When is it time to fire a tech PR agency?

Mary Jenkins
When is it time to fire a tech PR agency?

Just as important as deciding when to hire a tech PR agency is deciding when it’s time to let one go. No matter whether you are in an early stage startup in Austin, San Francisco or Boston, your budget is precious and you don’t owe any agency your dollars if they’re not delivering. Determining whether the relationship is worth salvaging is rarely easy and will depend on a number of factors that are unique to your company’s situation, but here are a few common red flags to keep in mind. 


There are few greater sins for a tech PR agency than failing to maintain continuous communication with a client. Not only should the agency be responsive to your inquiries — responding within the day to calls, emails, texts — but they should be proactively updating you on the progress of their efforts on your behalf, whether or not they have good news to deliver. An agency that is tough to get a hold of is one that is clearly not prioritizing you as a client. 

Lack of creative, bold ideas

Discussing your PR strategy should feel different than getting a report from your accountant. If, for instance, you are an early stage startup in Austin that just closed a Series A, ask yourself: Does it seem like the agency has thought critically about how to promote your company’s unique brand? Are they recommending a PR strategy that is relevant both to the local Austin media outlets as well as to national tech trade media? Or does it seem like they’re just offering you a boilerplate template that they run with any client? Are they coming up with ideas that you wouldn’t have thought of yourself? Remember, you’re not just hiring a tech PR agency because you don’t have the time to do PR yourself. You’re supposed to be paying for expertise and top-notch creative talent. If those aren’t apparent in their work, it’s time to hit the road. 

Lackluster media coverage

Does it seem like you’re getting less attention from the media than comparable companies? What is it they have that you don’t? Often the answer is: a competent PR agency. You need an agency that’s aggressively courting a variety of media outlets on your behalf, not just sending out press releases in the hopes that something will stick. If your story isn’t getting told in the press, it’s often because the PR professionals working for you don’t know how to tell it. Time to find someone who can. 

Poor value

There’s a fine line between cost and performance. Great PR value comes in different flavors but it’s always important to ask: What are your expectations based on what you’re paying? Is this agency meeting them? How do you think its performance compares to what you’d get from a similarly-priced competitor?  

If you are in the Austin market and hire a San Francisco PR agency, then your ROI on a PR investment may be harder to achieve given the higher fee structure among PR agencies located there. On the flip side, a New York-based startup that hires a PR agency in Austin could net just as much media coverage at a fee that’s far lower than what a high-profile agency in the Big Apple would charge. 

You want to go in-house

At some point, you may have the need for a PR budget and PR workload to justify bringing on permanent staff. It’s important to assess what you’re currently getting and what you will need to produce the same or superior performance in-house. If you’re satisfied with the agency’s performance, you may be underestimating the budget and staff it will take, but if you are confident that you could do better on your own, go for it! 

Agency can’t scale with your growth

The agency you hired may have been a perfect fit when you were just starting out, but they may not be able to meet the increased demands of serving a growing company. They may simply be in over their heads. At that point you need to thank them for their service and find somebody who’s up to the challenge. 


At the end of the day, regardless of whether you’re in a startup in Austin, San Francisco or Houston, you need to work with a tech PR agency that’s agile and flexible. The agency should ideally have proven experience working with startups and your particular tech vertical. Perhaps most importantly, the PR agency has to deliver measurable results that positively impact brand awareness and revenue generation. If the agency you’re working doesn’t live up to those crucial factors, then it may be time to move on and find an agency that will.

About Jack Craver: Jack is a copywriter at Swyft, which is a PR firm in Austin and Houston and a top digital marketing agency in Denver since its founding in 2011. Swyft recently opened a satellite office where it offers PR in San Francisco.

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