Working with a PR agency can be somewhat of an enigma at times. 

Sometimes it’s painfully obvious your firm isn’t doing a great job. At other times their results fall into a grey area. And then there’s a third category–things that are just part of the PR game that even the best practitioners can’t prevent.

When it comes to your PR agency’s performance, here’s a short primer to help you navigate what sucks, what doesn’t suck and what potentially sucks:


We met some really impressive people when the agency pitched our business but we haven’t seen them since

Ah, the old bait and switch. Some agencies, especially bigger ones, are notorious for trotting out the heavy hitters for the big pitch only to replace them with junior staff once they actually win the business. It’s smart business to meet the people who will be your day-to-day contacts before the contract is signed.

News releases and other writing projects endure countless revisions before they’re finalized

There’s no excuse for lousy writing. Ask them to bring in a better writer.

The agency blames us for missing important deadlines

How could a missed deadline be the client’s fault? Tell your PR agency to plan ahead and give you more than a moment’s notice on critical dates.


The Globe and Mail mentioned our company and our PR agency didn’t warn us

Funny thing about journalists–they typically don’t give you a heads up when they write about your business. Be thankful you were mentioned in the Globe and Mail.

The CEO of our company did a lengthy interview with CBC Newsworld but when it aired it was cut back to less than one minute

It’s a fact that most quotes end up on the cutting room floor. Be thankful you were on CBC Newsworld.

We’ve received some coverage, but it’s not always positive

There are ways to minimize negative coverage (preparing in advance, not repeating the negative and declining interviews that won’t help you), but it can’t always be prevented. Roll with the punches.


We paid a PR firm $100k and got nothing for it

Before we put this item in the definitely sucks category, we need to define ‘nothing’. Did they help you frame your messages? Introduce you to the influencers that matter? Develop an effective communications strategy? Carefully consider what was actually delivered before writing your firm off.

We have results but there’s no ROI evaluation

Measuring the return on investment of PR is really tough, especially without any pre and post campaign tracking (which usually costs more than the program itself). Meet with your agency and challenge them to measure results on what’s important to your business.

They don’t understand our business

How long have they been working with you? If it’s been over a year, it definitely sucks. If it’s less than a year, they may need to experience a full annual cycle before they really get it.

Have you had a positive or negative experience with a PR firm? Tell us about the good, the bad and the ugly. If you work at a PR agency, or in a corporate communications department, how have you educated clients about performance and results?

7 mistakes to avoid when hiring a PR firm

Written by Shelley Pringle