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How to Hire a PR Firm | 10 Tips to Finding the Right Match


Jan 19, 2024

Thinking about hiring a PR firm? Before you set out on your quest, take these 10 tips into account.

While the process of hiring a PR agency might seem simple, in truth, it is hard to do well. By “well” I mean hiring the right company, for the right reasons, with goals set to deliver a positive impact for your brand.

Not every PR firm will be a good fit for your company. They might not understand your industry or brand, which means they might be unable to effectively communicate your brand’s message. Smaller boutique firms might offer more personalized attention, while larger firms may have access to more resources.

The first few times I went through the process it felt overwhelming, but over the years I've built up a list of tips that help me choose the right one every time. I think my tip list might help you, too, so here it is!


What Is a PR Agency?

A PR agency (also called a PR firm) is a professional service provider that specializes in public relations, communications, and media relations. Your PR firm represents your brand to the media, your customers, and the general public.

Your PR company serves as a strategic advisor to help you navigate the complex landscape of public perception. They help you maintain a consistent message and understand how your audience feels about your company. This helps companies shape narratives that will help them appeal to the right people at the right times.

What Does a PR Agency Do?

PR agencies help companies, brands, and individuals manage their images and build relationships with the public. 

Examples of PR company services include (but are not limited to):

PR companies provide different services in various capacities. For example, some companies may hire a PR agency on retainer and outsource specific tasks to them. Or, you might hire a PR agency to help you manage a crisis or event on a one-time basis.

How Much Does a Publicist Cost?

PR agencies can vary in cost based on the services they provide. Other factors that influence price include:

  • Location
  • Experience
  • Service model (monthly retainer vs. project-based)
  • Company size/client popularity

According to Clutch data, the cost of a publicist ranges between $100 and $149 per hour.

Another source cites typical monthly retainers ranging from $2,000 to $5,000 per month on the low end, with high-profile agencies charging $20,000 or more per month.

Again, it all depends on who you are and what you need. A global firm is more likely to command a greater need for PR than a one-location manufacturing company, for example.

Best PR Agencies in 2024

While you’re on the hunt for media relations services, it’s worthwhile to start with the best (even if they’re out of your budget).

This list of top PR companies will give you an idea of what a great PR company looks like, how much they cost, and what they can do for you:


Edelman PR agency has established itself as a leader in the industry. It is the world’s largest independent PR firm and has represented household names like Exxon, Heinz, Starbucks, and Samsung, among many others.

The agency currently employs more than 6,000 PR professionals and has two headquarters — one in Chicago and one in New York.


One of the most trusted and well-known names in PR, Ogilvy has a history of excellence tracing back to 1850. It remains one of the largest PR agencies in the world and has an illustrious client list to prove it.

Brands like Coca-Cola, IKEA, and Pizza Hut have trusted the agency for their PR needs, tackling everything from events and giveaways to brand awareness PR campaigns and social movements.

Highwire PR

Founded in 2008, Highwire PR Agency has established a strong presence in New York, Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco. Specializing in creative communications, its clients enjoy a one-two punch of digital marketing and PR services that help to tell and sell their stories.


ICR is a stalwart player in PR and strategic communications with a history dating back to 1998. They offer a full range of services, including digital branding, creative services, crisis communications, and media relations services.

They’ve represented brands like Peloton, The Honest Company, and EVGo, among others, helping them to build credibility and awareness.

FINN Partners

Representing global brands and clients like Honeywell, The Body Shop, and Bolthouse Farms, FINN Partners has become one of the world’s largest PR companies.

Founded in 2011, they have nearly 30 offices across three continents and continue to acquire smaller PR firms to expand its footprint.

10 Tips on How to Hire a PR Agency

Thinking about hiring a PR firm? Before you set out, take these 10 tips into account:

1. Decide on your goals before you do anything else

As with all PR and marketing programs, we advise defining goals before getting too far into the decision-making process. We must recognize that strategy is the first step to success and leads to tactical execution. But a good public relations strategy starts with strong goals. As you look to hire a consultancy, decide what you are trying to achieve.

A few great PR goal examples are:

  • Brand awareness
  • Thought leadership
  • Attention for a specific product or program
  • etc.

Tip: Take a look at these proven PR KPIs to make sure your goals are measurable.

2. Make sure you have considered all options

How does a company tackle public relations effectively? Hire a PR firm? Hire in-house? The answer will be different for every company, but it is generally a combination of the two for a very good reason: A PR firm that isn’t managed by someone who understands PR will never fully realize the firm’s full potential.

A PR firm needs brand and product knowledge and most importantly, access to the right internal people for both strategy and execution. An internal PR person makes this possible. This combination of in-house and PR firm is not always feasible, so you’ll need to decide what your budget warrants. If you don’t plan to have an internal PR person, your PR agency is likely best managed by the CMO.

Two women discussing hiring a PR agency

3. Decide on RFP or no RFP process

You can always just hire a company that you already know or have heard good things about. However, if you have never hired a PR firm, we strongly advise going through the formal request for proposal (RFP) process. More importantly, if it’s your first time, hire a PR pro with specific RFP experience to help lead the process.

If you have never been through an RFP to hire a PR agency, the process can seem daunting. Generally speaking, the first steps are to define what you are trying to achieve, your goals, and what you want the company to do. Then, come up with a list of roughly 10 prospective firms. This list can be tricky, because you want to carefully weigh PR firm capabilities to your goal expectations.

From there, contact each public relations organization to gauge their interest and issue a request for qualifications (RFQ), a document that will help you to whittle down the prospect list.

Those who choose to participate will send qualifications to be reviewed against the others, and you’ll select a few agencies that will formally pitch and compete for your business.

While this may not seem so bad at the outset, it is time-consuming so be prepared.

4. Determine your PR agency budget

Seems like a simple tip, right? In some ways it is, but it is important to make a firm decision on your top-line budget. Agencies are expensive and you’ll need to make sure you clearly articulate your top-line budget, including base retainer, overages, expenses and incidentals.

Make sure you have a clear path that requires written approval for any monthly expense that exceeds your budget.

5. Decide what size PR firm is right for you

PR firms come in all different shapes and sizes, and the one that’s right for you might not be the one you first predicted. There are many reasons to go with large PR firms (global reach, massive relationship networks, fantastic experience) and just as many reasons to choose a boutique public relations agency (smaller, more closely knit teams, local expertise, niche industries, etc.).

One thing to keep in mind is how much your budget dollars will mean to the agency you hire. For instance, a $15,000/month retainer could make you one of the largest accounts if you hire a small PR firm, but a very small account if you are hiring a large PR organization.

Keep in mind: the bigger clients usually get the A-team. If your budget is modest, you may want to consider a smaller boutique company.

6. Make specific requests regarding their pitch presentation

When you hire a firm, especially when you implement a formal RFP process, there will be a presentation when your prospective agencies pitch you in an effort to win your business.

Before that meeting we recommend including three very specific asks:

  1. Ask that they only send people to the meeting who will be on your account from day one.
    You don’t want to be caught up in a situation where you’re pitched by the A-team, but assigned to the D-team. 
  2. Bait-and-switch situations can be painful — avoid them at all costs.
    Ask that everyone who will be on your team be involved in the presentation, not just the team lead. In the end, you will work with everyone, so you’ll want to know how each one thinks.
  3. Ask agencies to keep their “about us” description and back-patting slides to a minimum.
    After all, if you weren’t interested in the PR firm, they would not be in the room — you’ve already done your homework!
Woman video interviewing a PR agency representative

7. Don’t ignore the importance of chemistry

Make sure you like the team you are hiring. Of course, it is important that they are qualified and will do a great job, but it’s equally important that you like them and want to work with them. It’s really no different than hiring people for your own internal team — you want to be excited to work with them every day!

8. Look to hire an extension of your team, not just a PR agency

Tip #7 naturally leads to tip #8. You should think of your PR firm as an integral part of your team, not just as a third party. While your PR firm team will work with more than just your account, you should never feel like they are working with anyone but you. 

Some good advice is to tell prospective PR firms from the first time you meet that you work with agencies differently than most clients; you want to hire an extension of your team. You’re not looking for an average client/agency relationship.

9. Make sure they have at least one idea you’re excited about

In the pitch meetings, if the PR agency has done their homework and prepared properly, they will present a few different PR campaign ideas based on your RFP requirements.

Take these ideas with a grain of salt. After all, these PR firms are not fully onboarded and have limited knowledge of your brand. That said, at least one of the ideas should be out-of-the-box and intriguing enough to get you excited!

10. When you hire a PR firm, understand your contract

Once you decide on which PR firm you want to hire, you will move to a contract and/or statement of work (SOW). Review it carefully, with a lawyer if possible, and understand all key terms (cost/budget, duration, team, hours you receive based on budget, how they will report out results, etc.).

If something seems off, red-line it and negotiate. Most of the time, PR firms are agreeable, assuming your asks are reasonable.

Key Takeaways for Hiring a PR Agency

While the journey to hiring the right PR agency can be complex and at times challenging, the insights shared in these 10 tips aim to streamline your decision-making process.

Remember, the goal is not just to make the process less daunting, but to empower you with the knowledge to choose a partner who aligns perfectly with your brand's values and vision. 

Meltwater — The Alternative to Hiring a PR Agency

Hiring a PR agency can provide immense benefits to your organization, helping you gain instant expertise, technology, and tools to grow your brand image. However, a PR agency isn’t your only option for brand growth.

Meltwater’s PR platform provides you with a turnkey PR strategy to take your brand to new heights. With billions of data points at your fingertips, you can spot new opportunities to grow your brand and track the impact of your efforts. 

Our media database connects you with thousands of journalists, bloggers, podcasters, and publishers so you can promote your brand in all the right places. See how your audience responds to your PR campaigns and make a noticeable difference in how others perceive you.

Learn more when you request a demo by filling out the form below: