In a world where image is everything, good PR is critical. If you’re on the verge of launching a brand or a product, or if your reputation is on the line, you need a PR company to communicate your story effectively. But how does one choose the ideal team of storytellers? To help you out, we’ve curated a list of the most outstanding PR companies. You will also find a detailed report of the criteria we applied to select the best, so, read on.
How We Selected the Leading PR Companies on the Market
In this day and age, PR demands the successful regulation of the narrative told through press releases, articles, whitepapers, research, case studies, and blog posts. To ensure that the firms on the list can deliver this and more, we conducted an in-depth analysis of the operations and tactics PR specialists use to create a positive public perception of a client, brand, product, or service. Our research is based on a proven methodology with strict evaluation criteria to provide you with the top PR agencies out there. Here are the details.
Rich Portfolio & Proven Track Record
A company’s portfolio is like a window into their work which is why our first step was to take a peek into the past and ongoing projects of the agencies we considered for our list. It was also the first step towards evaluating the quality of their work, and in doing so, we reviewed the approach they had taken for each project and how it helped their clients level up.
A shared characteristic of the best PR agencies is that they have a more proactive approach to generating the interest of the media and securing press coverage. It led us to consider the strategies and tactics they had implemented in their most successful ventures. We also looked at how successful the agency has been in presenting a complicated subject or rather, how creative they were in simplifying the message to bring it closer to a broader audience.
And since we all know a portfolio is where one presents their best work, we dug deeper and asked the PR agencies to see samples of clipping, conferences, and awards that they had secured for their clients along with references so we could contact some of them. A public relations agency that is confident in its capabilities will have no issue sharing such details. Ultimately, this is how we distinguished the doers from the talkers and made the first cut.
Hiring a big PR company doesn’t necessarily mean exceptional service — small companies often turn out to be more committed and determined. Big companies often bait their clients with the initial pitch process but afterward leave all the hard work to their junior staff. That said, for clients with a vast network of offices who depend on stellar PR services, it makes more sense to hire a big public relations company because they often have bigger office networks and are more experienced in working on big campaigns. This is the reason why our list of the best public relations companies includes entities of all sizes.
PR Services Catalog
For the sake of creating a more complete list, we considered companies that offer different combinations and include more modern services such as social media, digital marketing, and even advertising. After all, choosing the right combo to be launched through the right channels can make or break a campaign. Based on our evaluation, any respectable PR firm should provide one or several of the following services.
Reputation & Crisis Management
Nowadays, a positive brand image often starts and ends online. Knowing this, public relations agencies put reputation management as a top priority. In the case of products and services, this also includes brand positioning, meaning that the agency should ensure that the client’s brand will be instilled in the mind of potential buyers. Crisis management meanwhile entails a bit of reverse psychology magic. The company needs to run diagnostics on what threatens the brand or what contributes to building negative publicity and decide on appropriate plans to rebuild the broken trust.
Media Relations & Social Media Management
Whether it’s writing pitches to journalists for mentions in the news and better media coverage, or engaging top influencers to be part of a social media marketing strategy, the digital space is where a public relations firm should demonstrate mastery of their craft. And since social media now plays a significant role in reputation management, we cannot stress enough how important it is for the PR firms you are considering to be experienced in this field.
What makes social media so effective in PR is that as opposed to printed media or TV ads, audiences are encouraged to communicate with the brand and vice versa which leads to a higher exchange of ideas meaning more options to please target customers. Plus, social media space makes all interactions visible to the whole world. In fact, in an attempt to provide better value to their clients, some of the best PR firms have expanded and now provide services like the ones offered by social media marketing agencies.
Public affairs or lobbying is about getting the necessary assistance to get the government on your side. As companies grow, so does their need to expand to national or international markets which is why they need a reliable public relations company to act as their liaison. For example, a company in the construction business might depend on minor changes in the legislation to grow and develop faster. This is where PR companies jump in to do the hard work for you and create a plan of action.
Speech Writing & Press Releases
A company might invest thousands if not millions in launching a robust marketing campaign, and it could all be for nothing if the key representatives do not present well in public. Luckily, a public relations agency would, in this case, step in to make sure the speeches given at press conferences or on public events deliver the strategic messages of the company.
Another related service provided by PR firms is press releases which are great for announcing new products but are also convenient for launching campaigns, movements, or informing the public about minor or significant changes in the company.
This tactic is provided by both PR and marketing and advertising agencies, but of course, whether you choose one or the other depends entirely on the product, brand, or service your company promotes. For example, if the event is organized as a way to give your brand’s reputation a boost, hiring one of the top public relations firms to plan it is a wise choice. PR experts will not only construct a plan of action but will also know what people to invite in order for your company to attain the initial goal.
Given that employees can be a business’s most loyal supporters or harshest critics, making them feel optimistic about the company they work for, is one of the most sensitive areas of PR. PR specialists will work alongside your staff to develop programs and training in line with the needs and concerns of your staff. As part of the internal communications process, top PR companies will typically organize events, create internal newsletters or other means of communication, and resolve disputes if any arise by negotiating with unions.
Knowledge & Expertise
An absolute must for any top PR company is to know their client and the market in which they operate. Without it, it is nearly impossible to assess the many opportunities waiting to be exploited at a local or even national level. It is what guarantees that the client will receive the quality advice and service from their PR partner. But the knowledge of PR agencies must also extend to awareness about topics that are relevant in the news and media landscape. A deep understanding of current affairs is the only way for the PR team to know how to seize an opportunity to fit their client’s schedule into the general media narrative.
Since knowledge is closely related to expertise, at this point we also looked at the blogs, Facebook, and Twitter pages of the agencies we considered for our list to check whether they share insightful tips, contents, and videos about the latest trends in the industry. Some of the best public relations agencies are very open to sharing their expertise on a particular topic or area for the sake of helping the PR industry boom. Naturally, in this instance, we did not hesitate to include such pros in our list.
Forging and maintaining strong relationships with journalists and relevant shareholders in the public affairs space is essential for any respectable PR specialist. An experienced PR team knows the value of keeping a steady bank of journalists, thought leaders, and even other PR firms. Ideally, these relationships also extend to a wide net of design firms, marketing organizations, and front-running blogs, enabling the firm to ‘spice up’ its PR services. It is what sets a top PR company apart from its competitors.
A Good Name
There are thousands of PR agencies operating across the globe, with 8,000 in the US alone (according to data from IBISWorld), making it almost impossible to choose the best. In our analysis, we made some cuts by going through reviews, including employee feedback. After all, a reputable public relations agency must ensure their image is impeccable both internally and externally. We also asked for recommendations from people who’ve worked in the public relations sphere. In the end, we weeded out the best by choosing the ones with image and brand recognition across all channels.
Project Management Methods & Practices
A memorable PR campaign starts with a comprehensive communication plan supported by extensive market and media analysis and continues towards full implementation. For the grand finale, public relations companies evaluate the results accomplished and if needed, make changes. In other words, project management lies at the heart of creating and launching a successful PR campaign. And just like a project manager determines their goals, so does a PR agent work on choosing the right resources, creating budgets, assessing risks, and adapting to any unforeseen changes. Knowing how complex PR campaigns and strategies are, we immediately eliminated the agencies that do not comply with these methods and practices.
Depending on whether it is a project or retainer-based fee, prices of PR services vary. During our research, we discovered that the best public relations firms are not necessarily the priciest. Also, in our experience, a public relations firm with inflated prices does not necessarily deliver the most extraordinary campaigns. Our list of the best in the PR industry includes firms that have pricing models in line with industry standards. The prices of the firms that made the final cut range from $1,000 to $5,000 per month.
Key Factors to Consider When Choosing One of the Leading PR Firms
You finally have the means and resources to empower your company with long-overdue PR services and start telling your story the way you want it told. But choosing one of the many agencies out there is both an exciting and a daunting task. Luckily, through the course of our research, we have identified key areas that need your attention when screening for potential associates.
From launching a new product to changing the public perception and putting your brand out there, PR is about building the right connection with audiences. And if your idea goes towards developing, expanding, or growing your company internationally, it would be wise to create a list of these objectives before you start shortlisting public relations firms. The very first thing any PR expert will ask you is what you wish to get out of the new partnership. So, for your potential partner to set the right course of action, you must assess your goals and provide them with clear answers.
If you are implementing a formal process in which you request prospective firms to pitch, the situation would be reversed. At this point, we strongly recommend that you ask to be pitched by the same team that will be working with you from day one. Many experts, including the best PR companies, tend to send their star players to the pitching and replace them with less experienced PR agents as soon as they’ve signed you up. Also, make sure everyone is involved in the pitching, so you feel the vibe of the team. And last but not least, go with your instinct and hire the team you like most.
Identify Your Target Audience
For the public relations company to prepare a successful media communications plan, you need to share any market research you have about your audience. The job of public relations companies is to anticipate, analyze, and interpret the public’s attitudes and opinions or any related issues that might impact it. But to do this properly, they must also see your point of view of your audience, how you experience them, and understand your pitch. Building a reputation is not an easy task. Still, if the parameters taken into account for creating the brand persona are correct, there is no doubt that PR agents will design an impactful campaign.
Regardless of the agency size, the first thing you need to do is examine their understanding of your niche. PR and public affairs firms that are successful in the agriculture or food sector may not demonstrate the same capabilities in say, the education sector. And since they will represent you, your products, and services in the media, it would be ideal for the public relations firm you choose to hire to have knowledge of the dynamics of your company and the potential politics involved. It means that they will not be wasting any time or money, making additional market research or testing which channel works best for your product.
Another crucial area to consider when choosing among the plethora of public relations firms is the communications area they specialize in. If they have a background in B2B communications and your company operates in the B2C field, you might be better off looking elsewhere.
Back in the days, traditional PR was what kept digital marketing, social media, and content creation separate, but now, they are all intertwined. While traditional PR serves the general press, TV, and radio, digital PR exists to amplify the impact of the media coverage earned by PR companies with social media and other online expertise.
If you need fresh content, social media or website management, influencer campaigns, media outlet coverage, or even video portals you must ensure the team you hire has some of the capabilities of a digital marketing agency. Of course, every agency you interview will tell you they have the tools and skillset to meet your needs, so be smart and check how capable they are of deploying those PR tools. If however, your company or brand’s online presence is covered, and you decide you only need traditional PR instead of a full-service agency, choose one with expertise in the capabilities you are lacking.
Regardless of whether the company you’re interviewing belongs to one of the smallest or largest PR firms, they have to provide you with data and analytics on how successful they are at doing what they were hired to do.
PR measurement can refer to web traffic, downloads, inquiries, sales, or in more advanced terms, it can be the voice, message resonance, and changes in brand sentiment over some time. For example, suppose your PR campaign extends to social media. In that case, the agency must analyze and count impressions (likes and follows) or the quantitative part against the engagement and referrals or the qualitative part of the campaign. Some of the top public relations agencies rely on PR software for this. Both Google and Facebook also offer analytical tools that give a basic level estimate of the reach and performance. At the end of the day, with so many tools available, it is simply unacceptable for a PR outfit to tell you they cannot measure ROI.
Location & Offices
If you already have several offices and plan to expand more at a national and international level, going for one of the top PR firms that have branches in more than one country is preferable. For you, as a client, this will mean lower costs and will ultimately be time-effective for both parties.
Should you decide to go for a firm that is not local, trust that a real partner will happily make the travel to you and will not charge you for doing so. Plus, in today’s day and age, real-time communication with people across the globe is practically effortless.
Define Your Budget
Budgeting is an essential part of your decision to pick the right PR partner. But it is also a challenge because what you need and want for your brand might not be in line with what you can pay. As PR companies might bill on an hourly, flat rate per project or a mix of both with a monthly retainer fee included, we highly recommend that you consider what works best for your budget before you sign off on anything. Even if you are in desperate need of PR experts to handle a critical situation, exercise discipline to avoid paying for something you do not need. At the end of the day, your concern is to get the most out of a PR campaign while keeping the costs as low as possible.