How to Find the Best PR Agency to Work for?

by coach on November 23, 2010

20 Questions to help you find the best PR agency job

20 Questions to help you find the best PR agency to work for

So how do you find a terrific PR agency job? I was asked that really good question on Twitter by Stephanie R:

@ThePRCoach great tips on finding a PR agency to work with http://bit.ly/gd1G9l – any tips on how to find the right agency to work for?

She raised a good point. There’s lots of good information about how to hire a PR agency but not much to help find the right agency to work for.

Many public relations students are interested in PR agencies. That’s because there are lots of opportunities, interesting clients and assignments, and age is usually not a barrier to success.

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There’s a big difference between large international PR agencies, strong regional independents and small specialty shops though. Each has its advantages in terms of the scope of work, the potential for growth, the career opportunities and the right “fit” for you. But you need to navigate your way carefully.

So Stephanie, ready to play 20 questions?

Here are 15 questions to help you research the right agency to work for followed by five tips to help you gauge their reputation. Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll have a pretty good fix on who the best PR agency prospects are. Come to think of it, these Qs can help you hire one too.

15 Questions to Ask About a PR Agency

You can find answers to most of these questions before you meet by researching trade magazine articles, blogs and newsletters, talking to agency staff informally at networking events or even by chatting with a client of the agency, a couple of media or a business leader who knows them. Then you can ask the few questions remaining when you meet in person.

  1. What are the agency’s annual billings and what was the percentage of revenue growth over the previous year?
  2. Who are its five largest clients and how many of these clients has it had for more than three years?
  3. How many staff and what is the average age of staff?
  4. How many hours per day are staff required to bill?
  5. What is the agency’s PR specialty and does it interest you?
  6. What percentage of business is earned by providing social media services and does it have a social media policy?
  7. Does the agency budget for staff training, professional memberships (PRSA, IABC) or other professional development?
  8. What are the typical duties of a new, entry-level agency employee?
  9. What were the most recent eight or ten news releases issued by the PR agency for its clients and what is your assessment of them?
  10. What is the agency’s social media”IQ”, ie its Twitter ability, blog leadership, Facebook presence, staff LinkedIn profiles, etc.
  11. Does the agency website present well and does it look like an agency where you’d like to work?
  12. Has the agency recently won any significant industry awards?
  13. What charitable, nonprofit or pro bono work has the agency done in the community?
  14. What are the agency and its leaders’ industry and professional profiles?
  15. What are the agency’s plans for growth?

Researching these questions in advance will give you a very good picture of how well the agency runs its business and whether it’s a great place to work. Revenue growth, client “churn”, staff turnover and business practices tell the real picture behind an agency’s front door.

Five Questions to Ask to Establish a PR Agency’s Reputation

Equally important is the PR agency’s reputation. By talking to and networking with existing and former staff, existing and former clients, media and business contacts, you’ll very quickly determine the agency’s credibility around town.

  1. Who is the best PR agency in town? Not the “hottest”, because you’re looking for both track record and staying power.
  2. What were the most interesting or memorable news announcements in the market and which agencies handled them?
  3. Who are the three most talented young PR professionals in the market and what agency do they work for?
  4. Who is the most inspiring and impressive PR agency leader in your market?
  5. Which PR agency would you trust with your business?

With the answers to these questions in hand, you’ll have narrowed the list of best agencies to just a few. Now it’s up to you to use your networking skills and persistence to get your foot in the door with either an internship or an interview.

They’ll be impressed by your research and you’ll have a much better perspective of the agency as a place you’d like to work. And of course you’ll want to be ready to ask two final questions: What are the salary and benefits? When can I start?

Best of luck in your search for a PR agency job. With more than 25 years in the agency business, I can tell you it’s absolutely the best place to work in PR!

Lots more PR Job tips and resources in the PR Library as well as an active PR Job Board with new PR jobs posted hourly.

Author:  Jeff Domansky is Editor, The PR Coach

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Photo credit: Bright Tal

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