You’re ready to launch a new product, tackle the details of planning and publicizing a special event, or are facing a crisis situation. Now what? The absence of an internal public relations professional or department means you may need to consider a new partnership with an outside PR agency. Decisions like this can be especially challenging because they can tie directly into the success of your business. You may also have to give up control to experts who are not always working in your office.
Not to worry. Below are questions you should ask both your potential partner and yourself when you’re ready to make that important hire. Agencies do not come in a one-size-fits-all standard. The selection process must be tailored to your specific needs. That’s why taking the time with these questions, conducting a thorough search, and preparing on the front end will be more rewarding for your company and result in better outcomes.
1. What are your PR goals? As the introduction stated, your company may be faced with any type of communications challenge or simply feel employing a PR agency is the ‘right thing’ to do. You may also know what you want but are not clear on how you want to achieve it. It is essential to have an internal agreement on the objectives and rationalize the need for outsourcing PR before sharing these with the agency.
A common way to initiate this communication is through a brief that outlines the deliverables of what to expect and when, what specific PR activities are desired, such as media relations, crisis communications, event marketing or media training, and how to measure the impact (website traffic, media hits, speaking opportunities,
2. Does the agency understand your company? To be successful, the agency you select will represent you with the media, as well as with your company’s stakeholders. You need to ensure they understand the internal politics and dynamics in order to realize your company’s values and how it functions.
What is the agency’s depth of knowledge of your products and services? Do they realize what marketing channels you use? The agency should know these relatively simple facts, which may be discovered in basic level research or during a 10-15 minute phone conversation or in-person meeting. If the agency has a genuine interest in working with you, they will determine how to locate this information.
3. Who are your competitors? Using popular online search tools like Google Alerts, can provide email updates of the latest relevant results, so information on your competitors is easily accessed. The agencies you are considering should monitor your competitors regularly and mention them during the interview. This will give you insight on whether or not they have done their homework on your space in the market. A competitor review will also show how innovative they will be in the face of your competitors.
4. What type of experience do you need? Prior to an agency interview, determine the split of their clients that are B2B against B2C. A mix of both will be an advantage as they will have a better understanding of different media and offer more creative strategies. For instance, if an agency is entirely focused on B2B efforts, will they recognize the value of social media or mentions of your company in a national daily paper? Conversely, if they only have the consumer in mind, how will they promote an industry podcast or make a presence in trade media? A variety of B2B and B2C clients can be the spice of your business life.
5. What size agency makes the most sense and how much is in the budget? Depending on the nature of your PR needs, part of your initial discussion should include the agency’s capacity to handle an account of your size. Large or small, the onus is on them to keep you on the top of their priority list. Opting for an agency where you have an opportunity to really get to know your account team and getting senior level involvement throughout the project also gives them a greater value proposition. Requesting references from past and present clients will give you further perspective on how they work with their clients.
From family-owned and boutique agencies to local/regional and national/ international agencies, it’s key to have realistic expectations. Oftentimes, larger agencies have greater overhead and personnel; hence, a higher price tag. The scope of any PR project will include a budget. By releasing this estimate during initial conversations or in the Request for Proposal (RFP), you will immediately learn what the agency can deliver and at what cost to you.
Ultimately, the right agency becomes an extension of your company. They want to be an asset to your organization and further the success of your brand. By asking the right questions early on, you will have a better client experience and agency relationship.
Kathryn Wellner is the Public Relations Manager at Capstone National Partners. To learn more about media relations, contact Kathryn here.
Connect with her on LinkedIn.
The views in this blog post represent the viewpoints of individual team members, not Capstone National Partners as a whole.
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