Dipping a toe into the world of PR…

As I am sure it is with all small companies, our early years were spent not so much about shouting about our achievements and successes, but instead having a team high-five when a great piece of work made our clients happy. And high-fiving again when a great talent joined the team. And again when we made a big commit to one of our many open source projects. You get the gist.

As we approach the grand old age of 6 and growing past 20 people, it occurred to us that maybe we should get a little attitude and show off some of our achievements. Now, nobody is great at saying “look over here, see this greatness!” about themselves, but we understand there is a whole industry built around just that.

First steps

Within minutes of turning to Twitter for some recommendations from my network, my twitter feed was a raging fire. Of course, why would I not assume that PR folk would be all over this? In an overwhelming moment of incredulity at the speed of responses, I started a pile of Yes and No companies. Yes, if even over Twitter I liked their approach. No, if they couldn’t grab my interest in 140 characters. Sounds harsh, but should they ever help us with messaging… I want the best. Now I won’t lie, the offer of chocolate covered doughnuts bought them a place in the Yes pile.

Jotting down our must-have’s (London location, experience with SME’s, technology clients, experience of reaching Government audience) I started the shortlist. Whittling it down from 20 to 5 was easier than I imagined. Only 1 company was included from a personal contact – Twitter had delivered results once again.

The road trip

The culture at Surevine is unique and something we really treasure, so I wanted to find a company that would align with not only our culture, but our company Values. So the decision was made; I would visit them on their home turf.

This proved to be a great decision. Within seconds of walking in I got a feel for who they were – the way their office was set up, the style of their working environment, the people on their team… it all says something about who they are.

It was also great to see who they sent to meet me – was I meeting a Sales rep or the Account Manager I would be working with? Did they send their Senior or Junior people in? What I was really looking for was a great first impression; after all, we are going to be using the agency to represent us, so first impressions count! It felt like a combination of being interviewed, and being the interviewee, all rolled in to one meeting. Which I guess is exactly what it is. Certainly from our perspective, we are looking for a partner to our company – so this is a big decision.

What does great look like?

We know software. We know how it can be developed, measured, implemented. We know what great looks like, and we know what great does not look like. But what about PR?

In the words of my Northern Dad: “I know what I like, and I like what I know”. In the case of this very unknown entity, how do we know if we’ll like it?

And the money that good PR requires.. well, we would want to be sure.

Some of the agencies grasped what a big step this is for a small company – they have an open and transparent way of working, allowing us to understand where our investment is going. Others are clearly not used to working with small companies who account for every penny they spend; in fact I was told at one point “don’t worry, we won’t send you an hourly breakdown or anything – you just pay us a monthly fee”. Let’s just say that didn’t fill me with confidence.

Crunch time

We are now at crunch time. I think I have my final 3, and they couldn’t be more different. The pros of one are the cons of another. I guess it comes down to the pitch now, and who we feel most excited about working with.

To be continued…