Choosing the Right Consultancy for Your Needs
To Select a Public Relations Consultancy, First Decide:
- What sort of services and skills you need (lobbying, issues management, media relations, marketing assistance, employee communication, etc)
- Whether you prefer to work with a larger or smaller agency
- If you want local, national or international service
Seek a Consultancy with Advanced Professional Standards
The Registered Consultancies Scheme established by PRIA, sets quality standards for the operation of public relations and communication consultancies. The scheme establishes professional standards on ethics and operations.
RCG membership can profide clients with confidence that a consultancy has:
- reasonable service levels
- appropriate dispute resolution systems
- a quality public relations program
- ethical practices
PRIA Registered consultancies are bound by PRIA's code of ethics and the Registered Consultancy code of practice. They have operated for at least one year and have a chief executive who is either a member or a Fellow of PRIA.
How to Tell if a Consultancy is Registered with PRIA
All Registered Consultancies are listed on PRIA's home page under the FIND A CONSULTANCY tab. You can search by industry, speciality, industry, location and name. RCG's may also display PRIA's Registered Consultancy logo (shown above) on their letterhead, website, email etc.
In addition, PRIA members and Fellows are entitled to use the post-nominals MPRIA and FPRIA respectively to denote their senior professional status. All members of PRIA, no matter what their grading, agree to abide by PRIA's code of ethics. This demands the highest standards of professional conduct.
List Three to Five Consultancies that Appear to Have the Expertise and other Attributes you Want
Make your selection by gathering information from PRIA's Registered Consultancy Directory, gaining recommendations from business contacts or colleagues and checking consultancy websites.
Contact your Selected Consultancies, Brief them on your Needs and Ask Each for a ‘Credentials Only’ Presentation to Cover Questions such as:
- the type of work they handle and their areas of specialisation
- the relevant experience and professional background of the senior consultants
- their present clients and how long they have been clients
- any possible conflict of interest with existing clients
- who might be working on your program, their qualification, experience and hourly rates’
- whether the consultancy charges a retainer (set fee per month), hourly rates, or a combination of both
- how expenses are charged – at cost or with a set mark-up
- the type of reporting the consultancy provides on work done for you – monthly activity reports, 6 or 12-monthly reviews
- contact details of their clients with whom you may want to talk about the quality of their work.
Reduce the Short List to Two or Three Consultancies and Arrange to Meet the People in Each Consultancy that will be Handling your Work
Allow plenty of time for each presentation and follow-up discussions. Let them tell you about their approach to meeting your
needs and about their experiences, including relevant case histories.
Have a list of criteria against which each consultancy is to be judged. Before anything else, you need to feel compatible and comfortable with the consultancy, its client list and its people. The detailed communication plan comes next.
Do not Expect Detailed Recommendations Unless you are Prepared to Pay for Them
Public relations consultancies can rarely, if ever, present a detailed long-term communication program on the basis of an initial briefing. This is because the communication problems to be solved are often exceedingly complex and involve identifying target publics and the need to research their relationships with your organisation.
It takes time, as well as knowledge and experience, to prepare anything other than an outline of the way in which they would tackle your communication program. Consultancies are generally not prepared to hand over valuable advice, recommendations or creative ideas without payment for this intellectual property.
If you are Seeking the Most Appropriate Consultancy to Handle a Specific Project, Consider Offering Each on your Short List a Fee to Develop a Communication Plan.
Depending on the size and complexity of your project, the fee may range from $2,000 to $10,000 for each consultancy to devote the appropriate time of experienced personnel to develop a communication strategy and creative approach, overall plan of activity, detailed timetable, outline of required materials and budget.
The usual practice is to provide the short-listed consultancies with a written brief of the situation, your organisation’s needs, problems and potential opportunities. Your brief might call for the launch of a new product, response to market change, rationalisation of businesses, introduction of a new corporate identity, or a strategy to prevent a takeover.
The timing of the brief is critical. If you are planning to brief your advertising agency, legal counsel, or any other consultant, then that is the time to brief your public relations people.