Next steps: choosing and using a PR or marketing agency

In the ‘quick wins’ section we have looked at doing your own PR. Now read about how, why and when to get an agency to promote your business for you.

Why get an agency to help promote your business

Using an agency can help your practice stand out from the crowd. It can be a cost-effective way to increase the number of people who have heard about your practice, and get more footfall across the doorstep. Working with an agency is for you if you have a practice promotion budget but are short on ideas or don’t know how best to invest it. It can also help if you have lots of ideas, but no time to implement them too. You’ll get the benefit of experts in promotion working on your practice, but you need to be clear about your aims to make the most of working with an agency.

An agency can ensure that your marketing efforts continue throughout the year while you use your professional skills in practice. Ongoing promotional work can make a real difference, particularly if in the past you have only made intermittent efforts to raise your practice profile.  The agency staff will be used to generating creative and promotional ideas, and will know what has worked well before. You will benefit from the specialist skills and contacts at the agency too. If you use a PR agency, make sure that the staff already have good contacts with press relevant to your business, for example.

If you’re not quite clear what an agency does, they can bring ideas from different brands and sectors to benefit your business. They have in depth expertise on how consumers relate to brands. Use an agency is to build consumer base, loyalty and retention.  If you work with an agency, you need to let go in part. You might be told things you might not like about you brand: be open to be challenged by creative people in the articulation of what your brand is all about. Marketers understand consumers and how they work. As a business owner, you may go in saying, ‘I want an advert that says A, B and C’. You love your business so much you want to get everything in. An agency will tease out the one or two things that show consumers your unique proposition. You must release the reins to some extent. The agency will make creatively driven pieces of information to motivate consumers.

Guidelines for finding an agency

Start by working out what you’d like the agency to achieve. Don’t just think, ‘I’d like a fresh advert for the local paper’ or, ‘We need new leaflets’. Instead decide what increase you need to see on your bottom line. What is the average spend per patient right now? How many more patients of what type would you need to visit the practice to get that increase, and how much would you be able to invest to do that? Different patients may have different degrees of profitability: do you want more people in certain age groups, those looking for spectacles or contact lenses, those from certain local areas? The clearer you are about what you want an agency to achieve, and the budget you have available, the more likely you are to get what you want. Ensure that you stipulate how you will measure success before you appoint an agency. What does success look like for you personally, for the business’s financial director?  Do you need more footfall, more hits on Facebook? Get agreement on how measurement can happen, so that the call to action of the creative piece has measurement tactics in place. Across a group of people, the definition of success may be different – this can lead to breakdown with any external partner – get internal harmony before you bring in an external resource.

To find agencies, use the internet, your local networks, and professional bodies to create a short list. You may want to discuss your needs in broad outline initially with an agency to get their initial ideas and allow them to pitch. Once you have picked an agency, think about how long you want to agree a contract for. It can take up to a year for a promotional campaign to have full effects, but you may also want to arrange a shorter notice period within the contract in case of disagreement. Part of the contract should include a confidentiality agreement.

You can pay from a few hundred to a few thousand pounds per month to retain an agency to promote your business, depending on the size of agency and range of activities they do for you. On top of this, you’ll need to pay costs such as fees for promotional materials or advertising space if relevant. Discuss with the agency of they work on a full or partial payment-by-results basis. If you don’t have a sufficient budget for an agency, network locally to find freelancers who may have lower fees.

Arrange for regular updates and goals to be met by certain times to ensure that the agency stays on track. Feed back throughout the process.


Who offers what?

Some agencies will offer a range of functions: decide for yourself if you would like to place your business with one agency or work with a number of specialists.

PR agency – offers promotion to the media, launches, reputation management and often events management.

Marketing agency – can specialise in a range of marketing activities including direct marketing, brand image,

Advertising agency – designs and creates advertising campaigns and buys space in media for your adverts

Digital marketing agency – can create campaigns to promote your business online using social media and online advertising.


11 things to check before choosing an agency:

  1. Does the agency specialise in business to-business or business-to-consumer work?
  2. Is the agency a member of a professional association?
  3. Does the agency have specialist areas?
  4. What are the statistics on past campaigns?
  5. What sort of clients do they work with?
  6. Who will work on your account, and what is their track record with similar businesses?
  7. What is their understanding of your field?
  8. How does the agency evaluates a campaign?
  9. What is their initial estimate of fees?
  10. What is and isn’t included in those fees?
  11. Can they put you in touch with other clients for references?


Aim to use a practitioner who is a member of a professional body. This can mean that they have indemnity insurance, a credit check etc. there are different bodies for professional specialisms. Visit the relevant bodies to check specific requirements for membership: