Choosing the right Communications and PR Consultancy

Why use a consultancy?

Using a consultancy or agency can be an excellent way to address your communications needs. Consultants can provide support to your in-house staff by accessing additional expertise and providing a fresh perspective. However, it is important to choose a consultancy that understands your business and one that you can build a good working relationship with.

Establishing your needs

Your first step should be to identify what your specific communication requirements are.

Consider:

  • What services, skills or expertise you need. 
  • What size consultancy is appropriate for your project and organisation.
  • Whether you need local, national or international services.
  • Your budget and the required timeframe for the services.

How to find communications and PR consultancies

A good place to start is the PRINZ Consultancy Guide. Organisations listed must contain at least one PRINZ member so you can be confident of good levels of service and professional conduct and adherence to the PRINZ Code of Ethics. Also make use of social media and your industry contacts, as recommendations are often a good indicator of a consultancy's work. You should now be in a position to compile a shortlist of potential partners.

Selecting a consultancy - inviting expressions of interest

An expression of interest (EOI) is simply a call to potential providers of goods and services to register interest in supplying them. When inviting interest, brief each shortlisted consultancy of your requirements. An EOI should cover:

  • The consultancy's specialisation.
  • The background, experience and areas of expertise of the team who you would be working with.
  • Experience working with similar client or projects.
  • References and testimonials from past and present clients
  • Any possible conflict of interests with other clients. If so how, will these will be managed?
  • Charging policies, rates and reporting systems.
  • How expenses are charged

You should now be able to reduce your shortlist to two or three.

The pitching process and arranging meetings

Once you have a shortlist, consider asking the consultancies to pitch for you. This will give them the opportunity show what they can offer you and you to get a feel for their working style.  Pitching takes a lot of time and resources to prepare so at this stage don't expect a fully comprehensive solution or communications plan. This is an opportunity to understand the fit between the consultants and your business. Make sure you leave plenty of time for presentations and any follow up meetings.  It is likely that you will be working closely with the consultancy so it is important to feel comfortable with the consultants and their work. Discuss their approach generally and meeting your needs specifically. You need to establish whether there is a good fit between your organisation and the agency so don't be afraid to ask lots of questions.

If you require a more detailed response at this point, and you are prepared to pay for it, provide consultancies with a written brief of your situation and needs.  Expect to pay between $2000 and $10,000 depending on the size and complexity of the project. Providing a good clear brief is key to getting the result you need. This should include details of the issue you want help with, any in-house resource available, timescales and any issues or opportunities that you know of.