Project-Specific
  • How can you meet my organization’s needs for this project/task?
  • How will you help my organization build its brand and reinforce/clarify existing messaging?
  • Thinking short term: I think my organization needs __________________ (insert what you think you need). How can you help my organization meet this need?
  • Thinking long-term: My organization’s ultimate goal is to _____________________ (insert what you want to achieve). How can you help my organization achieve this long-term goal?

Questions to Ask: Working Together

Who will manage our account from the agency? Who specifically will be our point of contact on a day-to-day basis (a senior practitioner, a junior executive, an assistant, the owner, the consultant)?
  • What process will we use to agree on a strategic plan with implementation steps for this project/campaign?
  • Who will write copy for press releases, reports, brochures, etc.?
  • How will the sign-off process for materials produced by the agency work?
  • What types of fees are involved in hiring the agency?
  • If I hire this agency, how often will I be billed? How will I know what projects I am being billed for (e.g. am I being billed for a set amount of hours, or are the invoices itemized by project worked on)?

Items That May be Helpful to Provide to a Public Relations Agency So They Can Understand Your Organization

  • Your organization’s strategic plan.
  • Your organization’s overall marketing or communications plan.
  • Research, public opinion polls, or marketing data about your organization or the issue/topic that your organization is passionate about.
  • Messaging briefs or positioning papers.
  • Style guide or branding manual used by your organization.
  • Organizational chart explaining how the staff within your organization relate to each other, and in particular, how the communications staff (if existing) operate within the organization.

Everyone wants to know what you think.

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