Choosing a PR firm: Look for the passion

In Houston recently, about 250 businesswomen gathered for the inaugural Circular Summit, sharing helpful experiences about female success in the male-centric entrepreneurial world.

As quoted in the Houston Chronicle, a woman entrepreneur, Alli Webb, was asked about selecting a PR firm.

Webb’s advice: “You want somebody who’s really passionate about you and what you’re doing,” the Chronicle’s Andrea Rumbaugh reported.


Webb nailed it. Another way to put it is this: Every PR/marketing firm is looking for business. But there’s a difference between seeking a new client and being genuinely passionate about what that prospective new client is doing.

Any entrepreneur of any size, experience or gender would be wise to check the “passion-ometer” before selecting an agency.  Ask them point blank: “Why do you want us as a client? Make us understand that it is more to you than just a chance for additional billing.”

It should be fairly easy to detect whether the answer shows a real passion or is just a thinly veiled sales goal.

Here’s an example of what I mean. My firm has been representing the San Antonio Manufacturers Association for the past couple of years. We have a deep sense of mission about this work for reasons that are bigger than our fees. 

First, the association is more than 100 years old. That’s a lot of history. My team has been entrusted with telling a story that has been carried forward through generations of local manufacturing businesses.  We take that trust –  that legacy – very seriously.

Today, the association represents more than 50,000 employees. When my group talks about manufacturing, we’re speaking for all of them. We are honored and humbled to help them advocate for the issues that affect their livelihoods.  We know that when we succeed in educating and informing the non-manufacturing world about the industry, we’re supporting employees, job creators and the city they have helped build for the past 300 years.

That’s a passion. It’s a mission. It’s a cause that’s much more than an invoice. It’s what anyone seeking PR, marketing and communications help should look for. 

There should be a clear impression that the client and the consultant are in it together -- that when one wins, so does the other. If the agency is in it only for the billing, the relationship will produce little fruit and is likely to end quickly. 

Use your gut to tell you whether the PR firm you are talking with sees you as more than an income stream.  Push them to convince you. You might be surprised when you do.

 -          Eric Whittington