One of the issues that I am seeing on this trip is that many Israeli start-ups face the challenge of going through the process of selecting a PR Agency or Consultant. This can be especially daunting when you are trying to do this from Israel, and you want to work with a team in the U.S.
Here’s some suggestions to consider.
No two agencies or consultants are alike. The right mix can precisely deliver, your cup of tea.
Shot on location at Portabello Road Market – London (c) 2011. Please share:)
1. Reach out to journalists specific to your space and ask them who they respect and who they like working with.
That’s often a good clue. Make sure and ask who the good PR people (not agencies) are, who work inside agencies
2. Research your competition’s agencies.
Clients change agencies for good and bad reasons. Often times, you can source the agency who had the client as a startup but not necessarily when then they had an exit or were acquired. Just go to your competitor’s news section and scroll through the history of press releases
3. Don’t hire “an Agency,” hire the right team.
Your team could be a mash up of your internal resources, outsourced talent from Israel, an individual consultant, a boutique agency or one or two key people inside a large agency. And when you are meeting with the Agency, make sure you know who is selling and who your account team will be.
4. If you are VC funded, ask the internal Marcom person at your VC firm who they recommend.
Work from a list and find the firm / person / group that best suits your needs, depending on your needs and budget.
5. Try, if you can, to avoid the unnecessary dance of RPF’s and blind proposals.
In general, most RFPs suck and are a waste of time. You can read my take on the RFP process here. Be up front with your agency about what you need, your timeline and most of all, your budget.
6. Don’t accept a prescription until you are diagnosed.
Once you have decided on 2 or 3 firms you might want to work with, consider having them come and meet you in the U.S. (yes, you pay for this, but it’s worth it) for a ½ day or full day workshop to help you determine what you need, what you can afford to do, how much you can do yourself and plan a prototype roadmap.
The cost of doing this might run you the equivalent of one month of services, but you’ll gain a professional’s insights into how they work, how they think and how they interact with your team. If you are paying them for this, it changes the game.
Sure, we’re all in sales mode, but even for the day, it sends a clear message that you respect their work, and most of all, you value their time.
7. Issue a call for PR firms on Twitter.
Yes, this sounds a bit off the wall, but give it shot. Something like – “Innovative startup in the X space, based in Israel, looking for U.S. based #TechPR firm.” (make sure you use the hash tag as noted)
8. Attend your industry’s conference and trade shows where exhibitors — and their agencies are there to support them.
Go to the booth and ask someone in the booth who their PR firm is. You’d be surprised how much information and insight you can gain this way.
9. Don’t assume that you are going to need an Agency that has a specific expertise in your space.
Does experience count?
But often times, if you are breaking new ground or disrupting a market segment or creating a new segment of its own, remember that you’re hiring the Agency for their deep thinking and methods rather than their industry experience. This is particularly true in emerging spaces like Clean and Greentech. This field is rather new and the skills sets from one area of technology are easily transferable to another. You’re not hiring an Agency / Consultant because they are experts in wind power. You are hiring them because they are great story tellers and know how to sell, evangelize and curate content.
10. If you are going to integrate social communications / social media into your mix, look into your agency’s presence on the social web.
In other words, does your Agency and its principals eat their own dog food?
Are they on Twitter and Facebook? Do they check in on sites like Foursquare and Gowalla? Does the agency have a YouTube channel?Do they have their own SEO strategy?
This is often a good way to cut the hype and dig into the substance of who you might be working with.
How about you? Comments from afar?